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May 2017 BJJ

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Monthly Archives: May 2017

  • Rafael “Formiga” Barbosa: Competitor, Teacher, Leader

    Rafael “Formiga” Barbosa is one of the more important jiu-jitsu figures to have popped up in the last decade, not just because of his competitive skill but also his ability to gather top athletes and be a leader for his influential team. The ability to lead and organize has been crucial to jiu-jitsu’s growth in the last few decades. While competitors and athletes do a great job of spreading the sport internally, it is the organization leaders, like Formiga, that arrange gyms and organizations to discover and raise new athletes and jiu-jitsu fans.

    When it comes to competition, Formiga, meaning “ant” in Portuguese, is the 2011 New York Open champion and the 2002 Brazilian national champion amongst many other high-level competition medals. However, one of Formiga’s greatest achievements was co-creating the Soul Fighters jiu-jitsu team that brought together some of the best athletes in the sport.

    Formiga is a Rio de Janeiro native who started jiu-jitsu at the young age of 11 after he saw Royce Gracie in the UFC. He then began his training with Andre ‘Dedeco,’ and after some years of hard mat time Formiga received his black belt from him at the age of 19 - a great age to really continue to train and develop his black belt skills. It is indeed very fortunate for someone to earn their black belt so early. They are able to gain experience competing in the adult division at black belt, which becomes physically harder for those who earn their black belts after the age of 30. This fortune gave Formiga plenty of time to hone his skills as with many other early black belts.

    Six years later, Formiga and some of his friends, including world champion Augusto ‘Tanquinho” Mendes, joined forces to create the Soul Fighters team which would be a collaboration of several teams coming together to give everyone involved a better training atmosphere. Very often when a team is small and everyone trains together often, teammates begin to know each others’ games so well that they do not have a chance to practice against different body types and styles. When several teams unite, they are able to test their skills in a non-competitive environment. Going to competition is nice but the preparation for serious competition is heavy and can also cause serious injury. This way, people can train without any of these problems.

    The school that Formiga and his friends opened was a great success and still runs out of Tijuca in Rio de Janeiro – a nice family area of town near the core of the city. The team also spread across the world with several affiliates and attracted top athletes like Osvaldo Queixinho, Manuel Diaz, Joao Gabriel Rocha, Diogo Araujo, and many others.

    Eventually Formiga’s instructor made the move to the United States in 2005 and extended a similar invitation to him. It took some time for Formiga to think about it because of his commitments and love for his country, but ultimately he took the opportunity to move and teach in the gym in Connecticut.

     Some recent accomplishments, among many others, include:

    2016 NY IBJJF Spring Open Championship- Master 1 Weight Division- 1st Place Champion

    2016 IBJJF Pan American Championship- Master 1 Weight Division- 1st Place Champion

    2016 IBJJF Pan American Championship- Master 1 Open Division- 2nd Place

    2015 U.S. Open- Weight Division- 1st Place Champion

    2015 U.S. Open- Open Weight Division- 1st Place Champion

    2015 World Master Championship- Weight Division- 1st Place Champion

    2015 World Master Championship- Open Weight division- 2nd Place

    2015 Boston IBJJF Summer Open Championship-Open Weight Division- 1st Place Champion

    2015 Boston IBJJF Summer Open Championship-Open Weight Division- 1st Place Champion

    2015 NY IBJJF Summer Open Championship-Open Weight Division- 1st Place Champion

    2015 NY IBJJF Summer Open Championship-Weight Division- 1st Place Champion



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  • The Dynamic Duo of Jiu Jitsu

    When it comes to jiu-jitsu competition, one can say that Osvaldo “Queixinho” Augusto Moizinho and Samir Chantre are the Batman and Robin of the scene. The only thing is that it’s hard to say which one is Batman and which one is Robin. Regardless of this labeling, both train together on the same team and have been competing together for many years – giving each other the support needed to succeed.

    Both these athletes boast very impressive and prestigious title resumes. “Queixinho,” meaning “little chin” in Portuguese, is a consecutive 3-time World No Gi champion, winning titles in 2014, 2015 and 2016. In addition to this, he is also the current World Masters champion and has beaten some of the best names in the sport.

