OCTOBER 25, 2021, RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL, held the AJP Grand Slam Tour this weekend. The biggest tournament of the year in numbers of adult black belt athletes, a legion of professional competitors who swarmed Rio de Janeiro’s Velodromo venue to produce over 250 matches, nearly 100 more clashes than the previous biggest black belt tournament, the IBJJF Pan American Championships.
With so many athletes on the mats, in the city once hailed as the Mecca of Jiu-Jitsu, it would be logical to assume the event captured the interest of our sport’s top names, and indeed it did. Particularly appealing to the new generation, the tournament was stacked to the brim with our sport’s rising talents, including Mica Galvão, Meyram Maquiné, Fabricio Andrey, Luiz Paulo, the Munis Brothers, Gabrieli Pessanha, Yara Soares, Roosevelt Sousa, Wallace Costa, Pedro Alex, etc, while also bringing forth more established names such as Isaque Bahiense, Leonardo Saggioro, Hiago George, Patrick Gaudio to name a few.
MELQUI GALVÃO’S TEENAGE PHENOMS CHALLENGE DREAM ART
Over the past 24 months the Dream Art Project, a professional jiu-jitsu team from São Paulo, had been clearly leading the pack in Brazil, dominating the local scene in numbers of medals. This Dream Art hegemony appeared to have no end in sight with the team showing stronger performances with each passing event. That dominance was just put in check by a small workgroup from Manaus, a team of teenagers led by coach Melqui Galvão.
Arriving at Rio de Janeiro in small numbers, Melqui’s brave warriors produced some of the most eye-pleasing jiu-jitsu on the mats this weekend. A level of entertainment that was equally efficient at reaching the top of the podium. Diogo Reis, Fabricio Andrey, Mica Galvão + Luis Paulo (closed division), Brenda Larissa, and Larissa Dias, all came out of the tournament as champions, with Alessandro Botelho, also from the Manaus team, taking 3rd at 69 kilograms. Truly incredible work done by these young competitors.
We have been talking about these two for a while and this weekend they proved why once again.
Praised by many as a future star in the female lightweight division, Julia Alves of GF Team is an unusual grappler. Although on the shorter side for a guard player, Julia is extremely efficient from her lasso-guard, using her power, technique, and incredible killer instinct. One of the most submission-oriented athletes on the event with 3 subs in 4 matches, Alves took gold in a heck of a performance.
Equally impressive was Gabriel “Maranhão” Costa. Although aggressive and always fun to watch, the Guigo Jiu-Jitsu medium-heavyweight had not yet proved his talent in the black belt division after a solid brown belt career. That proof came this weekend with an outstanding performance in one of the most stacked divisions of the ADGS. Costa had 5 very tough matches and came out with a gold medal. A special moment for this athlete whom we hope to see more of on the international circuit.
Purple Belts and Brown Belts Mixed With Black Belts Thanks To Novel “Level-Up” Rule
If you paid attention to the Rio de Janeiro Grand Slam, you might have seen brown belts competing against black belts in the Mens Black Belt Division – which AJP labels as “Professional Division” – or seen purple belts competing in the Female Brown & Black Belt Division. This is down to AJPs crackdown on sandbagging with a new rule laid out by the federation this year, a rule we alluded to in our profile piece on Renan Cruz earlier this year (see here).
What this rule does is force any athlete who has won an AJP world title to compete in the belt division above the belt rank he conquered at any AJP event from then on, regardless of if his or her coach promoted them. A world champion will be, by definition, the best there is in his division and therefore, worthy of competing in the next level.
This has left athletes and coaches with an interesting predicament, particularly for those who plan to conquer two world titles (AJP and IBJJF) in the same year for curriculum purposes – a tradition in BJJ – as the AJP World Pro takes place prior to the IBJJF Mundial.
Professional Female Division On The Rise
Although novel, this new “level-up” ruleset did have a positive result, particularly in the female division as we saw vastly more women competitors at the Grand Slam RJ in comparison with any IBJJF event. Whereas we often see desolate female brackets in the IBJJF World Championships, with 1-to-3 athletes, we saw huge improvements at the AJP, with competitors fighting 4 or 5 times to earn a medal. More competition tends to lead to better athletes and a more enjoyable spectator experience and, at first glance, this does seem to have produced just that.
