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2021 IBJJF Worlds Preview: Adult Male Black Belt

Rookie black belts add a new flavor to the first World Championships in two and a half years

Preview IBJJF worlds Photo by Ed Mulholland/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

The last IBJJF World Championship took place over two and half years ago in May 2019, leaving a void in the professional jiu-jitsu scene and ultimately changing the landscape of the sport. Prior to the pandemic, the IBJJF calendar had a huge impact on competitors training and teaching schedules. Since the 2019 edition of the Worlds, most tournaments have been no-gi and we’ve seen high level gi athletes put more time and effort into no-gi training and competition. When the IBJJF announced the 2021 Worlds in October, however, it became clear that the gi competition scene was very much alive and well, with all the sports major teams bringing their best competitors to the highly revered event.

Rookie black belts aim for their first world titles

Many athletes have been promoted to black belt in the over two and a half years since the last IBJJF World Championship and are highly ranked in their respective divisions. Although some of these black belts have held the rank for over a year, this will be their first IBJJF World Championship appearance at the rank.

In the adult male rooster weight division, Thalison Soares will look to add a black belt world title to his collection, having won the event at blue, purple, and brown belt. His first major tournament as a black belt was the 2020 IBJJF Europeans, where he made it to the final, beating ten time world champion Bruno Malfacine along the way. The division also includes three time world champion Mikey Musumeci, the most accomplished American competitor in the gi.

In the light feather division, Meyram Alves will look to capture his first black belt world title. The Dream Art representative was promoted to black belt in June 2020 and has since compiled an impressive 22-3 record. With wins over Fabricio Andrey, Lucas Pinheiro, and Hiago George, Meyram has already proven that he can beat some of the division’s best. Another light featherweight newcomer expected to contend for the title is Diego “Pato” Oliveira. Pato spent much of 2021 competing without the gi, winning the EUG 155 lb. grand prix and placing second at the WNO Championships. In the lower belt ranks, Pato won IBJJF World, Pan, and European championships. While many don’t see Pato as a rookie black belt, as he was promoted in June 2019, this will be his first World Championship at the rank. Pato did his preparation with the Unity Jiu-Jitsu team in New York, led by Murilo Santana and a slew of other highly ranked black belts.

With 2019 featherweight champion Matheus Gabriel moving up to lightweight, the featherweight division at the 2021 World Championships is up for grabs. Fight Sports athlete and Melqui Galvao student Fabricio Andrey, whose last appearance at the 2019 Worlds culminated in a purple belt world title, has had quite a run since being promoted to black belt. He currently holds a record of 33-5, already winning a major title at the 2021 Brazilian National. Other notable featherweights signed up for the worlds include Isaac Doederlein, Shane Jamil Hill Taylor, Alex Sodre, Diego Sodre, Samuel Nagai, and Kennedy Maciel.

Possibly the two most highly anticipated debuts will come from the Art of Jiu Jitsu Academy, as Johnatha Alves and Tainan Dalpra look to capture their first black belt world titles. Both won gold at the 2021 Pans, beating some of the biggest names in their respective weight classes. They’ve been competing very regularly and have won nearly every tournament they’ve entered. The light and middleweight divisions are some of the tournament’s most talent rich, so neither AOJ competitor will have an easy path to gold.

Erich Munis of Dream Art was promoted to black belt in September 2020, and has already notched wins over some of the black belt elite, including Victor Hugo, Erberth Santos, and Adam Wardzinski. He won his weight and the absolute at the 2021 Brazilian National and also won the 2021 Abu Dhabi World Pro. Erich is known for his incredible open guard, a position that will be tested by the likes of Fellipe Andrew, Felipe Pena, and Devhonte Johnson in the super-heavyweight division.

Absolute division up for grabs as Buchecha pursues MMA

Since 2012, the absolute division at the IBJJF Worlds has been dominated by Marcus “Buchecha” Almeida, winning six of eight possible titles. In 2018, Buchecha gave what would’ve been his seventh title to his friend Leandro Lo, who was injured in a previous match and was unable to compete. Since winning his last title in 2019, Buchecha has fully committed to mixed martial arts. He signed with One Championship and has had two fights, winning both by way of submission via choke.

While we won’t know who signs up for the absolute division until right before the event, there are definitely some names you can expect to see sign up and contend for one of the most prestigious titles in the sport. Nicholas Meregali has won the Worlds twice as a black belt in his weight division, but has only reached third in the absolute. This year Meregali is competing in the ultra heavyweight division, likely adding size in an effort to win gold in his weight class and the absolute. Victor Hugo of Six Blades Jiu-Jitsu is another front runner for the absolute title. Coming off a first place finish at the IBJJF Heavyweight Grand Prix, Victor will look to use his savvy guard skills and top pressure to win his first black belt absolute title. Victor won absolute titles in the lower belts at the Worlds, Pans, Europeans, and Brazilian Nationals, so he’s used to fighting competitors of all shapes and sizes.

Atos Jiu-Jitsu has established itself as one of the premier teams on the planet, and has many potential contenders for the absolute title. Atos will likely send a combination of Kaynan Duarte, Gustavo Batista, and Lucas “Hulk” Barbosa into the absolute, each of whom have won absolute titles in major IBJJF tournaments as black belts.

All the action goes down this weekend at the Anaheim Convention Center.