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The Jiu-Jitsu Movement: Top Ten Jiu-Jitsu Competitors of 2011

With no other major tournaments on schedule until the end of the year, let's take the time to look back and see who were the top ten jiu-jitsu competitors during the 2011 competition season. (These ranking will be based on the results of all major tournaments, gi and no-gi included.) 10. Kron Gracie- Although he fell just short of winning his first World Championship at black belt, his overall year cannot be overlooked as I believe- 2011 was Kron Gracie's break out year as a black belt. Not only did he have sensational wins at the Worlds against Leandro "Lo", Michael Langhi and Rafael "Formiga" Barbosa, but he was also one of the toughest competitors at ADCC. In Nottingham, Kron tapped Claudio Calasans and beat Murilo Santana and was the only one not to tap against Marcelo, only losing by a 2 to 0 score. Expect even more from Kron in the future and don't count him out as a possible favorite to take the lightweight title at the 2012 World Championships, no matter how stacked that division actually is. 9. Ary Farias- One of the newest black belts to emerge on the biggest stages, there was no rookie struggle for the Atos ace. Coming in with a World title at all colored belts, Ary lived up to his high expectations and won the European and Brazilian Nationals title's beating legends of the sport- 4-time roosterweight World champion Bruno Malfacine, and 2004 World champion Gabriel Moraes. At the Worlds, Ary continued his success beating 2010 light-featherweight World Champion- Pablo Silva and Samir Chantre on his way to closing out the category with his teammate- Guilherme Mendes. 8. Guilherme Mendes- Coming off a disappointing 2010 where he was defeated in the first round of the 2010 Worlds, Gui came into 2011 on a mission and proved that he is the best 141-pound black belt in the World today. Earlier in the year, he fought featherweight at the Europeans and Pans beating tough competitors such as Leonardo Saggorio and Justin Rader. Once the Worlds came around, Gui decided to drop to light-feather and didn't miss a beat. He had an impeccable Worlds, dominating Milton Bastos and Laercio Fernandes and won a back-and-forth battle with former champion- Samuel Braga. 7. Marcus “Bochecha” Almedia- Along with Ary Farias, this Checkmat prodigy came into 2011 as another new black belt with very high expectations, and lived up to them. Although he had some slip up’s at the World Pro in Abu Dhabi and World’s, where he took second in his weight class both times, his overall results were simply outstanding. Besides winning the Gi Pan, where he also came in third in the absolute category, he was just recently crowned division and absolute champion at the no-gi Worlds as he dominated each one of his matches. 6. Sergio Moraes- The absolute champion of Europe and the Brazilian Nationals, and the medium-heavy World champion certainly cannot be left off of this list for best competitors in 2011. Moraes excelled in his new weight category winning everything besides the Pan Championships (where he didn’t compete.) Although he fell short against Rodolfo Vieira and Braulio Estima, his wins against Claudio Calasans, Eduardo Telles, Rodrigo Cavaca and Romulo Barral cannot be forgotten about. 5. Andre Galvao- The leader of the Atos academy out in San Diego, California went from not even considered in the top ten, to automatically in the top 5, based on his outstanding performance at this year’s ADCC event. The ADCC division and absolute champion won eight fights on his way to winning two gold’s, beating fierce competition such as- Gunnar Nelson, Sergio Moraes, Murilo Santana, Rousimar Palahares and Pablo Popovitch (twice.) With those titles (along with the Gi Pan title he won earlier in the year) there is no question Galvao belongs on this list. 4. Augusto “Tanquinho” Mendes- Maybe he didn’t collect the most medals of any competitor in 2011, but one in particular catapulted him to the (near) top of my list. Tanquinho’s performance at the Abu Dhabi World Pro was simply legendary as he beat four Atos black belts (Guilherme Mendes, Ary Farias, Eduardo Ramos and Rafael Mendes) on his way to gold. Along with his runner-up finish at the Worlds this year beating beasts such as Bruno Frazzatto and “Cobrinha”, Mendes has certainly earned his place with the best in 2011. 3. Marcelo Garcia- Although he doesn’t compete in many tournaments anymore as he is more focused nowadays on running his school in New York City- Marcelo Garcia is still one of the best, and he proved that in 2011, winning the Worlds and ADCC. In June, he fought his way to a fifth black belt World title and in September, he made history, becoming the first to ever win four ADCC titles, submitting all but one opponent in the process. Those two titles must automatically give Garcia a spot on the top ten list. 2. Rafael Mendes- Possibly becoming the pound-for-pound best Jiu-Jitsu player on the planet, Rafael Mendes accomplished almost everything he set out for going into 2011. He closed out his divisions at the Europeans and Pans with his teammates to start the year, he won the Worlds for a second consecutive year in June and won his second ADCC title, once again besting his rival- Rubens “Cobrinha” in the final bout. If it weren’t for his loss at the Abu Dhabi World Pro to “Tanquinho”, Rafa would easily be my number one competitor. But that doesn’t mean he can’t take over the top spot in 2012, even if Roger Gracie is in the mix. 1.Rodolfo Vieira- Although he suffered a disappointing ADCC loss to eventual champion- Dean Lister, Vieira’s overall 2011 campaign can never be forgotten, and may be considered one of the best single year’s in Jiu-Jitsu of all time. Rodolfo began his impeccable campaign winning the Pans in Irvine, California dominating all of his opponents (including last year’s champion- Bernardo Faria twice.) Afterwards, he continued his domination. Rodolfo won the no-gi absolute title, beating Rafael Mendes in the final, and won his weight and absolute and the gi World Pro beating everyone in his path, including “Cobrinha” in the finals, whom he finished with a choke from the mount. Vieira would cap off his gi season with another incredible performance at the Worlds submitting Sergio Moraes, Claudio Calasans, Marcus Almedia, and beating Rafael Lovato Jr. and Bernardo Faria (twice again.) With his 2011 dominance, many are pairing him with 3-time absolute champion- Roger Gracie as the must see matchup for 2012. Since Roger was out injured this year, we can only wait and see until the 2012 Worlds how that dream matchup would play out.