Around summer, or even this time of the year, we begin to see most of the highly touted brown belts make the move to the black belt divisions. This summer has provided some big names that have achieved the highest rank in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

Quite possibly, the graduating black belt “class of 2013″ may be the most stacked and promising group of new black belts in a long time. Not only is it stacked because of the titles these athletes have accomplished at the colored belts, but because they are immediately considered to be threats to those that are already at the black belt level.

Here are those black belts that will be looking to make an immediate impact on the black belt categories for the rest of 2013 and going into 2014:

Paulo and Joao Miyao (PSLPB Cicero Costha)

Over the last three years, the Miyao brothers have built up their reputation as two of the best guard players in the world, known for their deadly berimbolos and back takes. We first heard of the dangerous duo when Joao won the absolute category at the Pans as a blue belt in 2011 and Paulo won the Abu Dhabi World Pro at purple belt one month later. Since those first impactful debuts on the big stage, they have done nothing but continue to win in not only their weight categories, but in the absolute as well—amazing, considering they are light-featherweight competitors.

Their stardom on the jiu-jitsu scene skyrocketed even more this past June when Paulo overcame his rival, Keenan Cornelius, in the absolute final and Joao completed the grand slam at his weight class. With those incredible accomplishments on their resumes, their professor, Cicero Costha, had no choice but to promote the two World champions.

Going into 2014, the two are expected to continue to compete at light-feather. It should be intriguing to see them against some of the best established black belts, such as Guilherme Mendes, Ary Farias, Samuel Braga and Laercio Fernandes.

Keenan Cornelius (Atos)

As of a little over two years ago, no one could really say they knew much about Keenan Cornelius. At that point, he was a scrawny lightweight hardly able to make it out of the first or second round of the major championships. But with a lot of hard work and time put in, Cornelius quickly rose to jiu-jitsu stardom in 2012 when he became the first athlete in IBJJF history to win double gold at all the major IBJJF events.

This year has been much of the same for Cornelius. As a brown belt, he won his weight at the Europeans, Pans and Worlds and the absolute at the Europeans and Pans. Through his entire brown-belt career, Cornelius only lost one match, and that was to Paulo Miyao in their infamous absolute final at the Worlds. With credentials like these, Cornelius put his mentor, Andre Galvao, in a similar situation to that of Costha with the Miyao brothers. Galvao simply had to give the well-deserving Cornelius his black belt.

At medium-heavyweight, Cornelius will be in the same weight category as his professor, as well as Romulo Barral, Braulio Estima, Gustavo Campos and many more. Cornelius enjoys competing in the absolute categories, and he may also get the opportunity next year to fight many of the best black belts, such as Rodolfo Vieira and Marcus “Buchecha” Almeida. As has been the case for the last two years, all eyes will be on Cornelius in 2014.

Francisco “Sinistro” Iturralde (Alliance)

Unlike Cornelius, the young Iturralde has been in the spotlight from the very beginning. The jiu-jitsu world watched him grow from the blue-belt juvenile in 2008 and 2009 to the consistently attacking and exciting brown belt in 2013. A multiple-time World and Pan champion, “Sinistro,” like many, has had his ups and downs, but he has improved with each loss and only comes out stronger.

In 2011, “Sinistro” had his best year. He won every championship he entered, including the Pan, World Pro and Worlds. From there, he was promoted to brown belt as the next big thing. But upon entering the brown-belt level, things didn’t work out right away. Although he won all the IBJJF Opens he entered, for the first time in his career he did not place at either the Pans or Worlds in 2012. However, he would redeem himself in 2013 at the Worlds.

For the 2013 Worlds, Iturralde was placed on the B-team behind Johnny Souza and Victor Genovesi, a position that he was not used to. But something that might discourage others appeared to only fuel Iturralde even more. He put up some great matches in possibly the most stacked category of all the brown-belt categories. Although Iturralde fell just short and came away with bronze, he proved to everyone that he must never been underestimated or counted out.

Shortly after the Worlds, Iturralde was promoted in his home country of Ecuador and has already competed in a few tournaments at black belt. In his first tournament, he defeated Phillipe Della Monica in the finals, putting himself on the map as a serious threat in the black-belt lightweight division for 2014.

Along with the new black belts already mentioned, here is a list of the rest of up-and-coming black belts that deserve notoriety and should be considered threats entering the black belt categories in the coming years:

Jamie Canuto (2013 brown belt middleweight World champion)
Kit Dale (2011 purple belt medium-heavyweight Brazilian National and World Pro champion)
Victor Genovesi (2012 brown belt featherweight World champion)
AJ Agazarm (2012 brown belt lightweight Pan champion)
Luke Costello (2013 brown belt superheavyweight European and World champion)

So, who do you think will fare best amongst the newest black belts? Comment below!

Photo: Keenan Cornelius (center) (Andre Galvao/Instagram)

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.