Today in jiu-jitsu, there probably isn’t a more thrilling way to open up the IBJJF competition season than the first of four major championships, this one being the Europeans, in Lisbon, Portugal. Each year the championship has grown both in number and in the depth of talent, and it has been remarkable to witness. From once a low-level B-tournament, the European Championships has turned into the second or third biggest championship in the world, and the title is now coveted by jiu-jitsu players all over the world.

In the 2013 installment, once again there is no shortage of world-class names and competitors either looking to claim a European title for the first time or to retake a title that was previously theirs.

Let’s run through each black belt category and see who should be considered the favorite and who to watch out for in particular:

At roosterweight, there isn’t any real clear favorite, but if there is anyone to look out for, it is Brandon Mullins of Gracie Barra. Known for some of his accomplishments in the No-Gi events, Mullins will be coming in looking to prove his worth in the gi. Also, without Bruno Malfacine nor Caio Terra in his way, this could be his best opportunity to claim a major gi championship.

In the 141-pound category, there are plenty of tough competitors to watch out for, including former Worlds medalist, CheckMat black belt Carlos “Holanda” Vieira. But, at the end of the day, the heavy favorite has to be Laercio Fernandes. Last year was a breakout year for the Alliance ace as he defeated many opponents that he wasn’t expected to even contend with, but now he is among the elite.

Another contender that many should watch out for is new Alliance black belt Thomas Lisboa. Although he didn’t steal too much attention during his time in the lower ranks, Lisboa was a two-time World champion, winning at purple belt in 2010 and at brown in 2012. A very smart and savvy fighter, watch for Lisboa to possibly make some noise in Lisbon.

The featherweight category is definitely one of the more anticipated categories of the entire championship. For the last three years, the category has belonged to Team Atos, and the hope of continuing that tradition is in the hands of Eduardo Ramos (the champion of 2011). But Ramos won’t be coming in as the favorite this time around. The title of favorite instead belongs to none other than four-time World champion Rubens “Cobrinha” Charles, who will be looking to claim his first-ever European title. The main opponent standing in his way looks to be Augusto “Tanquinho” Mendes of Soul Fighters, who defeated Charles in their previous meeting back at the Worlds in 2011. That will definitely be one of the more interesting match-ups of the event, should it happen of course.

Without the custom names we are used to seeing at lightweight such as “JT” Torres, Roberto Satoshi, Lucas Lepri or Leandro “Lo,” the category looks to firmly belong to Michael Langhi. Unable to compete in the United States due to travel issues, Langhi has been steadily competing all over the world, and the Europeans are his next stop. His biggest challenge may be Vinicius Marinho, but for now it looks as though Langhi has a stronghold on this category.

A lot like the featherweight category, the middleweight division looks to be one to seriously watch out for. In what is truly shaping up to be a clash of new versus old, there are many great match-ups to be had. The big name that stands out is Fernando “Terere,” now of Team Alliance. Although he has been away from the competition scene since 2004, he is always someone who is sure to light up the building and bring excitement for the crowd. Opposing him could be new black belt D.J. Jackson of Team Lloyd Irvin, who starts his journey towards success at gi black belt championships in Portugal. But, in the end, the favorite looks to be Atos’ Claudio Calasans, who has won this category each of the last two years and should also be a serious contender in the absolute category.

Many, including yours truly, were very excited to see Romulo Barral enter the Euro’s in the medium-heavyweight category. Usually not present in this event, Barral will be looking for his first European title to add to his already historic IBJJF gold collection. In his way is a young black belt by the name of Renato Cardoso. Although Barral is the clear and heavy favorite, Cardoso is one of the most impressive competitors to have come up in the ranks of late, so don’t expect to see Cardoso wither under pressure if he does in fact match up with Barral. The kid can bring it.

In a division missing Rodolfo Vieira, Dimitrius Souza looks to be the favorite at heavyweight. Runner-up at last year’s Copa Podio, Souza will be looking to make even more of a name for himself with a victory this weekend in Lisbon.

Just like at heavyweight, super-heavy appears to be a one-man show with Bernardo Faria being that man. In the second largest category, Faria is the big-time favorite and will most likely have his sights set on the bigger prize in the absolute division.

At ultraheavyweight, the title seems to be more up for grabs than at super-heavy or heavyweight. Although Leo Nogueira is the reigning two-time super-heavyweight World champion, he certainly will be tested this coming weekend. His biggest tests appear to be CheckMat black belts Alexander Trans (the champion from 2012) and Rodrigo Cavaca, who is making his return to competition after disappearing due to injury for the majority of 2012.

In the female category, one of the names to keep an eye out for will be newly promoted black belt Mackenzie Dern. Although she isn’t the favorite in her own category (that honor belongs to Michelle Nicolini), it can’t be denied that Dern knows how to win even when she isn’t the favorite. The 19-year-old had an amazing debut at black belt at the Copa Podio, where she defeated Luiza Monteiro by an 8-2 score.

Another favorite will certainly be middleweight Luanna Alzuguir, who won’t only be a favorite at her weight category, but in the absolute category as well.

So, who do you see as your favorites in the black belt categories this coming weekend? Comment below and let your voice be heard! Osss!

Photo: Romulo Barral (John Lamonica/Gracie Mag)

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.