    Samir Chantre has no particular nickname, he is simply known by his actual name even though it’s very common for Brazilians to tag on some sort of descriptive nickname. Samir is also a 3-time world champion, but not consecutively. His titles are from 2010, 2014 and 2016. He is also a 2-time Pan American No-Gi champion. Both Queixinho and Samir have plenty of other titles, but these are their greatest achievements.

    Both their careers started around the same time. Queixinho started at the age of 8 with judo in Rio de Janeiro and tried various other martial arts. But it was only at the age of 16 that he was introduced to jiu-jitsu and decided to pursue it as his main martial art. He joined the team, Brazil 021, (‘021’ being the area code for Rio de Janeiro) under Andre Terencio who took Queixinho all the way up to brown belt. After Terencio’s move to Chicago, Quiexinho continued with the Soul Fighters team, still in Rio. Quiexinho eventually got his black belt from the Soul Fighters founders in 2011 and went to compete in the United States where he was invited by Caio Terra and Samir Chantre to join their team. Queixinho accepted and got on the first airplane. During these years he competed aggressively and won his best titles. But in 2015 he respectfully left the Caio Terra Association and became the head jiu-jitsu instructor at the Gracie Fighter Gym.

    Samir Chantre’s story varies a litte from his friend’s. Samir is slightly younger yet he started competing one year earlier than Queixinho. He was also born in Rio de Janeiro and was first exposed to jiu-jitsu at the age of 9 at the grading of his brother. After this he joined the Fabricio Martins academy in Copacabana and then joined Sergio Bolao’s gym, a student of Carlson Gracie. Eventually Samir took a year off to attempt a career in soccer to only return to jiu-jitsu after he decided he wouldn’t go through with it. He then joined another gym, Alan Moraes’, and trained there until brown belt. Eventually he came to the United States on suggestion from his friend, Caio Terra, and also opened his own gym in 2010 after receiving his black belt in 2009 from Alan Moraes. Nowadays Chantre has his own team with Quiexinho and Milton Bastos called Ares Jiu-Jitsu.





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  • Aftermath: IBJJF No-Gi World Championship

    Just like every other year, the jiu-jitsu season closes with the IBJJF No-Gi World Championship before the holidays. The no-gi scene is always interesting to follow because usually the roster of competitors is different from gi. For one, athletes like Rafael Mendes and Buchecha usually don’t make an appearance. This being said, there are many top athletes that do compete in both, but the results are not always consistent. Let’s take a quick look at what happened at the black belt male adult division this year.

    BLACK / Adult / Male / Rooster

    What more can be said about Caio Terra in this division? He is the king of the castle with his now, 9th straight title since 2008! Although it would be nice to see him compete more in gi and no-gi invitational events, Caio is pound-for-pound one of the best no-gi grapplers on the planet.

    BLACK / Adult / Male / Light Feather

    Last year, Joao Miyao was the king of this division and I’m sure he was expecting to continue the streak, however, he ran into the worst guy he possibly could, someone who had defeated him three times already in 2016 prior to the no-gi worlds, young 21-year old phenom, Michael Musumeci. Expect to see Musumeci stay on top of this division in both gi and no-gi in the years to come.

    BLACK / Adult / Male / Feather

    This year a vacancy for the gold medal was left in this division with the absence of Tanquinho. So, as naturally one would predict, the silver medalist from 2015, Osvaldo Moizinho, was able to bump his ranking to first place and become the 2016 no-gi world champion. Additionally, his teammate, Samir Chantre took second.

    BLACK / Adult / Male / Light

    Here we have all new names with the championship crown shifting from Alliance to Nova Uniao. In 2015, veteran Michael Langhi made an outstanding return and won the gold. Now, in 2016, Marcio Andre overcame Rodrigo Freitas in the finals. It can easily be said that this is Andre’s best year yet with victories, especially since he also won the Abu Dhabi World Pro.

    BLACK / Adult / Male / Middle

    Once again we have a big change in names with a totally new podium standing. In 2015 the podium was full with competitors from Lloyd Irvin, Alliance, Gracie Barra and Checkmat – a huge variety. However this year, silver and bronze medals all went to Alliance with only the gold medal going to Marcelo Mafra of Checkmat.

