This past weekend, the IBJJF team headed down south to Houston for its third annual Houston Open Championship. For two days, competitors of all ages and ranks fought to put their name into the Federation’s history books and to carry home some hardware to show off to their peers at their respective academies.

Day one of the event was taken over by the next generation of competitors and lower ranks. On day two though, the big boys came out to play, as there was a surprisingly stacked black belt category that turned the tournament from just “another tournament” to a “must watch event.” The event held top black belts such as Andre Galvao, Ryan Hall, Jake Mackenzie, Jimmy Harbison, Rafael and Guilherme Mendes, Marcelo Salazar, Pablo Silva and Bruno Amorim, and they did not disappoint in displaying eye-pleasing jiu-jitsu for the crowd.

Without a roosterweight or light-featherweight category at black belt, featherweight was the lightest black belt weight class of the tournament. In it, Rafael and Gui Mendes proved once again why they are two of the best black belts in the world today. Both of the brothers displayed a different game than usual and opted to fight on top with each of their opponents. Rafael dispatched Andre Monterio in a little over two minutes, finishing the match with a brabo choke and awing the crowd once again; while Guilherme was completely dominant over 2010 World champion Pablo Silva. Guilherme ran up the score to 23-2 before finishing him with a baseball choke from side-mount. In the end as usual, Rafael and Guilherme closed out the category and provided a mere glimpse of what is to come in 2012.

At lightweight, controversy swirled around the match between Marcelo Garcia representative Ryan Hall and Gracie Barra’s Bruno Amorim. To many who may not understand the rules, it appeared that Hall won the bout, taking the back beautifully in a last second attempt for victory. But even though Ryan clearly ended up on the back, he was not awarded the four points because he crossed his legs instead of placing the hooks around his opponent’s hips. This is an actual rule (found in page 18 of the IBJJF rule book), but is it a necessary rule? Maybe this match will force a change in the rules with a similar scenario.

For the rest of the category, it was all “JT” Torres. The Lloyd Irvin black belt proved his talents by submitting both Albert Hughes in the semi’s and the aforementioned Amorim in the finals with a slick armbar, crowning himself champion.

At medium-heavyweight, we were given a little bit of “new school versus old school” when Andre Galvao went at it with Jimmy Harbison in the semifinals. In the end, old school prevailed and Galvao reached the finals by passing Harbison’s guard on three separate occasions. In the final, Diego Gamonal was no match for the ADCC absolute champion and Galvao was crowned Houston Open champion.

At the end of the day, when the absolute brackets were released, many were disappointed to see that guys like the Mendes brother and Galvao were not entered, but were still witness to some great matches, mostly coming from the eventual champion, “JT” Torres. Torres proved to be the standout of the day by submitting Andre Monterio in 40 seconds, outpointing heavyweight Marcelo Salazar and, in the final, defeating teammate Jimmy Harbison in an all Lloyd Irvin final via kneebar. With the two gold medals to bring back to Maryland, “JT” has now re-affirmed himself as a legitimate threat to win the Worlds come June.

So what do you think? Because of his most recent performance, do you think “JT” should be considered a favorite to be the third American to win the Worlds in California? Comment below and let yourself be heard! Osss!

Photo: “JT” Torres (bottom) takes on Marcelo Salazar in an absolute bracket match (Mike Calimbas/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.