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The World’s Toughest Division: Brown Belt Lightweight
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The World’s Toughest Division: Brown Belt Lightweight

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As mentioned on our War of the Wolds article, the 2016 edition of the IBJJF World Jiu Jitsu Championship comes as an likely turn of the page in jiu jitsu’s book, that of the sport’s dominance by Brazilian athletes.

A perfect example of this dethroning of the status quo is seen at this year’s brown belt lightweight division. Historically one of the most thriving weight classes in combat sports, the 168lbers have come out in droves, particularly in this belt level. And not just in numbers, but also in quality – one of the most technical “BJJ crops” ever seen in our sport.

The excellence of these brown belts could be matched with that of any high brow black belt tournament, making it (in our opinion) the most even brackets in the Mundial this year. We are not making this up, it is that good.

Out of the 69 lightweight competitors in this division, there is no clear favorite to victory, at the very least there are 12 candidates (!). Another surprising fact is that these athletes are not restricted to American or Brazilian nationalities. These “faixa marrom-peso leve” have the most varied nationalities, coming from all corners of the Earth.

Here is a little introduction to the level of talent we are speaking of:

Max Lindblad (Checkmat/Prana BJJ)

Max-Lindblad– Abu Dhabi World Pro Champion (2016 brown)
– European Open Champion (2013 blue/2014 purple)
Called by his training partners as “Mordroten” (carrot), the swedish brown belt is a student of Kenta Hammarström and Alan Finfou, being regarded as one of the great hopes in European jiu jitsu.

Espen Mathiesen (Kimura Nova Uniao)

Espen-Mathiesen– European Champion (2014 blue)
– European Open 3rd Place (2015 purple)
– Copa Podio Superfight champion (2016)
Another excellent grappler from Scandinavia, Espen recently beat last year’s brown belt world champion (Yan Lucas) at the Copa Podio event. From a small Norwegian town, Mathiesen has in his guard his best attribute.

Johnny Tama (Alliance)

Johny-Tama– Pan American Champion 2014 purple
– World No-Gi Runner-up 2014 brown
– World Jiu-Jitsu Championship 3rd Place (2014 purple/2015 brown)
– Pan American Championship 3rd Place (2015 brown)
– NY Open Champion (2014 purple weight + abs)
Following the trend set by the Iturralde brothers, Johny Tama is another grappler from Ecuador who is set for great things in our sport.

Jeremy Jackson (Heroes Martial Arts)

Jeremy-Jackson– Pan American Champion (2013 blue)
– European Open Runner-up (2015 purple)
– Abu Dhabi World Pro 3rd Place (2016 brown)
Jeremy comes from the USA and trains at Heroes Martial Arts with one of the All American icons of jiu jitsu, Alan “Gumby” Marques. Jackson has been a force to be reckoned with since his blue belt days, and has his eyes set on this year’s world championship.

Zata Toscano (Alliance/Fabio Clemente)

Zata-Toscano– World Champion (2011 blue)
– NY National Pro Champion (2016 brown)
– IBJJF NY Pro Champion (2015 brown)
– World Jiu-Jitsu Championship 3rd Place (2010 blue/2013 purple)
Born in the USA, Zata Toscano is the son of the great Fabio Clemente – a pioneer for jiu jitsu in New York. When they say “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree”, they must of had Zata in mind, as he is as skilled as his father, and has the credentials to prove it.

Breno Bittencourt (Ares BJJ/Alan Moraes BJJ)

Breno-Bittencourt– Brazilian National Champion (2015)
– Brazilian National No-Gi Champion (2015)
– European Open 3rd Place (2016)
The first Brazilian on our list is Breno Bittencourt, student of Alan Moraes of the Carlson Gracie lineage. Breno is a very complete grappler who always medals playing an offensive, forward thinking jiu jitsu.

Pedro Ramalho (Team Manoel Neto)

Pedro-Ramalho– World Champion (2015 purple)
– Abu Dhabi World Pro Champion (2015 purple)
– European Open Champion (2015 purple/2016 brown)
– Abu Dhabi World Pro Championship Runner-up (2015 purple absolute)
Another European on the list, this time from the southern European country of Portugal. A sign of how jiu jitsu is evolving on a greater scale Ramalho, or “Paquito” as he is called by his peers, is regarded as one of the future stars of our sport. Pedro is a physical athlete and a seasoned veteran, having competed all over the world and with the results to show for it.

Dante Leon (GF Team)

Dante-Leon– World Champion (2012 blue)
– Pan American Champion (2016 brown)
– Chicago Open Champion (2016 brown absolute)
– US National Pro Champion (2015 brown weight + abs)
– Abu Dhabi World Pro Runner-up (2016 brown)
GF Team’s Dante Leon is one of great Canadian hopes for jiu jitsu. Dante looks impressively strong and agile, tools he used to take gold at this year’s Pan American Championship.

Ali Seena Munfaradi (Alliance)

Ali-Seena– World Champion (2012 blue)
– World Runner-up (2012 blue abs)
– World Championship 3rd Place (2014 purple, 2011 blue)
– Brazilian National Championship 3rd Place (2015 purple)
– Abu Dhabi World Pro Championship 3rd Place (2015 purple)
From the country of Bahrain, Ali has been regarded as one of jiu jitsu’s top prospects since he won the World Championship for the first time back in 2012, reaching also the final of the open weight that year. Munfaradi has since moved to Brazil, training daily with the Alliance crew in Sao Paulo and should be one of the toughest athletes in this division.

Renato Canuto (Zenith)

Renato-Canuto– Sao Paulo Open Champion (2015 purple)
– Pan American Runner-up (2014 purple)
– South American Runner-up (2014 purple)
– Pan American Championship 3rd Place (2016 brown/2013 blue)
Another impressive athlete from Brazil, this student of Rodrigo Cavaca and Robert Drysdale has done great things in the purple belt division and is expected to do just as well at brown belt. A fierce grappler, focused and composed.

Mike Perez (Atos)

Mike-Perez– World Jiu-Jitsu No Gi Champion (2014 purple/2015 brown)
– World Jiu-Jitsu No Gi Championship Runner-up (2013 puple)
– Pan Jiu-Jitsu Championship 3rd Place (2013 blue)
– ADCC Trials Champion (2015)
Well known in the no-gi circuit, Perez is one of Andre Galvao‘s star brown belts. Perez is incredibly athletic and has great takedowns, but can play the game from all angles.

Julio dos Anjos (GF Team)

Julio-dos-Anjos– Pan American Champion (2016 brown, 2012 blue)
– European Open Champion (2012 blue)
– Brazilian National Teams Champion (2015 brown)
– World Pro Trials Champion (2012 blue)
– IBJJF Atlanta Pro Champion (2016 brown weight + abs)
Julio dos Anjos is seen as one of the great hopes for the future of the GF Team, the 23 year old has a ton of talent, and we are told is in superb shape to take on this year’s world championship gold, having planed his camp this year in Ohio, US with grappling studs such as Vinícius Marinho, Vitor Oliveira, Jaime Canuto, Vitor Silvério, Gutemberg Pereira, Thyago Garatina and many more.

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