    BLACK / Adult / Male / Medium Heavy – Ultra Heavy

    Yuri Simoes, who was able to take double gold for both the Ultra heavyweight and open class, was the standout star of the upper weight divisions. However, these results are no surprise since his win in 2015 at the ADCC. The training he went through in preparation for this tournament launched his skills to the next level. Expect to see him dominate the division for the time being.




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  • The Versatility Of Jiu-Jitsu

    Everyone knows that jiu-jitsu is part of the foundation of mixed martial arts. Without jiu-jitsu, the UFC would not even exist. It was Rorion Gracie that originally started the UFC as a platform to prove jiu-jitsu’s efficiency against other martial arts. His brother Royce Gracie was successful in proving this and the UFC began its ascent. Overtime, as athletes became more educated about the techniques that were useful or not, wrestling and muay thai were added essentials to a fighter’s arsenal.

    Nowadays jiu-jitsu has evolved according to the required task at hand. For example, cops have been using jiu-jitsu training for many years now to fine-tune their skills so that they can subdue any suspects with the least amount of damage. Although this is not always possible, jiu jitsu does allow for it.

    Next, there is sport jiu-jitsu. Let’s face it, jumping guard and playing 50/50 until sliding into a berimbolo isn’t going to help you in a street fight. In the case of sport jiu-jitsu, the game has evolved to achieve the goal of the sport athlete: win a match according to the rules (be it by a submission, points, or advantage). Depending on the athlete’s style, they may prioritize one method over the other. Some athletes adapt their game to gain position with little focus on a submission, where as some have a game where their priority is to get a submission as quickly as possible from anywhere.

    Another “school” of jiu-jitsu is self-defense, which is the original intent of the jiu-jitsu that Helio Gracie preached. However, it should be noted that Japanese jiu-jitsu (where BJJ and judo all stem from) was originally the form of combat that the samurais used in war, which ranged from self-defense all the way to the mastery of several different weapons. All these different skills branched out over time into their own specialized disciplines. In a way, the jiu-jitsu we know today is the ground specialization branch of the samurais’ original art. They had to know how to defend themselves properly should a fight had gone to the ground. They had never developed their technique into things like the berimbolo or pulling guard, as they would have never needed something so impractical for their intent.

    The self-defense form of jiu-jitsu is probably the purest to its original intent. Most good schools implement the importance of self-defense in jiu-jitsu right from the beginning of white belt level. Practitioners would do well to remember the base of the sport. You could be winning all the tournaments in the black belt division in your town, but if you can’t escape a headlock or bear hug from behind, you’re training will have a glaring hole. Self-defense jiu-jitsu has become very popular and it is a strong attraction for children who are bullied at school and those who want to upgrade their personal safety.



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  • Jiu-Jitsu Positions You Want To Be In When In An MMA Match

    If you have already been doing jiu-jitsu for a little bit of time, then these positions may be obvious to you. This will be additional knowledge for the casual MMA fan: the guy who may want to train but can’t and just enjoys watching his MMA fights on a Saturday night.



    Mount is one of the preferred positions for those that like to ground and pound. Once you’re on top, you will most definitely have an amazing opportunity to land some serious strikes. Whether it’s punches or elbows, you’re at a huge advantage.

    Recently it’s been harder to finish opponents in this position because fighters have become so good at escaping and transitioning into a less dangerous position such as the half-guard. Nevertheless, for the more skilled groundsman, mount is also a gateway to other advantageous positions. Classically, the two most popular transitions from here in MMA are the armbar and back control. The armbar is easy to catch especially when you’re throwing punches. Oddly enough if you’re in high mount, the top fighter is able to reach his opponent’s chin but the bottom fighter cannot do the same. In the past, many fighters would reach their hands out in desperation to block the punches and would get caught in an armbar very easily. Some of the more clever fighters would straighten their arms to bait the top fighter into attempting the armbar and would properly time an escape. So, nowadays, fighters that are on the top prefer to continue to Ground and Pound to avoid losing their advantageous position. Of course, this is all dependent on the fighter’s confidence in his jiu-jitsu.


