By: Tyler Bishop
Every year towards the end of May and beginning of June, the greatest grapplers on planet earth gather in Long Beach, California. This west coast city has become the home of the International Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Federation (IBJJF) World Championship. The IBJJF World Championship is the most prestigious Jiu Jitsu tournament in the world, and features thousands of adult competitors from around the globe.
The event features blue through black belt adult-only divisions – with a special novice tournament for white belts the day before – and attracts some of the most well-known grapplers in the world as competitors and as spectators. Every year attendance and enrollment in the tournament increases, and so does the level of talent in every division. So who will be a black belt world champion this year, and what competitors should you keep your eye on?
First, if you haven’t looked at the competitor list yet check out the current list here (www.ibjjf.og). One of the great features of the IBJJF World Championship is the ability to see all competitors in each division. The brackets for each division are made available on the IBJJF website ahead of the tournament (so you will want to stay tuned to see some of the potential match-ups). This year is no exception to years past, the 2012 champions will all be in attendance to defend their crowns. So who will rise to the top?
We will start our evaluation by weight class in the men’s divisions:
The rooster weight division will likely result in another classic showdown between Bruno Malfacine and Caio Terra. Malfacine is the reigning champion, but Terra recently bested him at the 2013 Pan-Am’s. Other notables in the division include Brandon Mullins, Koji Shibamoto, and perennial mainstay Felipe Costa. It’s hard to imagine anything but a Malfacine/Terra final once again.Get the cameras ready!
The light-feather weight class has been recently dominated by one man, Guilherme Mendes. I expect that trend to continue as there appears to be no stand-out contenders that have recently threatened his crown. However, if Ary Farias was to compete against Guilherme in the finals the results could get interesting. Farias has been a strong contender the last few years, and has the athletic accumen to give Mendes trouble. They are both from team Atos, so they would have to choose to fight in the finals. Recently the team has stated they will fight for championships, so hold on to your hats. Laercio Fernandes has been in the mix, but has never looked like he was able to take the match away from someone. There is at least a formula fora possible upset here, but it seems like a bit of a stretch at this point.
Prediction: Guilherme Mendes
The feather weight division is one of the most talented in recent history – which makes the reigning 3x champion all the more impressive. Rafael Mendes has remained unbeaten for over 2 years in an extremely difficult division. And while “Cobrinha” Charles and Augusto “Tanquinho” Mendes always seem to push Mendes to the limit, the current champion always finds a way to reign supreme. But don’t sleep on Tanquinho his stock has been rising quickly since the beginning of the year – with a recent win over Cobrinha at the 2013 World Pro. Mario Reis is always a longshot as well. I would not do my family justice without mentioning that my instructor JW Wright will be competing in this division as well, and certainly possess the knowledge and skillset to do some serious damage. It seems incredibly likely that the final four will be Mario Reis, Cobrinha, Rafa, and Tanquinho.
Prediction: Rafael Mendes
The light weight division is always filled with talent. Some of the best in the world find their way into this division each year. Lucas Lepri and Leandro Lo could likely battle for supremacy once again this year; however, a contender such as JT Torres, Micheal Langhi, Zach Maxwell, or Roberto Satoshi could certainly find a way to upset one of these two at any point. In fact, this may be one of the most wide-open divisions in the entire tournament. This seems like the kind of year that we could be surprised by the lightweight champion. How much longer can the Lepri and Lo hold off these young bucks?
Prediction: Leandro Lo
The middleweight division is filled with powerful athletes. Some of the quickest and most athletic men from around the world find themselves in the 181.5lb division. The lineup includes notable competitors such as Claudio Calassans, DJ Jackson, Clark Gracie, Marcelo Mafra, Otavio Sousa, Victor Estima, and Tanner Rice – to name a few. Will the Gracie name reign supreme, or will one of the others finally claim his thrown? Fresh of a great performance at the Pan, one would think Gracie stands a strong chance, but Calassans has been dominant in the division over the last few years. The only exception was the upset by Otavio Sousa last year, who will likely return as the divisional favorite this year. This is another division that could hold a few surprises due to such a heavy talent pool. I could see a final four of any combination of the above names, but I would put my money on Calassans, Gracie, Sousa, and Estima as a likely final four (brackets pending).
Prediction: Otavio Sousa
Prepare for war! The light-heavy weight class features several of the most dominant competitors in recent history. With notable competitors such Andre Galvao, Romulo Barral, Braulio Estima, and Gustavo Campos all signed up in this division, it’s anyone’s guess as to who will take home the medal this year. Barral is back from a knee injury suffered just months earlier at the World Pro. The big question will be if he is in fact 100%. If so, he has all the ability to become champion of the division. However, if he is at any less than full steam he will have to watch out for the Atos team members, Campos and Galvao – who closed the division out at the Pans earlier this year. Braulio Estima is a last second edition, and must be considered an elite threat to take the division. Hold on to your hats, this could be getting good!
Prediction: Andre Galvao
One man reigns supreme in the heavy weight division, Rodolfo Vieira. Viera will once again face stuff competition with the likes of Rafael Lovato Jr., Xande Riberio, Yuri Simoes, and Lucas Leite inside the division. The pressure against these game opponents will be great, and with the aura of his dominance fading with recent loses to Buchecha one can only imagine that this is the prime time for an upset. Is it possible that the 23 year old king could be uncrowned this year? Lovato Jr. and Xande Ribeiro will certainly make it a tough test for the upcoming GF team fighter this year.
Prediction: Rafael Lovato Jr.
The super-heavy weight class is usually dominated by teammates from Alliance, Bernardo Faria, Antonio Carlos, and Leo Nogueira. However, someone like Leo Leite or Joao Gabriel Rocha could provide an interesting upset. Gabriel built a name for himself at brown belt as an absolute monster. Will he be able to translate that to the black belt level, on the worlds biggest stage in such short time?
Prediction: Leo Nogueira
The ultra-heavy weight division is much like the heavy weight division. One man has recently stood miles above the rest. Marcus “Buchecha” Almaeda is in a division filled with challenges from the likes of Orlando Sanchez, Alexander Trans, and Cyborg Abreu. Yet, I am more confident predicting this division than I am any other. That just shows how good Buchecha is right now.
Prediction: Marcus “Buchecha” Almaeda
The absolute division is an inevitable clash. The world will again see the epic match between Marcus Almaeda and Rodolfo Vieira. It has been hailed in the past as the greatest match in history (although this is a little overdone). Expect the bracket-makers to line them up on opposite sides of the bracket as they tear through the competition to reach each other in the finals.
Prediction: Marcus “Buchecha” Almaeda
Stay tuned, we will be providing our women’s preview in the coming days