London, England is preparing to host one of the top events of the UAEJJF (United Arab Emirates Jiu-Jitsu Federation), the illustrious King of Mats Lightweight Grand Prix. The event started last year and has run in parallel with the UAEJJF Grand Slam Tour.
The King of Mats -69 kilogram tournament will feature a few of the top athletes currently competing in the UAEJJF circuit, with former Grand Slam and Abu Dhabi Pro podium placers, who will face-off under a two group round-robin style event, from which the #1 and #2 ranked athletes will advance to the semi-finals, a format similar to that of Copa Podio.
Set for March 10, 2019 (next Sunday), at the beautiful CopperBox Arena in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, East London, at a first glance one could say that the KOM pushed a little hard on the Alliance team members, but rest assured that none of the 3 athletes representing Alliance are coming from the same actual camp. They are coming from opposite corners of the world (Porto Alegre – Brazil, Los Angeles – USA and NYC – USA) and this should not affect their performances if they are to face each other.
ISAAC DOEDERLEIN (Alliance)
A student of Rubens Charles ‘Cobrinha’, Doederlein is one of the most creative competitors on the featherweight division. Well rounded and very much in tune with the modern day developments of the game, expect Doederlein to be one of the front runners for the KOM strap alongside Paulo Miyao and Gianni Grippo.
JOÃO PAULO NETO (Alliance)
One of the bigger names to come out of Mario Reis’ academy in recent times – a gym that has developed an array of high level names such as Monique Elias, Fabio Alano, Nicholas Meregali, Murilo Amaral, Lucas ´Simba’ to name a few, João Paulo Neto is an exquisite guard player with a talent for the submission. Neto hasn’t been a black belt for long, but has very decent wins under his belt and is coming off a silver medal at the IBJJF South Brazilian championship in the absolute division (Neto is a featherweight), which is a very impressive deed.
HIAGO GEORGE (PSLPB)
With 4 years of high-level competition at black belt, Hiago is one of the most battle-tested grapplers on this KOM roster. George fought a great tournament at the IBJJF European Open this year, arguably his best performance to date, and has a brilliant record. The only downside to Hiago’s chances in this tournament is the fact that he is a light-featherweight competitor, and will concede a fair amount of size to the bigger athletes on the card. That said, there isn’t much George hasn’t seen on the mats, and he will be incredibly hard to run past.
‘BEBETO’ DUARTE (GFT)
One of the new names for the GFTeam in 2019 is Carlos Alberto Duarte. GFT has produced a number of high-level rooster-weights over the past few years, namely Eduardo Barboza and Jose Carlos Lima and this will be a good test to assess if Bebeto’s skill level is at the top level at this point.
GIANNI GRIPPO (Alliance)
Arguably the man to beat at the KOM tournament, Grippo hasn’t always been a pleasure to watch from a spectator standpoint. A very tactical and methodical competitor, Gianni seems to be coming out of his comfort zone as he matures in this sport, as his past few performances could attest. We hope to see the more aggressive version of the New Yorker perform in London, but regardless of how he decides to approach this event, he will be one of the toughest men on the mats, and it would be a shock if we don’t see him on the podium on March 10.
PAULO MIYAO (Unity/PSLPB)
Together with Gianni, Paulo is the most accomplished competitor on deck, come March 10. An impenetrable mind, fast, flexible, technical and strong for this weight class, there is not a lot Miyao can’t do.
Paulo and Gianni have faced each other 6x at black belt, with 4 wins to Miyao, though the past two clashes have gone in Grippo’s favor. Both in 2018. It is likely the case that these two will face each other once again at KOM, a match that may dictate a lot of what will happen in 2019 for the -69-kilogram division of the UAEJJF.
TIAGO BRAVO (Brasa JJ – UAE Team)
Although already eligible to compete in the Masters’ division, Bravo is staying true to his last name (Brave) and is not showing any signs of slowing down, quite the opposite. One of the most active athletes on the UAEJJF circuit, Tiago has proven that experience can go a long way in this division, and as he will be the oldest competitor on the tournament, he will be aiming to steal the show and prove that durability and a no-nonsense jiu-jitsu style can still prevail against the new generation.
GABRIEL SOUSA (ZR Team)
Much like Bravo, Sousa has been incredibly active on the UAEJJF circuit, traveling around the globe in his attempt to be ranked #1 competitor of the federation’s 2019 calendar. Although very fast and creative, Sousa will have a steep incline to overcome when facing the bigger athletes on this tournament, given his smaller frame. None-the-less, do not count this light-featherweight hot prospect out of the race as his experience under these UAE rules may prove to be a great asset in his run towards KOM gold.
NOBUHIRO SAWADA (Tri-Force)
Rising Tri-Force Academy talent, Nobuhiro Sawada is coming off the best year of his career thus far, having conquered the UAEJJF Tokyo Grand Slam as well as the IBJJF NoGi Worlds in 2018. Sawada will be trying to keep that momentum running, though, much like a few of the smaller competitors on this show, his outstanding technical ability will meet a heavy handicap here, that of his weight. Nobuhiro is traditionally a roosterweight and will be facing athletes 2 and 3 weight classes above him. We will be looking out to see how far his talent can take him on the KOM tournament.