At last, it’s jiu-jitsu’s most exciting week of the year: World Championship weekend! All the tournaments that the athletes compete in all year long are in preparation for this one opportunity at that elusive World title. From the Europeans to the Pans to the Brazilian Nationals, the final stage of the gi competition season is finally here and set to start this Thursday, May 30, in Long Beach, Calif.

For this week, let’s take a look at who the favorites will be in the main male and female black belt categories and give predictions on who will be the final two standing in each weight category.

Male

Roosterweight

Early on in the registration period, it looked like the lightest weight category would be having a serious makeover, as its two top competitors, Bruno Malfacine and Caio Terra, appeared to be competing in the light-featherweight category. But, in the end, the two world champions both liked their chances better in their natural weight class and are set to compete in the roosterweight category yet again.

In jiu-jitsu, you never know what may happen, but it’s more than likely we’ll be seeing a fifth consecutive final on Sunday between the division’s two greatest champions.

Finals Prediction: Bruno Malfacine (Alliance) vs. Caio Terra (Brasa)

Light-featherweight

Although Malfacine and Terra went back down to roosterweight, the 141-pound category is still one of the most stacked divisions in all of the black belt categories.

The favorite is clearly Guilherme Mendes. The three-time champion is coming off another solid performance at the Pans and now has good momentum going into his fifth World championship at black belt. The other favorite on the opposite end of the bracket is Laercio Fernandes, who is still seeking his first World title, but has steadily moved up in the ranks over the last two years.

In the end, with the division so stacked, we still might not see another final between Fernandes and Mendes, especially with elite competitors such as Ary Farias, Samir Chantre, Carlos Holanda, Samuel Braga, Thomas Lisboa and Ronaldo Candido all in the mix.

Finals Prediction: Guilherme Mendes (Atos) vs. Laercio Fernandes (Alliance)

Featherweight

At featherweight, the jiu-jitsu community is always expecting to see a Rubens “Cobrinha” Charles/Rafael Mendes showdown, and there aren’t too many reasons to expect differently. Although Cobrinha lost in his final in Abu Dhabi against Augusto “Tanquinho” Mendes, it’s hard to bet against the four-time World champion making it to yet another final match.

On the other side of the bracket, Rafa Mendes’ biggest challenges may come against Osvaldo Augusto and Mario Reis, but in the end, like Cobrinha, it’s hard to go against Mendes. The three-time champion is looking to tie Royler Gracie and his arch-nemesis, Cobrinha, as the only ones to win four black belt world titles in the featherweight category.

Can Cobrinha stop Mendes from tying his record, or is Mendes going to continue on his path of invincibility?

Finals Prediction: Rafael Mendes (Atos) vs. Rubens “Cobrinha” Charles

Lightweight

The lightweight category is always the most difficult division to predict, and this year is no different. Going through all 56 athletes registered to compete in the 168-pound category, it’s hard to choose who will make the final two.

In a division that holds names such as Leandro “Lo” Nascimento, Roberto Satoshi, Jonathan “JT” Torres, Michael Langhi and Lucas Lepri, anyone can have their “best day” and take the lightweight crown.

Finals Prediction: Lucas Lepri (Alliance) vs. Leandro “Lo” Nascimento (PSLPB Cicero Costha)

Middleweight

A lot like lightweight, the middleweight category is very unpredictable. Without Marcelo Garcia in the mix, it’s hard to find a solid favorite, although last year’s champion, Otavio Sousa, is in the mix.

At the Pans, all predictions went out the window when favorites such as Sousa, Leandro Lo, and Kayron Gracie didn’t even make the podium. In the end, it turned out to be Clark Gracie’s day, capping off his title run by putting Marcelo Mafra to sleep. Now, at the Worlds, once again expect the unexpected.

This year, there could be a strong chance that we see an American in the final going for his first World title, and a solid black belt veteran looking to break his run without winning a World title.

Finals Prediction: DJ Jackson (Lloyd Irvin) vs. Claudio Calasans (Atos)

Medium-Heavyweight

Once again, the predictable became a bit more unpredictable, as Braulio Estima makes his first appearance back at the Worlds since he won the heavyweight category back in 2009. But it’s hard to tell which Estima we will get—the Estima of old or the one who is coming in at the last minute and may be rusty. We shall soon find out.

The rest of the category is loaded with potential finalists. Tarsis Humphreys makes his return to medium-heavyweight, Felipe Pena makes his Worlds debut at black belt and guys like Romulo Barral and Andre Galvao are on the hunt to add to their already hefty hardware collection.

In this category, there are plenty of possibilities for an upset, but once again we’re going with the two most consistent in this division for the last few years.

Finals Prediction: Andre Galvao (Atos) vs. Romulo Barral (Gracie Barra)

Heavyweight

At last, the task of predicting a final gets a little bit easier, at least for one side of the bracket. It is hard to go against two-time champion Rodolfo Vieira making it to his third consecutive final.

