2012 Mundials Team Preview: Checkmat

Lucas Leite (right) receiving advice from Checkmat founder Leo Vieira via www.lucasleitebjj.com

The 2012 IBJJF Brazilian Jiu Jitsu World Champions are just around the corner and here a Bloody Elbow we are going to be breakdowns of the major teams and their athletes that will be competing in California.

The team Checkmat is a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu team geared purely towards competition, and while it has associated academies, it isn't a unified school like a Gracie Barra. The team was started by the Vieira brothers, chiefly Leo Vieira. One of the best competitive grapplers of all time, Leo trained under legendary teacher Romero Cavalcanti, one of the founders of Alliance.

Leo is a two time Pan American champion, a world champion and has won the ADCC Submission Wrestling championship twice. Leo, along his brothers Ricardo and Leandro, broke away from Alliance in 2002 along with several other high profile black belts to form Brasa. Then in 2008 the Vieira brothers broke away from Brasa to form their own team. In a very short period of time Checkmat has assembled an impressive array of talent and has won team medals at both gi and no gi world championships in 2009, 2010, and 2011.

Take a look at the Checkmat team after the jump...

When speaking of Checkmat competitors the first name that comes up is often Lucas Leite. Originally a student of Ryan Gracie when he was twelve-years-old but stopped training while a teenager. He restarted his jiu jitsu training under Leo Vieira and has been with him ever since.

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In six years as a black belt competitor Leite has been a constant presence at medal ceremonies.

Lucas Leite applying a gi choke from the back at the 2009 Mundials

A half guard expert, Leite is fond of jumping weight-classes and his three Pan Am golds all have come at different weights. He first won the Pans at Lightweight in 2007, then at Middleweight in 2009, and then this year Leite won as a heavyweight, closing out the bracket with teammate Yuri Simoes. Leite is joining the stacked middleweight division for this year's Mundials.

Checkmat tends to produce excellent grapplers in the heavier weight-classes, so we will go with heavy to light approach when dealing with Checkmat's elite grapplers.

One Checkmat star is Marcus Almeida "Buchecha" in the Ultra-Heavyweight weight-class. Only promoted to black belt in mid-2010, Buchecha has won major tournaments at the purple and brown belt levels. Very technical in and out of the gi, Buchecha has an excellent guard and has made a major impact in the division in short period of time.

Joining Buchecha in the Ultra-Heavy class is the imposing Alexander Trans from Denmark. Having won almost every major competition in his rise to black belt, his promotion, in November of 2011, could mark the arrival of a giant, both figuratively and literally. Trans is very technical from his back and has crushing top position. Rounding out Checkmat's presence in the Ultra-Heavy division is a veteran of black belt competition, Rodrigo Cavaca a former world champion.

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At Super-Heavyweight this year's Pan Ams Absolute champion Antonio Carlos Junior. Also a promoted to black in 2010, Carlos Jr. made his name in the CBJJF's Pro World Cup series and then he won the IBJJF World Championships in 2010 as a brown belt.

Joining Carlos Junior is Joao Assis, a very accomplished no-gi champion and former MMA fighter. UFC fans are likely familiar with Assis as he was the grappler that submitted Jeff Monson at the UFC 114 Fan Expo, it was the first time Monson had been submitted in a competition in over ten years.

Joao Assis at Grappler's Quest via BJJ Heroes

Much of Assis' grappling training was based around advancing his MMA career, but since 2010 his focus has shifted to competitive grappling. Assis has a strong and diverse game that is adjusting back to gi competition very well.

At heavyweight Checkmat's super prospect is Yuri Simones, who just competed in his first Pan Ams this year and closed out the Heavyweight division with Lucas Leite. The adopted brother of Atos star Ary Farias, Yuri actually joined Atos but did not mesh well with the team and returned to Checkmat. This is Yuri's first Mundials as a black belt and many are excited to how he fares on BJJ's biggest stage.

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Checkmat is also home of Michelle Nicolini, the current female Featherweight world champion. One of the best in women's Brazilian Jiu Jitsu history, Nicolini is a five time world champion.

Michelle Nicolini celebrating after having locked on a triangle via www.graciemag.com

A fierce competitor, Nicolini competed at Medium-Heavy, three weight classes up from her usual, at Mundials in 2010 on a bet with a teammate and then won the gold in the weight-class. Joining Nicolini at Featherweight is the super talented Marina Ribeiro, who is a strong competitor in Judo and Wrestling in addition to BJJ. A natural grappler, Ribeiro earned her black belt in just four years and has been finding success in the last two years at larger tournaments.

The 2012 Mundials will be taking place from May 31st - June 3rd and live streams are available on Budovideos.com for just $20. With their new multi-mat set up, Budovideos will have every single match of the event viewable online. Here at Bloody Elbow we will continue to do previews, live results and event recaps, so stay tuned.

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