With 2012 finally upon us and a long (and exciting) year ahead, we can begin to map out the big competitions coming up this year.

First, we can start at the first major IBJJF championship, the Europeans, which has become the second biggest jiu-jitsu tournament in the world, drawing athletes from all countries. In the tournament, there has already been some major shake-ups in some of the black belt categories, as the Mendes brothers (Rafael and Guilherme) and last year’s lightweight champion, Lucas Lepri, are going to be a no-show this time around. But at the same time, with the return of names such as Ary Farias, Claudio Calasans, last year’s absolute champion Sergio Moraes and newcomer Leandro “Lo” heading to Portugal, there will be no shortage of all-stars competing for gold. Will Sergio Moraes be able to repeat last year’s performance and become the Europeans only two-time absolute champion? Or are we bound, in 2012, for a new absolute champion to take Moraes’ title away? Make sure to keep up with this huge tournament taking place from Jan. 26 through Jan. 29.

The IBJJF will then have numerous local tournaments throughout the country afterwards, starting in Houston on Feb. 11, where it will have its third annual Houston Open Championship. From there, the IBJJF crew will fly out to San Francisco for their first-ever San Francisco Open scheduled for Feb. 25. Then, in the last of its smaller tournaments, the IBJJF will hold the second Winter Chicago Open on March 3, rounding out its mini-country travels. In these tournaments, look for numerous big names to compete, test their skills and prep themselves for the bigger championships coming up soon afterward.

One of those “big championships” is the Pan Championships being held at the end of March in Irvine, Calif. In Irvine, there is bound to be plenty of fireworks as 2011’s absolute champion Rodolfo Vieira will be looking to keep his title for a second consecutive year with rivals Bochecha, Antonio Braga Neto and Bernardo Faria looking to steal it away from the GFTeam star. One thing to note going into the tournament is that 2010 champion Bernardo Faria lost four times to Rodolfo (twice at both the Pans and Worlds). Can he adjust his strategy to finally beat “The Terminator?”

After the Pans comes to a close, many will be focusing on the World Pro in Abu Dhabi, where there are currently trials for the tournament scattered across the world in San Diego, New York, Japan, Australia, Brazil, Africa and in numerous countries in Europe. The main event being held in mid-April is bound to bring out many of the best black belts, as it has every year since its inception in 2009. It’s hard to determine who the champions will be without all the trials actually being completed, but many can make a good predicition on who will be there, as last year’s champions Augusto Mendes, Leandro “Lo,” Claudio Calasans, Lucio “Lagarto” and Rodolfo Vieira are all said to be looking to remain champions in their respective categories.

Lastly, in June, the Worlds will once again rock the Pyramid for the fifth year since the event moved from Brazil. There, the possibility of the dream match-up between three-time absolute champion Roger Gracie and current absolute champion Rodolfo Vieira may finally transpire. This past year at the Worlds was suppose to be the time for Roger and Rodolfo to finally go head-to-head, but it wasn’t to be. Due to an injury, Roger was forced to pull from the tournament for the first time as a black belt, and it was the first time since 2002 that Roger did not participate in the absolute final. With his expected return, look to see how Roger fares in what will be his first competition in nearly two years. Will he be the Roger of old? Or will new-school Rodolfo show that it is now his time.

There are a lot of riveting match-ups and rivalries that are ready to be renewed in the new year, and you can be sure to get all the previews and recaps of each and every event throughout the year here on The MMA Corner! Osss!

Photo: Rodolfo Vieira is one of the many top competitors to keep an eye on in 2012 (Graciemag International)

About The Author

Gianni Grippo
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Contributor

Gianni Grippo is a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu under Marcelo Garcia and trains at the Marcelo Garcia Academy in New York City. Besides being a big fan of the sport, Gianni is also an avid competitor and has ranked among the best in the World from blue to brown belt winning 6 IBJJF World titles and 7 Pan Championships. Still at 21, Gianni looks to continue to compete for many years to come as his main goals are to win the World championships at black belt and win the ADCC title.