With the busy tournament schedule that the IBJJF runs throughout the year, the No-Gi Worlds seems to have snuck up on us. Although it was a rather quiet build-up, the actual event may have been the greatest No-Gi World Championship since its inaugural event back in 2007. For two days of competition at the Pyramid in Long Beach, Calif., there were plenty of thrilling matches and amazing finishes that put a final stamp on the IBJJF’s 2012 competition run.

From the tiny roosterweights to the big men in the ultraheavyweight category, here is a recap of the 2012 No-Gi World Championships:


In a battle of the ant-sized warriors, Caio Terra once again showed why he is one of the most dangerous little men in the game today. Terra went through his division with ease, and capped it off with a 30-second submission in the finals over Fabio Passos to claim yet another World title.


At 135.5 pounds, we saw our first real upset as last year’s finalist, Laercio Fernandes, was ousted in the semifinals by Gracie Barra’s Rafael “Barrata” Freitas in a hard-fought match. With his thrilling win, Freitas went into the final with a lot of momentum, but he hit a wall named Henrique de Rezende, an instructor at Marcelo Garcia’s academy in New York City. Rezende, the No-Gi Pan champion, didn’t have it easy in his final but would eventually prevail, winning the final by advantage points, 4-1.


Rubens “Cobrinha” Charles entered the mix at the last minute and was immediately declared the favorite once he entered. Charles showed why he was the favorite in his finals rematch against Justin Rader as he dominated every aspect of the game. Rader, a hard-nosed competitor, never gave up, but just couldn’t keep up with “Cobrinha’s” game as he had to settle for silver after losing by a 13-0 score. With the win, Charles added a fourth No-Gi World title to his resume.


The deepest division took a hard hit before the competition even started as reigning champion Lucas Lepri was unable to make it to the event due to Hurricane Sandy. But the show must go on, and Augusto “Tanquinho” Mendes was the star of that show. In the semis, Mendes dominated Leandro Lo, winning 9-0. Then in the final, Mendes won a classic battle against Lloyd Irvin’s JT Torres by a judges’ decision. Unfortunately, the match was marred by controversy as many believe the victory belonged to Torres, but that shouldn’t take away from the great effort given by “Tanquinho,” who is still just coming back from a recent spinal injury.


Although upset with the result of Team Lloyd Irvin captain JT Torres, fellow black belt DJ Jackson did not let that affect him in his final versus Clark Gracie. The three-month black belt has been nothing short of a revelation as he dominated his weight class, including his final versus the Gracie where he was victorious by a 5-0 score. Jackson is Lloyd Irvin’s first black belt World Champion, and with the way the team is growing, it certainly won’t be his last.


Although there were numerous big names scattered throughout the category, the match everyone wanted to see was a final between Romulo Barral and Pablo Popovitch. In the end, the fans got just what they wanted. In the final, Popovitch displayed his heavy guard passing game and after five minutes caught in a stalemate, Popovitch broke through and passed the guard of Barral. Known as the better no-gi competitor, Popovitch showed why as his game plan worked out brilliantly en route to defeating Barral by a score of 3-0 to claim yet another No-Gi World title.


Quietly, one of the fiercest rivalries in jiu-jitsu has been between Rafael Lovato Jr. and Roberto “Tussa” Alencar. The two athletes have squared off in both gi and no-gi events and the results have been mixed. But this time around, it was “Tussa” who won in another nail biter via judges’ decision after being tied at one advantage each. The win gave Alencar his first No-Gi World title since 2009, where he won both at weight and in the absolute.


Alexandre “Xande” Ribeiro and Joao Assis had an all-out war in the superheavy finals, negating each others attacks throughout the match, and countering with their own. In the end, Xande and Assis were tied in advantage points, 2-2, sending it to the judges to decide the better man. After a quick discussion among the referees, it was agreed upon that Xande deserved the win and thus his hand was raised. The legend won his first IBJJF No-Gi title, but he wasn’t through just yet.


In the big-boy category, it was once again all Roberto “Cyborg” Abreu. Abreu proved once again to be one of the toughest big guys around, defeating Gustavo Elias by a 6-0 score in the final, with three sweeps using his famed tornado guard.


Xande Ribeiro has had an impeccable comeback year. After a dismal 2010 and a quiet 2011, many thought Ribeiro was done. But, as any true athlete does, Ribeiro kept working hard and came out looking as strong as ever in 2012. In nearly all the major championships, Xande never slowed down and this past weekend was no exception.

Ribeiro fought hard to earn his spot in the final, and in the end he would prevail. After getting through Bernardo Faria on Saturday by a 3-0 score, Xande faced a new challenge in Leandro Lo, who shocked everyone by getting to the absolute final.

In the much-anticipated final, it was a duel of strengths. Lo displayed his unorthodox and nearly impassable guard while Xande put his guard passing pressure to work. After 10 intense minutes, only one advantage point would be scored by Xande for a near guard pass, and that would be all he would need to win. Due to Ribeiro’s pressure, Lo was unable to score any points in the bout and would have to settle with the silver medal.

Left for dead only a year ago, Alexandre Ribeiro capped off his 2012 year with a double-gold day at the No-Gi World Championships. Congratulations to “Xande”!

So there you have your champions and standouts of the sixth No-Gi World Championship! Who was the most impressive athlete of the championship, and what did you think of the event? Comment below and let your voice to heard! Osss!

Photo: Alexandre Riberio (Black top) works for an armbar (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

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.