This is a guest post by Ben Thapa, part of the Bloody Elbow grappling coverage team.
Reader, the most important thing you should take from the 2011 World Jiu Jitsu Championships is that Rodolfo Vieira is the king of the mats for the grappling year. He beat everybody there and beat them decisively. It is the first time in the history of the Mundials that the Absoluto winner was not trained by a Gracie, as Vieira comes from a Franca/Fadda lineage with zero Gracies in it and reps Grapple Fight Team.
In these Mundials that took place over four days from June 2 to June 5 in Long Beach, California, we saw the world compete -- literally -- as several Europeans, Caribbeans and even 30 Mongolians from a Judo club made the trek from Ulaanbator to Long Beach and returned home with four medals (Ivan Trinidade has the story on that over at the Gracie Mag Worlds blog). Several prominent MMA fighters competed as well, with former WEC Champion Ben Henderson winning a bronze at brown belt lightweight, Strikeforce Women's Champion Cristiane 'Cyborg' Santos winning the gold in the women's purple belt heavy category and UFC Welterweight Nate Diaz doing very well until he ran into the buzzsaw that is Jimmy Harbison at brown belt middleweight. TUF Season 11 contestant Jon 'Leonidas' Henle unfortunately did not medal in his purple belt super-heavyweight category, but should gain respect for stepping outside his comfort zone. There were rumors that Nick Diaz was about to compete, but did not do so, perhaps because he has the fight of his life coming up against Georges St-Pierre at UFC 137.
The full medal results are here
The mens' black belt championships were filled with amazing matches, a fair amount of favorites successfully navigating their way to the top and some powerful stories.
Rodolfo Vieira was easily head and shoulders above the entire field during the Absolute, which was run first by the tournament organizers. The final was a rematch between Vieira and Bernardo Faria, but Vieira won 9-0, which is a fairly large margin in elite submission grappling. Claudio Calasans, one of the few threats to Marcelo Garcia at middleweight, unfortunately had his arm broken by Vieira during his run to the Absolute title and did not compete in his weight category.
Continue reading after the jump for the Women's Black Belt results, team results, lower belt stand outs and general event thoughts.
I mentioned Atos JJ's 'army of tiny badasses' before and they proved me right by winning three of the first four black belt medals in the weight category competitions. Bruno Malfacine (Alliance) beat Caio Terra at Roosterweight, while Guilherme Mendes and Ary Farias kicked off the gold medal run by closing out Light Featherweight. Guilherme had a real dust-up with Samuel Braga, last year's champion, in the semi-finals, but moved ahead on points. Tanquinho (Soul Fighters) beat the legendary Cobrinha (Alliance) in the semi-finals of Featherweight, but lost a torpid 50/50 guard battle to Rafael Mendes in the finals. Gilbert "Durinho" Burns came back from a drubbing by quick Gi choke at the hands of Kron Gracie in the Italian Open to outpoint Kron in the finals for the gold and to complete the gold rush by Atos' now legendary lighter weight corps.
It is worth noting that Tanquinho beat Ryan Hall (Brasa) on his march to the finals of Featherweight and that Michael Langhi (Alliance) and J.T. Torres (Lloyd Irvin) shared the bronze at Lightweight. Torres was not really expected to medal in this powerfully stacked Gi division, but is building up to a very bright future ahead.
We already have a great write-up of Marcelo Garcia's fifth Mundials championship at Middleweight
, but it bears repeating: nobody scored a point on him this year. Usually Marcelo is willing to take some risks and go for a spectacular finish - often by guillotine - and gives up points here and there, but this year, he was on fire. Calasans may have made this different, but that broken arm left him looking on while Lucas Leite (Checkmat JJ) battled with Marcelo in the finals.
Sergio Moraes (Alliance) won the title at Medium Heavyweight over Romulo Barral (Gracie Barra), my pick to win the category. Moraes had previously competed at Middleweight, but with Marcelo, his good friend and training partner, being the Alliance #1 there, he's moved up in recent years with considerable success. A late takedown seized the necessary points and he may have had a freshness advantage due to running into a teammate, Rogel Monsalve, who deferred to him in the semi-finals.
Rodolfo Vieira must have had a moment of deja vu, as he again faced off against and beat Bernardo Faria in the finals of Heavyweight. The guy's amazing right now, with super tough top pressure, great takedown defense and excellent guard passing. It's going to be very, very tough for anyone to beat him at the level he's on. But there's always Roger Gracie
to consider and guys like Jacare or Xande Ribeiro who could also contend with Vieira.
At Super Heavyweight, Leonardo Nogueira (Alliance, and a very talented grappler I overlooked in my black belt preview
) won a referee's decision over Buchecha Almeida (Checkmat JJ). I was right about Batista Peinado (Alliance) and Joao Assis (Checkmat JJ) being strong competitors as they both received bronze medals.
Antonio "Braga" Neto won out in the battle for gold amongst the Ultra Heavyweights, with Cavaca settling for silver and the bronzes going to Marcio "Pe de Pano" da Cruz and Cyborg Abreu. If you run this Final Four ten times over the next year, I'm not sure any one of them wins the gold more than three times.
Gabrielle Garcia (Alliance) dominated the Absolute competition and ran through everyone at Heavyweight too. She added two gold medals to her already impressive resume and scored a ton of points for Alliance. Gabi is now beating people who are almost her size with technique instead of smashing competitors on size alone and is truly developing into the most dominant female grappler ever.
