With the European Championships drawing to a close yesterday afternoon in Lisbon, Portugal, I was left both shocked and slightly disgruntled. Although a few of my predictions were correct, many were way off due to some surprising upsets, last-minute weight class changes, and sudden disappearances. But in all, the championship was a great success as many top athletes showcased their skills and have made themselves known to the World for the 2012 season!

At roosterweight, the champion would end up being Tri-Force black belt Koji Shibamoto, who would take the gold by upending Masaaki Todokoro in a fast and dynamic finale. With the win, the roosterweight category must be put on notice, as the new name is sure to be a force in the rest of the major competitions in 2012.

Unlike the winner at roosterweight, the light-featherweight winner isn’t someone new on the block. Carlos Holanda Vieira has been competing in the black belt category for years and has amassed World titles, Pan titles and can now add the title of 2012 European champion to his resume. The Checkmat fighter won his final by submitting Leandro Martins.

Even though the featherweight category was missing Atos’ top three competitors, there was still one Atos black belt remaining that would make sure he kept the 154-pound title “in the family.” Bruno Frazzatto fought splendidly throughout the day, as he handled all of his opponents on his way to gold, giving Atos the featherweight title for the third straight year by the third different athlete (Rafael Mendes in 2010, Eduardo Ramos in 2011 and Frazzatto in 2012.)

If you don’t know or have never heard of Roberto Satoshi, well get ready because after his performance this weekend, you will be hearing a lot about him now and in the future. In his first year at black belt and in his first major tournament at black belt, Satoshi wowed the crowd by demonstrating beautiful jiu-jitsu and upsetting Michael Langhi by a 6-4 score and JT Torres by a 5-0 score. Although he had won the Worlds at all other belt ranks, no one besides Satoshi himself could have seen this result coming. Now with this win, the lightweight division may have a new favorite as Satoshi could be around and in the mix for a World title for years to come.

At middleweight, the absence of last year’s champion Claudio Calasans was felt, but there was still no shortage of great action in the category. Victor Estima would end up stealing the show in the final by submitting Alan “Finfou” with an inverted triangle, bringing joy to his Gracie Barra students and brother Braulio.

A lot like at lightweight, the medium-heavy category took many by surprise as little-known Rodrigo Fajardo dominated the category and surprised favorite Nivaldo Oliveira in the final. With this win, coupled with Victor Estima’s victory, Gracie Barra was able to claim the top spot on the podium in the team tournament with Checkmat as the runner-up and Alliance in third.

When my predictions first came out, the athlete’s list had Rodolfo Vieira fighting in the super heavyweight category. But the next day when the brackets were released, a change was made and Rodolfo was suddenly at heavyweight, thus destroying my predictions for two categories. Speaking of destroying, “The Terminator” continued right where he left off in 2011 and dominated the heavyweight category, sealing the deal with a submission victory over Gracie Barra’s Roberto Tussa. The Europeans could be the start of another impeccable year for Vieira, who is looking to retain all of the titles he won in 2011.

At super heavyweight, without Vieira looming, Bernardo Faria would be set up as the favorite going in, and he lived up to that status. In the final, Faria defeated the decorated and beloved Lucio “Lagarto” by a 4-0 score. This would be Faria’s second consecutive European title and his first in the super heavyweight category.

When team Checkmat revealed that their leader Rodrigo Cavaca would not be participating in this year’s installment of the Europeans, many wondered who would be able to step up and represent them in the ultraheavyweight category? In came new black belt Alexander Trans. Although he had not competed at black belt beforehand, Trans had to be considered the favorite due to his amazing success last year at brown belt. The brown belt grand slam winner of 2011 (Europeans, Pans, Brazilian Nationals and Worlds) did not let the pressures of being considered a top black belt get to him and he rolled through his division, taking home the gold in impressive fashion. Can he do what he did last year at brown belt this year at black belt? We shall soon see.

In the absolute final, it would come down to two familiar foes: Rodolfo Vieira and Bernardo Faria. These two squared off on four different occasions last year, with Rodolfo coming out the victor each time. Faria believed his move up in weight could help make for a different result, but ultimately it was just a repeat of what we all saw at the 2011 Pans and Worlds. Vieira, for the fifth time in two years, dominated Faria, keeping the pressure on throughout by passing the guard and mounting, ending it with a score of 7-0.

So there we have it! Your first major winners of 2012 are set in stone and now the rest of the roster can put them on their radars for the upcoming championships in 2012. Osss!

Photo: Rodolfo Vieira on top of Bernardo Faria in the absolute final (Raphael Nogueira/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.