NOVEMBER 17, 2021, ABU DHABI’S JIU-JITSU ARENA is once again the center of the sport as the Abu Dhabi World Pro unfolds. The rules of the AJP Tour state that each country is allowed a maximum of two athletes per adult division, namely, the nation’s #1 AJP ranked athlete and another competitor. If more than 1 athlete (outside the number 1 spot) signs up to the tournament, they must compete in a country qualifier the day before the Abu Dhabi World Pro Championship to earn their placement in the main event.
As per tradition, the first day of the tournament is set to define each country’s qualifiers. These mini-tournaments have become incredibly important, particularly the Brazilian Qualifier as the vast majority of the World Pro black belt gold medalists have derived from this competition. Below is a short run down of the events that took place on day 1 of the black belt division of the Abu Dhabi World Pro.
NATHANNAEL FERNANDES SHOCKS THE ROOSTER WEIGHT DIVISION
One of the most promising athletes of the elite squad of grapplers formed by Mr. Melqui Galvão in Manaus, Brazil, is Nathannael Fernandes. The young Manauara made a big statement in his black belt debut today, placing the whole division in check at the qualifiers. Nathannael beat the odds-on favorite of the whole event, Thalison Soares, in a controversial first-round match that ended with a 4×4 score. After that, Nathannael went on to beat another big player in the sport, Oziel Santos of Felipe Pena Team on points, as well as former World Pro and European Open champion, Rodney Barbosa (points) in the final of the rooster weight Brazilian Qualifiers. A stunning performance by any measure.
DIOGO REIS BEATS LUCAS PINHEIRO AND MEYRAM MAQUINÉ
As we move up in weight class, another division and another young student of Melqui Galvão with a major upset. Coach Melqui’s team won four of the Brazilian qualifiers, all four athletes being under the 20-year-old mark. This time it was Diogo Reis who pulled the upset in a stacked division where many saw Dream Art’s Meyram Maquiné as the heavy favorite. That favoritism did not detour the former purple belt IBJJF Grand Slam champion, Reis, who put on a strategic clinic against both Meyram and another favorite, Atos’ Lucas Pinheiro. Diogo beat Meyram on a referee decision and Pinheiro on points while also beating Valcemir Junior via 16×0 and Matheus Fonseca by a comfortable margin.
ISRAEL, BAHIENSE AND MICA GALVÃO ADVANCE
In the light, medium, and medium-heavy divisions peace was restored in the jiu-jitsu world as the favorites did manage to squeeze past to the main event. First, it was GFT’s Israel Sousa to advance. The young talent had to go through heavy artillery in IBJJF Pan Champ, Thiago Macedo (2×0), Diego Medeiros (submission), and Leonardo Saggioro (6×2). A Qualifier tournament with so much talent that it could easily be a professional event.
The son of the aforementioned Melqui Galvão, Mica Galvão, also advanced as expected by many of his fans. The prodigy was challenged by big players of this sport such as Leonardo Lara (Almeida JJ) and Julio dos Anjos (GFT) but saw his task through. The same could be said of Dream Art head coach Isaque Bahiense. The veteran IBJJF World, Pan, and European Champion did not have the hardest side of the bracket and had in rising GFT talent Catriel Oliveira his toughest challenge in the final. A highly disputed match that was not for the faint of heart was decided by the referees for Isaque. This was not an easy match to judge, nevertheless that many in the crowd contested the decision.
MATHEUS “TÁ DANADO” ADVANCES
Once regarded as one of the top brown belts in the world, Matheus “Tá Danado” Felipe‘s career as a black belt has not been the most eventful. Currently residing in the Middle East, Felipe does not compete as often as he once did, but when he does show up, he makes it count. At the qualifiers, Felipe managed to pull the upset against the favorite, Anderson Munis (2×1). From that match, Felipe would go on to beat Renato Cardoso and Francisco Lima.
FEMALE DIVISIONS DOMINATED BY FAVORITES
Traditionally smaller divisions, the female weight classes saw little to no upsets. Worthy of note, however, was Gabrieli Pessanha‘s clash with Tayane Porfirio. The matches between these two world champions are becoming somewhat of a modern-day classic at super-heavy. A division that was once solely dominated by Gabi Garcia is now one of the most interesting weight classes in the sport with Garcia, Pessanha, Porfirio, and Yara Soares as strong contenders to the division’s crown.
AJP Brazilian Qualifiers:
56KG: Nathannael Fernandes (Melqui Galvão / FS)
62KG: Diogo Reis (Melqui Galvão / FS)
69KG: Israel Sousa (GF Team)
77KG: Micael Galvão (Melqui Galvão / FS)
85KG: Isaque Bahiense (Dream Art)
94KG: Matheus Felipe (Checkmat)
120KG: Gutemberg Pereira (GF Team)
49KG: Vanderlucia Barbosa (Al Jazeera)
55KG: Bianca Basílio (Almeida JJ)
62KG: Beatriz Mesquita (Gracie Humaitá)
70KG: Larissa Dias (Melqui Galvão / FS)
95KG: Gabrieli Pessanha (InFight)