At last! There are only two more days to go until the action starts in Lisbon, Portugal, and the IBJJF’s first major competiton of 2012 will begin. With nearly all the competitors on the registration list, today’s segment seems like the perfect time to state my predicitions in the black belt category and give you, the reader, my opinion on who can be at the top of the podium come Sunday afternoon.

Roosterweight (126.5 lbs.)

In the lightest weight category the tournament has to offer, there are really no favorites going in due to the lack of the more popular names. But now, this opportunity can give some of the relative unknowns a chance to hold the spotlight and begin making a name for themselves amongst the Jiu-Jitsu community. The division looks to be a battle of five, with the winner only needing two or three fights to take the title. Who’s going to win the sprint to gold?

Finals Prediction: Gabriel Alexander Rosberg (Checkmat BJJ) vs. Masaaki Todokoro (Paraestra)

Light-featherweight (141 lbs.)

With last year’s champion, Ary Farias, mysteriously out of the mix, the category looks a lot more wide open for the taking than it did a few weeks ago when Ary was guaranteed to be a part of it. If the 2011 champion does in fact show up at the last minute, he should be a shoe-in for the title, but if not look for former World champion Carlos “Holanda” to come in as the favorite.

Finals Prediction: Carlos “Holanda” Vieira (Checkmat BJJ) vs. Leandro Martins (Checkmat BJJ)

Featherweight (154 lbs.)

This year, the featherweight category will have a much different look than it did last year when all four main Atos competitors closed out the category together. In the Euro’s 2012 installment, only Bruno Frazzatto is coming back to Portugal to represent his team. Even though Frazzatto will be fighting without teammates Eduardo Ramos, Rafael Mendes and Guilherme Mendes, he will be considered the favorite going in. But with Leonardo Saggioro, Wellington “Megaton” Dias and Denilson Pimentia in the mix, Frazzatto will certainly have his work cut out for him if he wants to bring home gold for team Atos.

Finals Predicition: Bruno Frazzatto (Atos) vs. Leonardo Saggioro (BTT)

Lightweight (167.5 lbs.)

The 167-pound category is considered by many to be the deepest division in Jiu-Jitsu, and by simply looking at the athletes list, the majority is certainly correct. With a division replete with names such as Jonathan Torres, Leandro Lo, Michael Langhi, Eduardo Ramos, Roberto Satoshi and Pedro Bessa, how can you decisively pick a winner? The favorite going in probably has to be Leandro, but it’s still difficult to predict a winner in the category.

Finals Predicition: Leandro “Lo” Nascimento (Cicero Costa) vs. Michael Langhi (Alliance)

Middleweight (181 lbs.)

Just like the lightweight category, the middleweight division is almost equally as stacked with top-flight Jiu-Jitsu players. Claudio Calasans won this category last year, so that would make him the favorite, but there are plenty of challenges for him to defeat in order to hang onto his title. Competitors like Victor Estima, Jimmy Harbison, Otavio Sousa, Clark Gracie, Alan Do Nascimento and Gabriel Goulart look to be Calasans’ biggest threats, so watch out for a potential upset in this category.

Finals Prediction: Claudio Calasans (Atos) vs. Victor Estima (Gracie Barra)

Medium-Heavyweight (194.5 lbs.)

Last year in this category, Braulio Estima would beat the eventual absolute champion Sergio Moraes in the final, dedicating his win to a friend who had passed away days prior to the event. This year, with the category missing its champion, Moraes comes in looking to grab the only title he would miss out on last year. To get there, his biggest challenge may be Nivaldo de Oliveira, whom he beat at the 2011 Brazilian Nationals, but in a close contest. Nivaldo is a rising star who will be looking to make the most of this rare trip outside of Brazil, so don’t be surprised if the medium-heavyweight title could continue to elude the two-time World champion Moraes.

Finals Predicition: Nivaldo de Oliveira Lima (Checkmat BJJ) vs. Sergio Moraes (Alliance)

Heavyweight (207.5 lbs.)

Even in a weight class with only seven competitors registered so far, the heavyweight category is still deep and replete with popular figures in the sport. Igor Silva, 2011’s ultra-heavyweight champion, has dropped down two weight classes for the 2012 edition and looks to be a front-runner for gold. But red-hot Rafael Lovato Jr. cannot be taken lightly, and is looking to carry over what he did in recent NoGi events into the Gi competitions. Also, Bruno Bastos and Roberto Alencar are two formidable opponents and worthy of recognition. If there is to be a dark horse in the category, look for it to be Alencar, who can surprise anyone at any time.

Finals Prediction: Igor Silva (GF Team) vs. Rafael Lovato Jr. (Riberio Jiu-Jitsu)

Super-Heavyweight (221 lbs.)

Maybe he wouldn’t want to admit it so bluntly, but in my opinion, I get the sense that Alliance’s 2010 World champion Bernardo Faria moved up in weight for the Europeans to avoid a possibility of another two tangles with reigning absolute champion Rodolfo Vieira. The only problem is this: Rodolfo is moving up in weight as well. One of the biggest questions in the “rivalry” between the two athletes is “can Bernardo change his strategy against Rodolfo?” Last year, they fought four times with Rodolfo taking them all handily, and beating Bernardo at his own game. Can Faria break the streak and come out victorious against his biggest challenge to date?

Finals Predicition: Rodolfo Vieira (GF Team) vs. Bernardo Faria (Alliance)

Ultra-Heavyweight (+221 lbs.)

Normally, I’m not so fast at declaring a first-time black belt a favorite at a major IBJJF tournament, but here I may make a consideration. Alexander Trans won everything there is to win at brown belt in 2011. Trans won the Europeans at weight and absolute, followed by winning the Pan’s at weight and absolute, then won the Brazilian Nationals at weight (did not enter the absolute) and lastly capped it all off by winning weight and absolute at the World Championships. How can you not consider him at least one of the favorites? Although black belt is a whole other world, Trans has got game, and look for him to be turning heads at his first-ever tournament as a black belt.

Finals Prediction: Alexander Trans (Checkmat BJJ) vs. Thiago Gaia (Nova Uniao)

So there is my take on what I think will go down at the Europeans. Do you agree? Comment below or stay tuned for next week, as I will recap the entire event from roosterweights to ultra-heavyweights and everything else in between! Osss!

Photo: Rodolfo Vieira (Dan Rod/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.