This new rule also allowed Larissa Martins to shine. The Dream Art purple belt has been one of the top athletes in the blue and purple belt divisions for the past couple of years and has long been pointed to as a future force in the medium-heavyweight division. This Grand Slam Rio de Janeiro event allowed the young prospect to prove she is already on the cusp of being a star.
Martins fought 5 times and won 4 of those matches. A superb performance by the lanky guard player.
Competitiveness Vs Submissions
Competitive throughout, the athletes conquered a 25% submission ratio, a number below the 32% we had seen at the aforementioned Pans (keeping in mind that this 32% number was inferior in relation to what the average IBJJF show traditionally produces). These stats have been consistently lower than those produced by the IBJJF given that the matches are half of the duration of those by the IBJJF – AJPs 5 mins vs IBJJF 10 mins.
Below are the results of the AJP Grand Slam, Rio de Janeiro’s professional divisions.
ADGS Rio de Janeiro Champions:
56KG: Oziel Santos (Felipe Pena / Gracie Barra)
62KG: Diogo Reis (Fight Sports)
69KG: Fabrício Andrey (Fight Sports)
77KG: Micael Galvão (Fight Sports)
85KG: Gabriel Costa (Guigo JJ)
94KG: Erich Munis (Dream Art)
120KG: Isaque Bahiense (Dream Art)
49KG: Brenda Larissa (Fight Sports)
55KG: Anna Rodrigues (Dream Art)
62KG: Julia Alves (GF Team)
70KG: Larissa Dias (Fight Sports)
95KG: Yara Soares (Dream Art)
BLACK BELT 56 KG / MALE / DIVISION
– Welerson Goncalves def. Luciano Alex via 5×4
– Oziel Santos def. Yuri Hendrex via 2×1
– Welerson Goncalves def. Jonas Andrade via 6×4
– Oziel Santos def. Luan Pinheiro via 4×2
– Oziel Santos def. Welerson Goncalves via 1×0
– Jonas Andrade def. Luciano Alex via Botinha
BLACK BELT 62 KG / MALE / DIVISION
– Hiago George Lucas def. Carvalho via 1×0
– Ronald Alves def. Leandro Lima via Armbar
– Diogo Reis def. Andre Moura via 6×1
– Lucas Pinheiro def. Cleber Sousa via 6×2
– Ronald Alves def. Hiago George via 6×4
– Diogo Reis def. Lucas Pinheiro via 8×6
– Diogo Reis def. Ronald Alves via 4×1
– Hiago George def. Leandro Lima via Submission
BLACK BELT 69 KG / MALE / DIVISION
– Higor Lima def. Wilhiam Mateus via 4×1
– Meyram Maquine def. Alessandro Botelho via 2×0
– Fabricio Andrey def. Klaus Maine via Submission
– Leo Saggioro def. Marlus Salgado via 3×2
– Fabricio Andrey def. Leo Saggioro via 2×1
– Meyram Maquine def. Higor Lima via RNC
– Fabricio Andrey def. Meyram Maquine via 4×3
– Alessandro Botelho def. Marlus Salgado via 3×1
BLACK BELT 77 KG / MALE / DIVISION
– Luiz Paulo def. Guthierry Barbosa via 5×0
– Murilo Amaral def. Luis Ribas via 7×3
– Natan Chueng def. Lucas Gualberto via 1×0
– Mica Galvao def. Lucas Protasio via kneebar
– Mica Galvao def. Natan Chueng via Choke from back
– Luiz Paulo def. Murilo Amaral via 4×4
Although Mica and Luiz technically competed against each other due to AJPs ruleset, this was a friendly match for performative reasons between teammates and of no sporting consequence. In this friendly exchange, Galvao won via submission.
