This weekend, the premier grappling event in the world goes down.The Abu Dhabi Combat Club's Submission Wrestling World Championships has been the proving ground for grapplers around the world since its inception in 1998. This year, the tournament takes place in Sao Paulo, Brazil and will be available on pay-per-view at Budo Videos. Over the course of the next few days Bloody Elbow will be previewing each of the divisions. Here, we look at, one of the more competitive divisions, the -88KG category.
Historically, the 88KG division has always been quite an interesting one. Past winners include UFC stars, Jacare Souza and Demian Maia, as well as Romulo Barral who will be vying for gold once again this year. Here, we will talk you through who should be considered the favourite to take home gold as well as who is capable of pulling off the shock.
Romulo Barral can do it all. Barral is an experienced black belt with the ability to pull of spectacular submissions. Barral is the defending ADCC champion and is most definitely a marked man. An abundance of young up-and-coming grapplers are definitely seeking Barral's scalp and at 32, this may be his final chance to win another ADCC. Barral's fundamentals are enough to see him through to the latter phases of this tournament. In my opinion, his wrestling and his effective passes alone may see him win the tournament outright, but with the stacked bracket it will be far from easy for Barral to retain his gold.
Keenan Cornelius will be an ADCC champion and I can say that without any doubt. Cornelius is so good everywhere that eventually he will win gold but the question is can he beat Barral this time around? Barral defeated Cornelius in 2013 but since then the improvements in Cornelius has been spectacular. Quite honestly I feel that this is his time and that he will win the bracket and have a good run in the absolute division also. I expect this division to be decided by wrestling - if Keenan's can hold up and he can take down the likes of Barral and Lovato, I expect him to beat everyone and score some rear-naked chokes along the way.
Rafael Lovato Jr.
It feels odd calling Rafael Lovato Jr. an underdog. It isn't out of disrespect to Lovato Jr. - after all he is one of the greatest American grapplers of the decade - it's just a testament to how stacked this division is. Lovato Jr. has it all - a great guard, amazing passes and some slick submissions. But as I mentioned earlier, I feel that wrestling will be key in this bracket and I feel that Barral and Cornelius have an edge over Lovato Jr. in that department. Expect Lovato to make it to the semi's but it would take a spectacular upset for him to take home gold.
Pablo Popovitch won the 77kg division in 2009 but hasn't had the same success at the 88kg division. In 2011 he showed some great skills in both the 88kg and the absolute divisions, both of which he was beaten in by Andre Galvao. Since 2011 it seems like Popovitch has begun to stagnate as a grappler and with Cornelius, Barral and Lovato Jr. all in the division, it will be very difficult for Popovitch to make it any further than the quarter finals.
Check out the full competitor list below:
Male -88 kg
1. Romulo Barral - Brazil (ADCC 2013 Winner)
2. Zbigniew Tyszka - Poland (1st European Trials Winner)
3. Jesse Urholin - Finland (2nd European Trials Winner)
4. Craig Jones - Australia (1st Asia & Oceania Trials Winner)
5. Hidemi Mihara - Japan (2nd Asia & Oceania Trials Winner)
6. Matthew Arroyo - USA (1st North American Trials Winner)
7. Mike Perez - USA (2nd North American Trials Winner)
8. Claudio Calasans - Brazil (1st South American Trials Winner)
9. Keenan Cornelius - USA (Invited)
10. Rustam Chsiev - Russia (Invited)
11. Pablo Popovich - USA (Invited)
12. Rafael Lovato Jr. - USA (Invited)
13. Ezra Lenon - USA (Invited)
14. Neiman Gracie - Brazil (Invited)
15. Yuri Simoes - Brazil (Invited)
16. Ricardo Ramos De Mesquita - Brazil (Invited)