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2024 IBJJF Worlds, The Dark Horses Of The Tournament

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Gordon Ryan Guard Passing Instructional

The biggest gi jiu-jitsu tournament of the year has arrived! This weekend, BJJ’s biggest stars will battle for the most coveted medal in the sport, that of the International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation (IBJJF) World Championships, an event that will take place in Long Beach, California, and will be streamed by FloGrappling.

This year, many familiar faces will be missing from the tournament due to other competitive arrangements, most to focus on their no-gi battles later this year in events such as the ADCC and CJI. Athletes like Nicholas Meregali, Victor Hugo, Diogo Reis, Fellipe Andrew, and Ffion Davies, nevertheless, the allure of the IBJJF did manage to call upon many experts who have stacked every single weight bracket of the black belt division. In the present segment, we will introduce our readers to a few athletes who – we feel – could shake up their respective divisions. Challengers you won’t see on any frontrunner lists floating on the internet, but who pose a real threat to a spot on the podium steps of the Walter Pyramid this weekend. Without further ado, here are our Top 5 Dark Horse picks for the adult black belt division.

A 34-year-old veteran who has never medalled at the Worlds may appear to be a crazy bet at first, but Dias perfectly embodies the Dark Horse characteristics. This Rio de Janeiro native and former member of the Fightzone gym in Copacabana, a workgroup responsible for the development of names such as Jansen Gomes, Gabriela Fechter, Jonata Gomes, Alan Finfou, and many more has represented Carlson Gracie in the US for a few years with different rates of success. Dias is always a tough nut to crack and a hard athlete to score points on in victory and defeat. He has only been submitted once in 4 years (by Meyram Maquine), though that was in the light-featherweight division.

Pedro will be venturing for the first time in the roosterweight division after a lifetime of competing as a 64-kilo athlete. He could be a force if the weight cut goes well due to his style, experience, and likely size advantage.

To reach the final, Pedro Dias will have a tough time ahead. His second match will be against Brazilian Nationals gold medalist Welerson Goncalves, quarter-finals will be against former IBJJF Euros champion Rodnei Barbosa, and very possibly Bebeto Oliveira after that, before he faces the (likely) finalist and the odds-on favorite, Thalison Soares. Nothing short of a Rocky Balboa-type storine in the making.

Another Dark Horse and Rio de Janeiro native developed inside the Fightzone Copacabana Academy. Although of a similar background as Pedro Dias, Dudu Granzotto is of the new generation of athletes produced in the famous camp, this being his rookie year as a black belt.

Very successful as a colored belt, Granzotto has not yet found his rhythm as a black belt, currently holding a mixed record of 9-5-0. This unflattering record does come with some caveats, firstly two of those losses occurred in the open weight class against a heavyweight and an ultra-heavyweight. Another one of his losses happened due to injury, which leaves us two losses, both of which took place against the best in the world in the featherweight class.

Much like Pedro Dias, Granzotto is a wild card. He will have a tough first match against Rene Lopez, then face one of the best US athletes to ever grace the IBJJF mats, in Malachi Edmon, and (likely) Jonas Andrade of Cicero Costha. Nevertheless, in this weight class, expect Dudu Granzotto to put on a real challenge to the top.

Despite having only 5 matches as a black belt – two of those being losses – a record that would discourage most from pointing him out as a viable candidate to the podium in a stacked division with names such as Roberto Jimenez, Mateus Rodrigues, Adam Wardzinski, Leandro Carlos, Pedro Machado, Elder Cruz, and Dimitrius Souza, we believe the silent Dark Horse of the heavyweights will be Rayron Gracie of the Renzo Gracie Academy.

What Rayron lacks in experience and accolades at the professional level, he makes up for in talent. This young member of the Gracie Family is still in his rookie year as a black belt and has already shown an unbreakable mindset and an unusual ability to find submissions from very creative angles.

The biggest flaw in Rayron’s game has been his slow-starting approach to competition. A style reminiscent of his uncle, the jiu-jitsu GOAT Roger Gracie. This slow-cooked approach to competition might take its time to bear fruit at the highest level but expect this young man to turn heads his way this weekend.

We have written about how tough the female featherweight division is this year in a previous post (here), but make no mistake, the roosterweight is just as challenging. A very close weight class led by the current champion Mayssa Bastos, who will undoubtedly be the front-runner, and will have very worthy challengers on every branch of the IBJJF Worlds bracket.

In comes Ana da Silva, the rookie black belt with only 7 matches in the black belt division. She is undefeated as of yet in the roosterweight division having competed and defeated last year’s World & Pan silver medalist twice, as well as a European champ and the AJP Grand Slam, Miami, champion.

Ana’s second event as a black belt was the IBJJF Pans this year, where she reached the final. We do not doubt that da Silva will be a big player in this division for years to come, and 2024 may very well be the year that starts it all.

In the world of BJJ, not often does an athlete move up a weight class to become more successful than they had in a lower weight, but in Brenda’s case, this may very well be the case.

After years competing in the roosterweight, consistently falling short of the world title by the tightest of margins, Alliance’s Brenda Larissa decided not to cut as much weight for the big tournaments of the IBJJF and, so far, has looked phenomenal.

Competing in Brazil, Brenda has managed to win the South American ADCC Trials and the Brazilian Nationals, defeating Pan champion Jessica Caroline in the process.

The light featherweight division this year has 17 athletes, an improvement from previous years, and the level is quite high with World and Pan medalists around every corner, but Brenda’s experience and scrappy style give her a good shot at breaking through this tight division.

Bernardo Faria BJJ Foundations

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