Leticia Ribeiro (Gracie Humaita) won her Light Featherweight division 3-2 over Nyjah Easton, a very game brown belt from Lloyd Irvin's academy.
Michelle Nicolini (Checkmat BJJ) outpointed Kyra Gracie and was working on a triangle when time expired to win the Featherweight division.
Luana Alzuguir sat out the Absolute with a cracked rib, but won her Lightweight division with a bow and arrow choke over Alliance teammate Luiza Montairo.
In the Middleweight division, Hannette Staack (Brazil 021) pulled off a beautiful flying armbar on Ida Hanssen (Checkmat) to gain the gold medal. People called it the best submission of the day. There's no video out of it yet, but be on the watch when it arrives.
It wasn't Penny Thomas' day for gold, as she lost in the finals of Middle Heavyweight to Talita Nogueira (Gracie Elite) and in the semi-finals to Gabrielle Garcia. Still, a silver and a bronze medal at the Mundials is a very good haul for anyone.
I'd like to give a huge Honorable Mention to Biatriz Mesquita who was outweighed by Gabi Garcia in the finals of the Absolute by something on the order of 100 lbs, yet lost 2-0 to get the silver to go along with her bronze medal from Lightweight. She played a super defensive turtle game, while hunting for overaggressive moves from Garcia, but was shut down by good technique. The always popular Hilary Williams took home a bronze in Middleweight.
While the individual performances were amazing across the board at every belt level, one team of grapplers stood out, as they have done for years now. The team title was won yet again in a landslide by Alliance Jiu-jitsu, headed by Romero "Jacare" Cavalcante, Fabio Gurgel and Alexander Pavia, as it doubled up the points of its nearest competitor, Checkmat Jiu-jitsu, which is led by Leo Vieira (no relation to Rodolfo, but still an amazing grappler
). Alliance has won every major team title this year and has won many in the last several years. With the fracturing of the once monolithic Gracie team into Gracie Elite, Gracie Barra, Gracie Barra USA, Gracie Humaita, Gracie Academy, Carlson Gracie Team and so on and on, it appears that it will take a collapse of epic proportions to outpoint the Alliance grappling factory. Kudos to them for training up excellent grapplers on every level for years now and surviving the many spin-offs of prominent competition-level black belts.
There's an ever-lengthening list of lower belts to watch out for, but I can give you a few names that will assuredly pop up. Some of them I'd correctly anticipated in my earlier preview, but others were previously overlooked.
Alexander Trans (Checkmat) has won every major tournament at brown belt Ultra Heavyweight this year, beating out the tough Abraham Martel (Yamasaki) this year and winning the Absolute. He should do very well at the next level, but with the divisional elite being Neto, Cavaca, Cyborg and Pe de Pano, it may take a while for him to break through for a title.
Jose Carlos Souza Silva (GF Team) supposedly gives Rodolfo Vieira all he can handle in sparring. Silva took home a bronze at brown belt Middleweight and a silver in the Absolute.
Jimmy Harbison (Lloyd Irvin) is plain bonkers at brown belt Middleweight. The division will be ruled by Marcelo for a while yet, as Marcelo's only 28, but Harbison should do just fine at black belt in the coming years.
Michel Langhi and Jonathan Thomas (both from Alliance) closed out at brown belt Featherweight and Jacare Calvacanti turns out winner after winner. Keep your eye on them as they possibly develop into threats to Atos JJ's lighterweight dominance.
Angelica Galvao (Atos JJ, and possibly related to Andre) won gold in the women's purple belt Lightweight and Mackenzie Dern (Gracie Humaita) also finished first in the women's purple belt Featherweight. The entire current purple belt division looks like it's going to be excellent to watch in several years as the competitors move up to the brown/black divisions. Yasmine Wilson (Gracie Elite, from England) looks like a top competitor, as do Rachel Demara (Lloyd Irvin), Sijara Eubanks (Lloyd Irvin) and Cathilee Albert-Zingano (Zingano JJ).
Felipe Pena (Gracie Barra and student of Romulo Barral and Draculinho) won both the purple belt Middle Heavyweight and Absolute divisions. He was promoted to brown belt on the podium and looks to be a future star.
DJ Jackson (Lloyd Irvin) continued his dream year by putting yet another gold medal into his collection at purple belt Middlweight. It's hard to say someone's unstoppable at purple belt, especially when Kit Dale beat him in the Abu Dhabi Pro, but he's proving himself to be a consistent medal threat in every single competition he enters.
Gianni Grippo lived up to his reputation and seized first in the purple belt Featherweight division. The Miyao brothers (Cicero Costha) closed out the purple Light Featherweights, but unfortunately did not grapple each other in the finals. I wonder if there's the potential for a Brook/Robin Lopez situation in which one brother is clearly better than the other.
Event notes: The stream and commentary from BudoVideos was awesome and has been for several years now. Granted, the live switching between matches is occasionally not as sharp or fantastic as it could be. However, when the event being covered is an all day event for four days, a bit of forgiveness is in order.
The chat room is a good idea, but people abuse the heck out of that thing by insulting fighters, spamming odd things and writing so many misogynistic comments about the women's divisions that I had to speak up. Perhaps linking it to Facebook accounts or SBNation accounts would provide a bit more accountability and moderation/banning ability in the future. I really like how the commentators feed off the good nuggets of information, observations and requests from the chat. It's an amazing thing to have two very knowledgeable black belts bounce your idea off each other and off the frequent guests.
Did I miss any stories or awesome fights? Let us know in the comments.