For most of the main competitive jiu-jitsu athletes, their year revolves around the IBJJF World Championships. There are always plenty of other major championships up for grabs, but by far, the Worlds is the most coveted title to attain. Finally the event we’ve all been waiting for is upon us, and we are now only a mere two days away from the start of the 17th annual IBJJF Worlds in Long Beach, Calif.

Today, we will give a full preview and prediction of who are considered the favorites coming into this weekend’s action in the black belt category and who you should expect to see with the gold draped around their neck at the end of the day.


Roosterweight — 126.5 pounds

In the lightest weight category, we will see the return of reigning World champion Bruno Malfacine looking to win his fifth World title and fourth in a row. “Malfa” is coming in with tremendous momentum after recently defeating Guilherme Mendes at the Pans in the light-featherweight finale. Malfacine’s main competition is almost sure to be his biggest rival in 2008 World champion Caio Terra, who will be looking to snap his streak of three consecutive Worlds silver medals (losing to Malfacine each time). There are some other solid players in the mix—like Rafael Freitas, Milton Bastos, Felipe Costa and Joseph Capizzi—but in the end look for it to come down to Terra and Malfacine, yet again.

Final: Caio Terra (Gracie Fighter) vs. Bruno Malfacine (Alliance)
Light-Featherweight — 141 pounds

Although Guilherme Mendes is a two-time black belt World champion, the Atos ace is coming into this World Championship with something to prove. Looking to rebound from a stunning defeat again Bruno Malfacine, Mendes has been hard at work with the Atos team in preparation for this championship. Another Atos black belt coming out with something to prove is Mendes’ “close out buddy” Ary Farias. The co-champion with Mendes last year is entering this tournament after having suffered his first ever loss in the light-featherweight category at the Brazilian Nationals against Jose Tiago Barros. The Atos duo’s biggest tests will come against two of Gracie Barra’s best, Samuel Braga and Pablo Santos. Also, we must not forget Carlos “Holanda” Vieira, Bernardo Pitel and Laercio Fernandes, who could spoil the fun for the main four competitors.

Final: Guilherme Mendes (Atos) vs. Samuel Braga (Gracie Barra)
Featherweight — 154 pounds

Rafael Mendes is starting to be considered by many as the pound-for-pound king of jiu-jitsu, and rightfully so. Mendes is coming off an amazing performance at the Pans where he submitted all of his opponents, including the legend Rubens “Cobrinha” Charles, whom no one had ever seen submitted before. With that being said, who can stop Rafael Mendes from attaining his third consecutive World title? “Cobrinha” will be in the hunt as always, and so will his teammate Mario Reis along with a handful of veteran competitors such as Isaque Paiva, Wellington Dias and Leonardo Saggioro, but who is really capable of cracking the armor of Mendes’ seemingly invincible game?

Final: Rafael Mendes (Atos) vs. Rubens “Cobrinha” Charles (Alliance)
Lightweight — 167 pounds

Even though the category will be without its last three titleholders in Gilbert Burns, Michael Langhi and Celso Venicius, there are still many intriguing match-ups and top athletes in one of the most populated divisions of the event. The two hottest competitors as of late who look to be on their way for a collision course is Cicero Costha’s Leandro “Lo” and Bull-Terrier Bonsai’s Roberto Satoshi. “Lo” is the Pan and Brazilian National champion while Satoshi is the European and World Pro champion of 2012; who will take the main prize? Also in the division are Lucas Lepri, Zak Maxwell and Jonathan “JT” Torres, who can definitely bring the possibility of a “Lo”-Satoshi final to a halt. But once the final is drawn up, I see it being the two relative newcomers each searching for their first black belt World title.