    Back Control

    The last top transition from mount is back control. This position is even more dangerous than mount and will give a fighter a very high chance of winning. A lot of fighters on the bottom, that are more confident with their ground game, will give up the back to avoid the stronger punches in the face and would rather take the chance of escaping back control. The horrible thing is, escaping back control is very difficult as well and usually the fight will go into a dangerous cycle - from mount to back control to mount and so forth.

    This position is generally worse than being mounted, even if you’re an experienced jiu-jitsu guy. Sure, you won’t be taking full punches in the face like you would in mount, but you’re one easy transition away from getting mounted again. You’ll also be eating hooks on the side of your head along with elbows. There are a bunch of nasty submissions from there, most commonly an armbar and the rear naked choke.

    Even if you do escape, your only realistic position is, once again, ending up on the bottom of a half-guard position. Even though you will have more options offensively, and you can defend yourself better from strikes, you will still be in danger of receiving a lot of heavy punches and elbows.



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  • Aftermath: Copa Podio Heavyweight Grand Prix 2016

    This last weekend we witnessed another edition of the Copa Podio Grand Prix – arguably one of the most exciting jiu-jitsu spectating events on the planet. What makes it so exciting is the intensity at which it makes the athletes compete. It is set up in a group layout where athletes have to face everyone in their group in a round-robin format.

    In the opening round things were pretty even, but Leandro Lo was able to have the most dominant performance of the evening with a 2-0 win over Isaque Bahiense. Erberth Santos, the other star to watch in this tournament, had a much harder win over Cassio Francis with a three advantage score. The other performances in this round were good and competitive – there were no easy wins.

    The second round was significantly better since two of the four matches ended in submission and the other two matches were clean point victories for Diego Borges and Alexander Trans. Leandro Lo won his match by submission (toehold) and Felipe Trovo won his match by triangle over Isaque Bahiense.

    As the tournament progressed into the third round, Nelton Pontes and Alexander Trans were able to win their matches without giving up a point. Both earned 2-0 wins over Diego Borges and Rodrigo Cavaca, respectively. Isaque Bahiense defeated Cassio Frances 5-2 and Erberth Santos defeated Felipe Trovo with a toehold in an awesome match where Trovo used an escape from Santos’ sidemount that immediately transitioned into a crucifix.

    As the rounds progressed, the stamina of the athletes began to understandably wane, which means that only the best-conditioned of them stood a chance. This became evident as fewer points were scored in the fourth round and only Alexander Trans and Leandro Lo were able to dominate their matches, with a 9-0 win for Trans and an 8-0 win for Lo. The other matches were decided via advantages.

    In the fifth round things started to get dangerous as two of the matches ended in unfortunate injury. Both Cassio Francis and Erberth Santos were unable to continue, giving Felipe Trovo and Leandro Lo the easy pass to the semi-finals. This is also very unfortunate to the fans since Leandro Lo versus Santos was supposed to be the most anticipated match of the event. There was no doubt they will fight again, most likely in a superfight at another Copa Podio.

    It came down to Leandro Lo versus Alexander Trans, the two favorites of the tournament. The match was competitive and especially entertaining because Trans is considerably larger than Lo. But Lo did not cease to impress and took a 2-0 victory over Trans. Leandro Lo is, without a doubt, one of the best pound-for-pound jiu-jitsu athletes today because he is able to defeat top ultra heavyweight opponents when he is naturally a middleweight competitor.




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  • Copa Podio Heavyweight Grand Prix Preview

    Copa Podio will continue to showcase why it is one the best events in jiu-jitsu with their next Grand Prix. The level of intensity and the level of difficulty that an athlete has to compete at is considerably higher than any other event. For one, the fact that they follow a FIFA style format (ie.- the athlete has to win their group/leg in a round robin style) already tops the difficulty of the bracket style that the IBJJF and UAEJJF use. Of course, Copa Podio is a different kind of event – it focuses a lot more on spectatorship than ranking. However, they are able to accomplish both by putting on a good show and exposing the top talent in the world. The only thing they lack is including all the world champions in their events. It’s a shame that we don’t see Buchecha, Rafa Mendes, Cobrinha and some others, competing in these events more often. If these top athletes competed regularly in Podio, then it really would be, without a doubt, the greatest event. But by having names like Leandro Lo, Erberth Santos, and many others, the competition level is extremely high. One should also try to watch these events live because the vibe is great. Even though the crowd is small (relative to more popular sporting events, like MMA), the intensity is very high and the Brazilians are second to none when it comes to cheering - they treat it like a soccer game – so be sure to get a ticket if you ever have the chance.

