Jiu jitsu phenom Keenan Cornelius
Tis the Season, or rather, tis the Week, that jiu jitsu players battle for gold at the IBJJF 2014 World Championships. Countless UFC fighters have followed this path into the Octagon, so for those choosing to watch the event live, or via stream, I sat with tournament commentator, Budo Jake, and compiled a breakdown of the top competitors (and their strength) in each of the black belt weight divisions (lightest to heaviest).
Any other year I would expect Bruno Malfacine and Caio Terra, both prior world champions, to meet in the finals. However, this year rising star, Joao Miyao, is competing at Rooster weight. Therefore, a Miyao vs Malfacine, or a Miyao vs Caio, final match might be the highlight of the tournament.
My top three competitors at Rooster:
Bruno Malfacine: Lightning speed
Caio Terra: Precise technique
Joao Miyao: Berimbolo all day
The Miyao Brothers with UFC Champion Ronda Rousey
The Light Feather weight division is anyone's game, there are many tough contenders, including: Samir Chantre, Laercio Fernandes, Gui Mendes, Carlos Holanda, Barata, Paulo Miyao, and reigning champ, Gabriel Moraes. I expect Paulo Miyao and Gui Mendes in the final, which will be an AMAZING match to watch.
My top three competitors at Light Feather:
Paulo Miyao: Berimbolo
Gui Mendes: Brabo grip chokes from the top
Rafael "Barata" Freitas: Baratoplata
Rafa Mendes training at his academy in Costa Mesa, California
The Feather weight division features the highest level of world-class talent, including: Cobrinha, Rafael Mendes, Megaton, Gianni Grippo and Jon Thomas. Still, I expect Rafa Mendes vs Cobrinhain the finals. We've seen this match many times, and while they’ve traded victories in the past, Cobrinha is coming off the most recent win over Rafa at ADCC 2013 in Beijing.
My top three competitors at Feather:
Cobrinha: Flexibility and technical knowledge
Rafael Mendes: Speed and precision
Gianni Grippo: Experience, as he’s trained his whole life!
The Light weight division's JT Torres
The Light weight division is STACKED with tough competitors. Lightweights move fast, but also possess the strength to back it up. Some of the bigger names include: Lucas Lepri, JT Torres, Roberto Satoshi, Phillipe Dellamonica, AJ Agazarm, DJ Jackson, Celso Vinicious, and Rodrigo Caproal. With the reigning champ (Leandro Lo) moving up to Middle weight, we could see an Alliance closeout (a closeout occurs when teammates refuse to fight, and instead ‘share’ the first and second spot) between Langhi & Lepri. But for the sake of the fans, I hope we get to see a final match.
My top three competitors at Light:
Michael Langhi: Incredible open guard
Lucas Lepri: Strong guard and great passing
AJ Agazarm: Great wrestling and the heart of a lion
Lucas Leite securing a grip during practice
The Middle weight division is the largest division in the tournament. Featuring68 competitors, the champ must possess great cardio to claim the gold. A few standouts include:Tanner Rice, Claudio Calasans, Marcus de Souza, Clark Gracie, Marcelo Mafra, Otavio Sousa, and Leandro Lo. I think we’ll see Otavio Sousa vs Leandro Lo in the finals.
My top three competitors at Middle:
Leando Lo: Incredible guard and slick passing
Otavio Sousa: Gorilla grips and explosive movements
Victor Estima: The most painful footlocks in BJJ, and some sweet inverted triangles
For the 2013 World Championships, Romulo Barral and his teammate Braulio Estima closed out the Medium Heavy division. Many would expect the same outcome this year. However, Keenan Cornelius, a new American blackbelt, has been tearing through the competition scene. Keenan lost a close match to Romulo at the ADCC 2013 tournament, and he won a close match against Braulio at Abu Dhabi Pro 2014. So using jiu-jitsu math (which never works), the betting man would pick Keenan for the win.
My top three competitors at Medium Heavy:
Braulio Estima: Great guard and constantly evolving game-plan
Keenan Cornelius: Lapel guard
Romulo Barral: Spider guard
Andre Galvao spars with Keenan
Reigning division champion Rodolfo Vieira is moving up to Super Heavy this year. This leaves the following competitors to scrap for the title: Andre Galvao, Yuri Simoes, Jackson Sousa, Felipe Pena, Tussa, Nivaldo Oliveira, and Rafael Lovato Jr. There are some great potential matches, but I expect Galvao to walk away the champ.
My top three competitors at Heavy:
Andre Galvao: Well rounded, strong and technical
Lucas Leite: Half Guard sweeps
Felipe Pena: Strong and technical
Normally, I'd say reigning champ Bernardo Faria would retain his title, but with Rodolfo Vieira moving up in weight, I have to go with Rodolfo. We've seen Rodolfo vs Bernardo a few times and it's always gone the way of Rodolfo… but who knows?
My top three competitors at Heavy:
Rodolfo Vieira: Seoi Nage (judo throw) and guard passing
Bernardo Faria: Deep half guard
James Puopolo: Kneebars
Dominant Ultra Heavy competitor Marcus "Buchecha" Almeida
Despite being the heaviest guys at the tournament, there are some fast moving athletes in this division, including: Buchecha, Cavaca, Cyborg, Bruno Bastos, and Alexander Trans. Look for Buchecha and Trans in the finals.
My top three competitors at Ultra Heavy:
Marcus "Buchecha" Almeida: Unpredictability
Cavaca: Triangle chokes
Alexander Trans: Technique coupled with size and strength
Watch the live stream of the tournament here. The lower belts fight on Thursday and Friday, and the black belts matches will on Saturday May 31st and Sunday June 1st.
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