Final: Leandro Pereira do Nascimento (PSLPB Cicero Costha) vs. Roberto Satoshi (Bull Terrier Bonsai)
Middleweight — 181 pounds

Unfortunately, due to an injury suffered by Marcelo Garcia, the five-time middleweight World champion will be unable to defend his crown in 2012. But that doesn’t mean that there is any shortage of talent in the category. In fact, it may be the most stacked category of the entire championship. Without the champion, Claudio Calasans will be coming in as the favorite to take the title, but he will certainly be tested from numerous angles. Lucas Leite of Checkmat looks to be his biggest challenge, but then there is always Victor Estima, Kron Gracie, William Cooper, Murilo Santana, Jacob Mackenzie and Alan “Finfou” do Nascimento to knock off the proclaimed favorites. Anything can happen in this category, and there are numerous athletes who could end up taking this title; it should be fun to watch.

Final: Claudio Calasans (Atos) vs. Victor Estima (Gracie Barra)
Medium-heavyweight — 194.5 pounds

In another intriguing category, there are numerous scenarios that could play out depending on how the brackets look. The four main stars are Rafael Lovato Jr., Andre Galvao, Romulo Barral and Nivaldo de Lima—any of whom could take the title. A few years ago, I would have felt safe in picking Barral, but since his knee injury back in 2010, he hasn’t looked the same and I see him more as a semi-finalist rather than a potential champion. On the other side of things, the young de Lima has looked sharp of late as he recently obtained double gold out at the Brazilian Nationals, defeating Barral in the process. At the end of the day, I see it coming down to old school versus new school.

Final: Andre Galvao (Atos) vs. Nivaldo de Lima (Checkmat)
Heavyweight — 207.5 pounds

Just like in the featherweight category with Rafael Mendes, at heavyweight the big time favorite to take the title is Rodolfo Vieira. Undefeated in the gi for nearly two years, Vieira is looking for his second consecutive World title. The biggest threats to take his title will be former World champion Tarsis Humphreys, Alexandre Ceconi and Yuri Simoes. Anyone of the three contestants mentioned could meet Rodolfo in the final, but who is best fit to take on a juggernaut such as Vieira?

Final: Rodolfo Vieira (GF Team) vs. Alexandre Ceconi (Ceconi Team)
Super-Heavyweight — 221 pounds

For the second straight year, the super-heavyweight category can breathe a sigh of relief as Roger Gracie is absent from the Worlds, instead focusing on his MMA career where he has a fight lined up with Strikeforce in July. In the category though, there are still numerous studs to watch out for such as teammates Bernardo Faria, Leonardo Nogueira and Checkmat’s up-and-coming ace Antonio Carlos de Barbosa. Barbosa has had a breakout year, as he was crowned Pan absolute champion and closed out the absolute at the Brazilian Nationals with teammate Nivaldo de Lima. But on the other side of division, the Alliance duo have been consistent and the two former World champions Faria and Nogueira look to be the favorites coming in to close out together. But Barbosa is a rising talent, so don’t be surprised if there is an upset that could break up the Alliance’s duo.

Final: Leonardo Nogueria (Alliance) vs. Antonio Carlos de Barbosa (Checkmat)
Ultraheavyweight — Over 221 pounds

In 2012, Marcus “Buchecha” Almeida has looked like a man on a mission as he has won nearly everything he has entered in the past year. The one title he is still looking for in the black belt category is that World Championship and at the ultra-heavyweight category he will certainly be coming in as the favorite. “Buchecha’s” main competition looks to be Antonio Peinado, “Pe de Pano” and Alexander Trans. Look for a possible rematch of the Pans final between Trans and Almeida, as they both seem to be the ones with the greatest momentum coming into the championship.

Final: Marcus “Buchecha” Almeida (Checkmat) vs. Alexander Trans (Checkmat)

It is hard to predict exactly who will be in the finals as there isn’t a sign up for the absolute until Friday. But one can predict that the big men such as Rodolfo Vieira, Bernardo Faria, Andre Galvao and Marcus Almeida will be in the mix. If the brackets come out like I expect they would, the finale could be a rematch of the World Pro absolute final between Galvao and Vieira.

Final: Andre Galvao (Atos) vs. Rodolfo Vieira (GF Team)

So there are your 2012 Worlds predictions! What do you think? Do you agree or do you believe there is someone else in any of the categories that could make a run? Comment below and let your voice be heard! Osss!

Photo: Andre Galvao (GracieMag)

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.