On the other end, the favorite is surely Alexandre “Xande” Ribeiro, but it can’t be fully guaranteed. With competitors such as Lucas Leite, Yuri Simoes, Nivaldo Lima and Roberto “Tussa” Alencar in the mix, there very well could be an upset. But when it’s all said and done, expect a repeat match-up from last year’s heavyweight final.

Finals Prediction: Rodolfo Vieira (GFTeam) vs. Alexandre “Xande” Ribeiro (Ribeiro Jiu-Jitsu)

Super Heavyweight

The superheavy category looked to once again belong to the two big Alliance stars, Bernardo Faria and Leo Nogueira. Like in 2012, Faria and Nogueira looked to almost be a lock to close out their category together as there appeared to be no serious threats. But the division got put on high notice when Joao Gabriel Rocha of Soul Fighters stomped onto the scene and derailed Nogueira at the Brazilian Nationals, outscoring the former World absolute finalist, 11-2.

Now, also with Rafael Lovato Jr. back up at super heavyweight, there could be the chance that neither Alliance black belt will reach the finals.

Finals Prediction: Joao Gabriel Rocha (Soul Fighters) vs. Bernardo Faria (Alliance)

Ultraheavyweight

In a division that is currently run by the reigning double-gold champion, Marcus “Buchecha” Almeida, the question now is, who will oppose him in the final? There are plenty of solid names, but if the brackets turn out right, then it could be a battle of two of Buchecha’s fellow CheckMat competitors to be in the final with him.

Rodrigo Cavaca and Alexander Trans have fought before at this year’s Europeans, where Trans came out the winner and could be labeled the favorite going into this one.

Finals Prediction: Marcus “Buchecha” Almeida (CheckMat) vs. Alexander Trans (CheckMat International)

Female

Light-featherweight

The most decorated female black belt, Leticia Ribeiro, has once again returned to defend her title and seek out another World championship, but don’t be surprised if this year she is out of the final for the first time since 2004. Young up-and-comers such as Miriam Cardoso, Nyjah Easton and Sofia Amarante have shown a lot of promise and do have the ability to end the veteran’s lengthy run at the top of the weight class.

Finals Prediction: Sofia Amarante (The Avengers) vs. Miriam Cardoso (CheckMat)

Featherweight

Mackenzie Dern and Luiza Monteiro are quietly turning into the biggest rivalry in the female category. The two have squared off twice already this year, splitting the two match-ups. At the Worlds, they have the chance to break the tie and in the process win the biggest title of either of their careers.

For the 20-year-old Dern, the title would give her a World championship at all the belt ranks and would keep her undefeated in Worlds competition over her entire career. For Monteiro, the title would be her first as a black belt after numerous shortcomings in previous years.

Finals Prediction: Mackenzie Dern (Gracie Humaita) vs. Luiza Monteiro (PSLPB Cicero Costha)

Lightweight

With her finals opposition from last year now down in the featherweight category, Beatriz Mesquita is the heavy favorite to take her second black belt World title. After submitting Luiza Monteiro in the final of last year’s Worlds, Mesquita finally made her mark as the best black belt lightweight in the world and looks to continue that reputation at the 2013 Worlds. Her main opponent looks to be Fabiana Borges, who is a familiar foe still looking to reach the top of the podium for the first time.

Finals Prediction: Beatriz Mesquita (Gracie Humaita) vs. Fabiana Borges (Gracie Barra)

Middleweight

Luanna Alzuguir is competing at middleweight for the second year now and is in search of her fifth black belt World title. Her biggest test appears to be Vanessa Oliveira of GFTeam, whom she defeated in last year’s finale by a single advantage point. Expect another final match between these two middleweight stalwarts and another close bout that could be decided by the most minor mistakes.

Finals Prediction: Luanna Alzuguir (Alliance) vs. Vanessa Oliveira (GFTeam)

Medium-Heavyweight

Possibly the most stacked women’s division ever is replete with former World champions who are still in their prime. Although there are only eight athletes registered, there are about six who are legitimate contenders. Two who weren’t even expected to be in the division a month ago could very well be in the final.

Finals Prediction: Hannette Staack (Brazil 021) vs. Michelle Nicolini (CheckMat)

Heavyweight

Simply put, can anyone stop Gabrielle Garcia? Undefeated over the last four years, there doesn’t appear to be anyone who can match up well with the three-time absolute World champion. Expect her to easily make her final in both weight and the absolute categories.

Finals Prediction: Gabrielle Garcia (Alliance) vs. Luzia Fernandes (Gracie Barra)

So, there you have it, your 2013 Worlds predictions! Now, there is no more talk to be done. All that remains is the action taking place on the mats this weekend. Do you agree with these predictions? Comment below and let your voice be heard! Enjoy the Worlds! Osss!

Photo: Rafael Mendes attacks with the “berimbolo” (Mike Colón/Gracie Mag)

About The Author

Gianni Grippo
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Contributor
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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.