The 2014 edition of the Pan American Jiu Jitsu championship, one of the top competitions on the BJJ calendar, is about to start. A tournament that is perceived as a the preface to the World Championships that will occur later this year. Although too many young stars from Brazil seem to miss the chance to showcase their skills on a bigger stage (the namesTiago Barros, Rodrigo ‘Aquiles’ and Juan Caio Kamezawa come to mind this year) due to financial or US visa difficulties, don’t be fooled, some of the top world title contenders are ready to put on a show for us Jiu Jitsu fans.
This year sees some real American born title contenders in several divisions, and may very well be a big year for the US contingent. Here is a rundown on what to expect from each of the Jiu Jitsu black belt male divisions:
GALO/ROOSTER WEIGHT DIVISION
With the two ‘boogiemen’ of the rooster weights away from the division – Caio Terra decided to go gung-ho on his sweets based diet and will be fighting as a ultra-heavyweight (yes, you read right ULTRA heavyweight), and Bruno Malfacine away from the tournament altogether, a new Pan American world champion is a guarantee.
This may mean that long time prospect Ivaniel Oliveira has finally the room to grow in the division. Expect big things from this entertaining fighter. But do not count Koji Shibamoto, Milton Bastos or Fabbio Passos out, as they will certainly have a thing to say.
According to the IBJJF athlete list, this is arguably the shallowest division of the tournament this year. Much like the galo weight division, the super feathers are missing several big names and unless something goes very wrong for the Myiao brothers, they look dead on course to close out the division.
Although we will be missing the 3 last world champions of the division, this is still one of the most interesting divisions of the tournament, with a few non-Brazilian competitors standing a big chance to make a mark. These are the cases of the newly awarded Marcelo Garcia black belt, Gianni Grippo and Lovato Junior‘s student Justin Rader, but it will not be an easy task for the USA team, with several high calibre grapplers looking to keep that gold on Brazilian soil, fighters like Isaque Paiva, former world champion Mario Reis, Mayko Borges, Samuel Hertzog, Samir Chantre, David Lemes or Osvaldo ‘Queixinho’.
Arguably the most competitive weight division in the sport and a proof that the BJJ is growing with each year in the US. There are a lot of question marks to whether this is the year of JT Torres, the American had a very good start of the year fighting at middleweight in January at the European Open and is one of the favourites to that gold medal, but he is not alone, as the Alliance army is ready to stop Torres on his tracks.
Another very exciting division with at least 8 fighters with real chances of reaching gold. The current middleweight world champion (Otavio Sousa), the current lightweight world champion (Leandro Lo) and current pan american champion (Clark Gracie) might be ahead of the race, but only marginally as Victor Estima, Marcelo Mafra and Vitor Henrique seem to have their own eyes on the middleweight gold as well.
MEIO PESADO/MEDIUM HEAVY
Interesting division as Atos team leader, Andre Galvao steps up a few weight classes, possibly to allow his prime student Keenan Cornelius to shine in the medium heavyweights. The category has a very interesting mix of ‘new blood’ and ‘old school’ title contenders, with Keenan leading the youngsters group, closely followed by Renato Cardoso and Felipe Pena while Guto Campos is leading the veterans, followed by Murilo Santana, Eduardo Telles and Rodrigo ‘Pimpolho’.
A pretty open division with a slight favouritism to the Checkmat team mates Jackson Sousa and Lucas Leite. Expect Rafael Lovato Jr., Yuri Simoes and Roberto ‘Tussa’ to have their say on the run to the podium as well.
Roberto Alencar (Tussa)
SUPER PESADO/SUPER HEAVYWEIGHT
One of the weaker divisions in the tournament with 12 competitor and only one black belt world champion in the mix, it does not come as a surprise that Bernardo Faria is seen to be the heavy favourite to win the tournament, however the always entertaining Luiz Panza would also fancy his chance to put his hand on some serious ‘bling’.
Without the current world champion and arguably the best fighter in the world, Marcus Buchecha on the brackets, this is still one of the most interesting divisions on the tournament with two very unusual fighters thrown in the mix at the last minute: rooster weight world champion Caio Terra is giving it try with the big men, medium heavyweight Andre Galvao, one of the best BJJ fighters of all time, is also dipping his toes in the ultra heavyweights. But the big men of the division have the home advantage, men like Alexander Trans and Abraham Marte are in it to win.
Marcus Almeida (Buchecha)
Regarding the Female Black Belt Divisions:
A scarce competition in the female divisions, from all the competitors only one of the athletes in all the weight categories will fail to medal (at medium heavyweight), the competition will also be missing a few of its most decorated athletes, fighters such as Michele Nicolini, Kyra Gracie, Hannete Staack, Gabi Garcia, to name a few. There is still some work to be done in the sport to appeal to the female competitors, the biggest question here is “who will replace Gabrielle Garcia as the new absolute champion?