Just as quickly as the 2013 Abu Dhabi World Pro Championship passed us, the trials for 2014 are already here. This past weekend, the first of the two trials in the United States took place in the famed Walter Pyramid in Long Beach, Calif. The crowd had an opportunity to witness some old faces at different belt ranks, with the same levels of success to which they are accustomed.

Team Atos, led by Andre Galvao, had the best day by far. The camp took home the team title with the most points by a wide margin. The team victory was centered around its newest black belt, Keenan Cornelius, who made his debut at his new rank. The young Atos ace had four matches and won all four by submission.

In Cornelius’s weight class, he defeated both Morris Ayala and Gustavo Pires to earn his free ticket to Abu Dhabi in the -207-pound weight class. From there, Cornelius went after the $1,000 cash prize in the absolute, competing in two more matches. His first came against Eliot Kelly, whom he choked out from the back. In the final, Cornelius defeated another young black belt in Magid Hage IV via straight armlock. So now that Cornelius has dipped his feet in the black belt waters and has a nice win under his belt, where do you see his first full black belt competition season going in 2014?

Besides Cornelius, Atos was also powered by some of its lower-ranked competitors who are breaking in their new belts in big competitions. Purple belt World champion Michael Liera Jr. was the big name at brown belt. He won both his weight and the light absolute (absolute categories were split between light and heavy), and he kept his impressive winning streak going. At purple belt, blue belt World champion Rolando Sampson had a great run and won his weight and the light absolute category to earn his free trip to the big dance in Abu Dhabi in 2014.

Outside of Team Atos, the rest of the tournament had plenty of other individual standouts, including the always-active duo from Caio Terra’s academy in San Jose, Calif. Samir Chantre and Osvaldo Augusto, two continually growing black belts, won their respective weight categories at -141 pounds and -167 pounds to earn their first-ever trips to Abu Dhabi in 2014. Their presence should definitely make the black belt category all the more interesting in April of 2014.

Mackenzie Dern, a standout who turned out to be the bravest of the weekend, battled throughout the day. The young Megaton black belt won her weight and the absolute categories, but dealt with struggles along the way. In her final against the always-tough Tammy Griego, Dern twisted her knee badly trying to defend a takedown and shouted in pain. But the Brazilian continued on through and went on to win the match by a 2-0 score and earn her $1,000 cash prize, along with her free ticket to Abu Dhabi.

And there you have the big standouts of the Abu Dhabi World Pro West Coast Trials! The next date on the WPJJ calendar is Oct. 20 in New York City, where the final trial in the United States takes place at Queen’s College in Queens, N.Y.

Photo: Mackenzie Dern (white gi) (Ivan Trindade/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.