– Natan Chueng def. Lucas Gualberto via 2×1
BLACK BELT 85 KG / MALE / DIVISION
– Gabriel Costa def. Yan Lucas via decision (0x0)
– Alex Munis def. Wellington Luis via 1×0
– Leon Brito def. Javier Valenciano via 10×0
– Athos Miranda def. Ronieri Silva via 2X0
– Gabriel Costa def. Alex Munis via decision (0x0)
– Athos Miranda def. Leon Brito via 6×3
– Gabriel Costa def. Athos Miranda via 3×2
– Alex Munis def. Yan Lucas via decision (0x0)
BLACK BELT 94 KG / MALE / DIVISION
– Erich Munis def. Hygor Brito via 3×1
– Patrick Gaudio def. Pedro Elias via 2×1
– Wildemar Santos def. Lafayette Pinheiro via 4×1
– Gabriel Henrique def. Lucas Silva via Choke from back
– Erich Munis def. Gabriel Henrique via 2×0
– Patrick Gaudio def. Wildemar Santos via 3×1
Although Erich and Patrick technically competed against each other due to AJPs ruleset, this was a friendly match for performative reasons between teammates and of no sporting consequence.
– Gabriel Henrique def. Hygor Brito via 2×0
BLACK BELT 120 KG / MALE / DIVISION
– Wallace Costa def. Juan Bitterncourt via 11×0
– Isaque Bahiense def. Rodrigo Melo via 4×2
– Roosevelt Sousa def. Igor Schneider via 6×4
– Pedro Alex def. Leonardo Lemos via 4×2
– Pedro Alex def. Roosevelt Sousa via DQ (illegal submission)
– Isaque Bahiense def. Wallace Costa via 2×1
– Isaque Bahiense def. Pedro Alex via decision (0x0)
– Roosevelt Sousa def. Igor Schneider via armbar
BROWN + BLACK BELT 49 KG / FEMALE / DIVISION
– Brenda Larissa def. Mariana Rolszt via Choke from back
– Jessica Caroline def. C. Ochotorena via 3×2
– Duda Tozoni def. Ingrid Assis via Triangle armbar
– Thais Felipe def. Hanna Tavares via decision (0x0)
– Brenda Larissa def. Jessica Caroline via 2×2
– Duda Tozoni def. Thais Felipe via decision (0x0)
– Brenda Larissa def. Duda Tozoni via 2×2
– Jessica Caroline def. Thais Felipe via 3×0
BROWN + BLACK BELT 55 KG / FEMALE / DIVISION
– Milene Silva def. Alexa Yanes via decision (0x0)
– Mikaele Damasceno def. Leticia Yuka via Armbar
– Anna Rodrigues def. Ana Schmitt via 2×0
– Michele Oliveira def. Luciane Guimaraes via Submission
– Milene Silva def. Mikaele Damasceno via Ezekiel choke
– Anna Rodrigues def. Michele Oliveira via decision (0x0)
– Anna Rodrigues def. Milene Silva via 11×0
– Mikaele Damasceno def. Michele Oliveira via 1×0
BROWN + BLACK BELT 62 KG / FEMALE / DIVISION
– Julia Alves def. Aurea Almeida via Armbar
– Luciane Antunes def. Jaine Fragoso via 3×0
– Sami Galvao def. Luiara MacIel via 2×0
– Natalia Zumba def. Steffane Costa via 3×2
– Julia Alves def. Luciane Antunes via Choke from back
– Natalia Zumba def. Sami Galvao via 7×0
– Julia Alves def. Natalia Zumba via 1×0
– Luciane Antunes def. Jaine Fragoso via 4×1
BROWN + BLACK BELT 70 KG / FEMALE / DIVISION
– Larissa Dias def. Welma Moreira via 6×2
– Izadora Cristina def. Raiane Santos via 3×0
– Ingridd Alves def. Milena Carneiro via 5×0
– Larissa Martins def. Keila Grace via 5×3
– Ingridd Alves def. Larissa Martins via 4×2
– Larissa Dias def. Izadora Cristina
– Larissa Dias def. Ingridd Alves via 2×2
– Larissa Martins def. Keila Grace via triangle/armbar
BROWN + BLACK BELT 95 KG / FEMALE / DIVISION
– Tamiris Silva def. G. Vasconcelos via 7×0
– Gabrieli Pessanha def. Roberta Ribeiro via 13×0
– Graciele Carvalho def. Thaynara Dias via 3×0
– Gabrieli Pessanha def. Tamiris Silva via Armbar
– Yara Soares def. Graciele Carvalho via 5×0
– Yara Soares def. Gabrieli Pessanha via 2×0
– Roberta Ribeiro def. Tamiris Silva via decision (0x0)