This past weekend, the jiu-jitsu community was witness to two amazing tournaments, one on each end of the United States. In San Diego and New York, the World Pro Trials brought out the best in each competitor as many were vying for their spots in the main event in April.

On both coasts, there were plenty of unexpected surprises as well plenty of expected results in the process. In today’s segment we will recap just what went down in both the East and West Coast World Pro Trials.

In New York, there were not many taken by surprise with the results of the brown and black belt categories as all five of the winners are already either very well-known superstars or even already black belt World champions from years past.

At the 143-pound category, Bruno Malfacine came in as the favorite and showed why. Although the four-time roosterweight World champion may have been one of the smallest men in the category, he proved that size doesn’t matter and that technique matters most. Malfacine would take the gold by defeating all of his opponents, including Samir Chantre in the finale.

At 162 pounds, last year’s trials champion Lucas Lepri came back to New York after moving to the Alliance headquarters in Atlanta and showed once again why he still can never be overlooked in the lightweight division. Dominating each of his matches, Lepri secured his spot along with all the other elite competitors heading to Abu Dhabi.

Another former black belt World champion who punched his ticket to Abu Dhabi was Checkmat’s Lucas Leite. The 2007 middleweight World champ didn’t have it easy making it to the final, as he only squeezed by brown belt DJ Jackson via a judges’ decision. In the end though, Leite was the best man in the category and is now set to compete for free in the Middle East.

Roberto Alencar has always been a stud coming out of the Gracie Barra club, but has never been able to capture the big titles during his time as a black belt. Maybe that can change after “Tussa” cruised through the 202.5-pound bracket and earned himself a plane ticket along with the other champions.

Finally, in the “big boy” over-202.5-pound category, Roberto “Cyborg” Abreu took care of his bracket with ease, displaying a fluid game for such a big man. Look for “Cyborg” to be a major force as always in Abu Dhabi, and don’t be surprised if this New York Trials champion ends up being the World Pro champion at the end of the tournament in April; he’s that good.

Now heading West, we stop in San Diego and, on the same day as the New York Trials, the San Diego Trials are equally as exciting, if not more so.

Guilherme Mendes was expected to take the 143-pound title and in the end, he did so with relative ease. The older Mendes brother diligently worked his way through the bracket until he met up with Laercio Fernandes, whom he defeated by points to earn his trip to the Middle East.

In the 162-pound category, the big surprise came when at the end of the day it wasn’t Kron Gracie heading to Abu Dhabi. No, the day and the category belonged to the young American, Zak Maxwell, who provided the biggest upset of the tournament by defeating Kron with a back take, scoring four points in the closing seconds of the match. Although Zak is already a proven star, this was certainly his big breakout tournament at black belt and now we can add yet another name to the list of top contenders at the black belt lightweight category.

At 183 pounds, we may be seeing the development of a new rivalry as Andre Galvao and Clark Gracie had another heated battle in the final of the category. Last year, Galvao eked out the win by a judges’ decision, but this year it was a little more decisive as he passed Clark’s tricky guard to secure an undisputed victory.

Alexandre Ribeiro is still one of the best big men in the World today, but due to the hype of Rodolfo Vieira and Roger Gracie, the two-time absolute World champion has been lost and often overlooked. On Sunday, “Xande” proved that he is back and ready to compete for another World title as he defeated Romulo Barral in the final of the 202.5-pound category and showed the world he’s not done yet.

Later on in the day, “Xande” capped off his comeback by taking the absolute title as well, defeating Andre Galvao in a closely contested finale. Can he make 2012 his comeback year and show its not only Roger or Rodolfo that can take the absolute title?

Lastly, in the over-202.5-pound category, veteran Marcel Fortuna capped off a great trials campaign by defeating Gustavo Dias Elias by a 6-0 score and would be the last of the day to earn his free ride out East.

Two separate tournaments and two times the amazing action! What do you, the reader, think of all of this? Who amongst these winners will put on the biggest show when it comes time for the main event in Abu Dhabi? Comment below and let us know! Osss!

Photo: “Xande” Ribeiro with hand raised after defeating Andre Galvao in the open weight finals at the San Diego Trials (Kid Peligro/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.