APRIL 10, 2021, Abu Dhabi, UAE – saw another edition of the Abu Dhabi World Professional Jiu-Jitsu Championship, the main event of the AJP organization – formerly known as the UAEJJF. The World Pro was without a doubt the biggest jiu-jitsu event of 2021, thus far, and arguably, the most international tournament in over 1 year.
The AJP World Pro Championship enjoyed a very fortunate set of circumstances, as it is set in one of the very few countries currently allowing international travel from and to its territory given the favorable COVID-19 guidelines there applied. These have been set given how well the nation has controlled the current pandemic.
The importance of the event brought forth some of jiu-jitsu’s finest, with South American athletes in big numbers, but also plenty of European, Middle Eastern, and North American grapplers.
Although stacked with talent, the current COVID pandemic still held a lot of athletes back, therefore, the brackets were smaller than in previous events. Due to the smaller sizes of the divisions, we saw the qualifiers take place on the same day as the main tournament. This made things a lot harder for the Brazilian athletes who had to go through 3-to-4 matches – against top-tier competition – more than the athletes from other nations on the World Pro.
MAJOR UPSETS AT 77 KG (170 LBS)
Much of the tournament upsets happened right here, in the Brazilian qualifiers. One of the most “upset-heavy” brackets was that of the 77-kilogram division where we saw two of the sport’s main figures lose in the first round. The first was Andy Murasaki – who was coming off a spectacular performance at the EUG tournament last week. The Atos lightweight had a tough battle with Checkmat’s Mathias Luna, playing from a bottom position and losing to a referee decision. More surprising was André Luiz’s submission victory over world and pans medalist Renato Canuto. The entertaining Checkmat – Las Vegas athlete looked good at the start of the match but was caught by André’s tricky kneebar from 50-50 guard.
Luna and Luiz continued their path of destruction, meeting in the final of the qualifiers, a match that was decided by the referees to André. The three world-class grapplers he had to overcome to make it to the World Pro took a lot out of the gas tank of the former Soul Fighters athlete who went on to lose in the first round of the main show.
A ROLLERCOASTER OF EMOTIONS AT 120 KG (264 LBS)
One could say the real World Pro at 120 was indeed the Brazilian Qualifiers, given how many big players – pun intended – were on this roster. This included GFT Rio de Janeiro powerhouses Gutemberg Pereira and Wallace Costa, the Dream Art dream team that is the Munis Brothers, Fight Sports fresh talent Roosevelt Sousa, as well as one of the most accomplished players in the division – João Gabriel Rocha.
In one of the main matches of the tournament, Wallace Costa defeated Anderson Munis via 2×0. Costa is gaining a lot of traction in the division since reaching the black belt rank and felt galvanized with the win over Munis but ended losing to João Gabriel in the semi-final of the qualifier.
On the other side of the bracket, Erich Munis made it look easy against Fabio Martins but came up short against Gutemberg in a very tight match. Pereira looked superb throughout the tournament, winning the qualifiers and, after, the World Pro Championship.
Although the aforementioned Brazilian Qualifiers, arguably, had a wider range of top-shelf talent when compared to the main event, there was still plenty of great action on offer here with over 100 black belt, adult, matches.
The biggest additions to the brackets here were a few European stars such as Adam Wardzinski, Tommy Langaker, and Espen Mathiesen, as well as the rising Argentinian lightweight – Pablo Lavaselli and Middle East’s Ali Monfaradi.
BRENDA LARISSA BRINGS THE UPSET
The female roosterweight is not, traditionally, the most sought out weight class, nor is it the most competitive, but things are changing quickly here. Although Mayssa Bastos is still the dominant force at 49-kilograms (108 lbs), Brenda Larissa (Alliance) is rapidly approaching, ready to overtake Bastos.
Yesterday we saw another win by Brenda over Mayssa, this being the second time Larissa beats the former GFT athlete. Although the roosterweight division of the World Pro only had the two Brazilians plus the Argentinian Eliana Carauni (3 athletes), Brenda had a harder path to her gold medal as she competed in the qualifiers, where she fought three times. Brenda beat Mayssa by 3×2 points.
ELEFTHERIA CHRISTODOULOU BEATS KENDAL FOR BRONZE AT 95KG
Another big star to emerge from the tournament was Eleftheria Christodoulou, a Cypriot brown belt who trains and competes out of Ievgen Skyrda’s killer camp in Ukraine – a team we wrote about last year (here). The division was dominated by two of the strongest athletes in the world today, Gabrieli Pessanha and Yara Soares with the 3rd place being up for grabs between World NOGI champion Kendall Reusing (USA) of Gracie Barra, Portugal’s European Open Champian Yas Dias of BPT, and Christodoulou of Cyprus.
Although all three had strong chances of taking the podium, Reusing was by far the favorite, given her extensive curriculum at black belt. The American dominated Yasmina Dias and looked good early in her match with Eleftheria Christodoulou, but the Cypriot held her defenses during Kendall’s early onslaught and came back strong in the second half of the match, overturning the talent early lead.
LAVASELLI ON THE RISE
We have been pointing to Argentinian grappler, Pablo Lavaselli as one of the most entertaining athletes on the 77-kilogram division for quite some time. Yesterday he proved us right with a gold medal performance.
Lavaselli had to go through the Brazilian Qualifier champion, André Luiz in the first round, the veteran Adriano Araújo, and finally Espen Mathiesen. A very tough path to victory, but one Pablo walked with great flair.
MALE / BLACK BELT / 56KG
1- Jonas Andrade (PSLPB)
2- Johnif Rocha (PSLPB)
3- Marko Oikarainen (Hilti)
FEMALE / BLACK BELT / 70KG
1- Julia Boscher (GFT)
2- Rafaela Silva (Palm Sports)
3- Buyandelger Battsogt (Garuda JJ)