    This weekend they are holding their fourth Grand Prix season. In the past, this tournament was dominated by the likes of Rodolfo Vieira, but the current heavyweight champion is Felipe Pena (who will actually not compete in this season) opening the way for Leandro Lo as the favorite. Lo is currently the consecutive 5-time world champion, a 4-time Pan-American champion, and a 5-time Copa Podio grand prix champion at various other weight classes.

    This Copa Podio also marks another special occasion for Lo since he came off a win over rising star Eberth Santos in the last event. The fight was competitive until Lo managed to snag the back of Santos, earning himself the win. The rematch has been highly anticipated and the pressure will be on Lo to defend himself against a fired up Eberth Santos. Erberth is only 22 years old and is hungry to put everyone’s head on his mantle. In this Grand Prix, Lo and Erberth were drawn to be in the same leg, so their match will be inevitable. In fact, the may face each other multiple times if they both make it out of the leg. So once again, with the possibilities of multiple matches like this, it proves how exciting and dynamic Copa Podio can be to spectate.




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  • 3 Ways to Avoid Injury

    Below is just some friendly advice. Each suggestion varies from case to case, but if you speak to a great number of people in jiu-jitsu, they will tell you that their injuries occurred because of these reasons. If you avoid certain situations in jiu-jitsu because you don’t want to get injured, it doesn’t make you a ‘chicken’ or a coward. The goal in jiu-jitsu is to train long term, but in order to do that you have to take care of yourself and make sure you avoid high-risk situations. Every time you get injured, you interrupt your progress in jiu-jitsu - it’s just not worth it.


    1. Avoid the “Spazzes”

    To begin, a ‘spaz’ is someone that goes 100% without any control or real strategy. They are the ones that are most likely to accidentally deck you in the face with their knee, heel, elbow, and even head. Usually, we’d like to think that this kind of behavior goes away once someone reaches purple belt, and often, it does.

    Spazzes are easy to spot and it is recommended that you don’t roll with them.

    An alternative option, if you do choose to roll with them, is to play a very defensive game and just work to catch them if and when they make a mistake. It’s not worth it to get your teeth knocked out by someone that doesn’t know how to technically control their body in jiu-jitsu.


    1. Avoid the ‘newbs’

    Another type of clumsy practitioner is the total novice. It’s more understandable that they will do things that could potentially harm you, but a ‘newb’ isn’t just any typical beginner. They are the ones that may have especially bad balance or try to utilize so much strength that when they slip, you could end up getting punched straight in the face. Again, depending on your technical level relative to their clumsiness, you could control the situation. The ‘newb’ is almost always a white belt and in their first few months of training.

    With both the “spazzes” and the “newbs,” try to use your experience to help them understand the riskiness of their rolling nature and have them learn to slow it down and focus more on technique (at least until they have a solid understanding of the fundamentals).


    1. Avoid risky positions

    This is an interesting one. You’d be surprised to know how many self-induced injuries there are in jiu-jitsu. For example, often guys will watch some Eddie Bravo videos and think they are naturally made of rubber and have the powers of Mr. Fantastic. So very often practitioners will pop their knees trying to bring their foot to their chin, or damage their spine because they think they can be stacked by 250-pound men. The truth is, you need to gauge your abilities and know their limits. If you feel your leg can’t go any further while you’re trying to play rubber guard, then stop. Iff you’re being stacked and you feel your neck can’t handle it, tap. Sure, it might be embarrassing to tap from a stack, but guess what? You shouldn’t have been in that position in the first place, and it is better to tap than to face potential serious injury. It’s not worth permanently damaging your body out of pride.



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  • 2015 in Retrospect: External Growth

    Every year we see how jiu-jitsu grows both on an external and internal level. What does this mean? Externally we see the push that jiu-jitsu leaders make to the public – the non-practitioners.

    One thing in particular is the participation of celebrities in the sport. Most notable of these is Anthony Bourdain. For those who are unfamiliar with him, he is best known as the host in several food travel shows on CNN and is is an accomplished chef and writer.

    Overtime, he and his wife Otavia have dedicated themselves to jiu-jitsu on a level that would warm all our hearts, as they have truly become ‘mat rats’ – it seems like they train whenever possible. And Anthony Bourdain as a traveler has shown that he will not skip training when he is abroad. But when at home he trains at Renzo Gracie’s academy.

    In other celebrity news, you can also see how veterans such as Rigan Machado are constantly showing the connection that other celebrities have to the sport. In Rigan’s case, Ashton Kutcher and Keanu Reeves makes appearances more often than others.

    In 2015 this celebrity connection only grew further with more and more appearances. With the continuing growth of the UFC, their champions reached celebrity status and attract the public to the fight culture. By association, jiu-jitsu grows as well.

    So what is the overall implication of this celebrity growth in 2015? Well, academy owners will feel the impact of this the most. Every time Anthony Bourdain mentions jiu-jitsu on one of his shows, there are literally millions of people watching and digesting that information. As the referrals to jiu-jitsu are repeated, people begin to take notice and in combination with the growth of the UFC, people will walk into academies to see what all the hype is about - this brings them into our world.

    On the same note, apart from celebrity influence in the jiu-jitsu community, the Abu Dhabi Jiu-Jitsu Federation is making a huge effort to let the public know about the ‘gentle art’, especially in 2015. For the World Pro and Grand Slam tournaments, they posted advertisements within every hosting city. Airports, buses, and other public areas received these ads. They make the event seem like a spectacle for everyone, not just jiu-jitsu practitioners. Over time, this will make heads turn as people start to see it year after year.




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  • Preview: IBJJF European Open, Black Belt Adult Male

    Roosterweight Division:

    Here we have a great combination of international players ranging from Europe to Japan to Brazil. The athlete to make the most note of here is Caio Terra. The multiple time world champion will try for another win; the third European championship for the Rio de Janeiro native.


    Light Feather Division:

    It’s safe to say that this division is more stacked than the rooster. We only have a few Europeans competing here, with most of the competitors hailing from Brazil. The athlete to note here is Joao Miyao, who is the 2014 European Champion. Expect the Berimbolo master to inch out all his fights by points, which is his usual manner of victory.


    Featherweight Division:

    Here we have a similarly stacked division as the light featherweight division. However, the title can go to either one of two standout athletes: Paulo Miyao and Marcio Andre. Both competitors are very young and have been competing against each other since blue belt. Like his smaller twin brother, Paulo Miyao favors berimbolo attacks and inching wins by points.

    Marcio Andre has been used to defending aggressive berimbolos for quite some time now. These two are most likely to meet in the finals and it can really go either way.


    Lightweight Division:

    Interestingly enough, this division is usually quite full at other IBJJF grand slam tournaments. This year, it seems that none of the world or pan am champions are present, such as Lucas Lepri or JT Torres. So we have a blend of new athletes and other athletes that don’t compete as often as the top-level guys. The one name I would keep an eye on would be Edwin Najmi who trains non-stop and has some of the best teachers in the world. He has done exceptionally well in the other belt levels and recently competed in Copa Podio. He will surely utilize his experience there at the Europeans - he is the x-factor in this tournament.


    Middleweight + Medium Heavy:

    In the middleweight division, we see a lot more names from the European community. It will be interesting to see which of these new name will dominate in that weight class.

    In the medium heavyweight division, we have Romulo Barral in the mix amongst some lesser known names in the sport.



    This will be one of the more exciting divisions to watch for sure. Why? Because it has Jackson Sousa and Helvecio Penna. Who is Helvecio Penna? He is only the guy that’s 55 years old and still loves to compete in the adult division. He may not win often, but he hangs in there and does what most men his age either dream of doing or are too afraid to do. That being said, expect Jackson Sousa to take the win.


    Super heavyweight + Ultra Heavyweight:

    We have a bunch of new names in the mix in these classes. For the super heavyweight division, expect Erberth Santos to stand out. He is one of the top leaders in the IBJJF point system, 5th place to be exact. He is still new in the black belt division, but is already making waves.




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