With the competition scene being rather quiet when it comes to seeing the top black belts in action, we will take this week’s segment to give you, the reader, a rundown of the best competitors out there and the five best matches of 2012 so far. There have been so many incredible matches to choose from, it is practically impossible to try to narrow it down to five, but we will try. If there are any that we missed, feel free to let us know and comment below.

1) Rafael Mendes vs. Rubens “Cobrinha” Charles — 2012 Pan

This finals match at this year’s Pan championship may have been the defining bout in the Mendes-Cobrinha rivalry. Although Mendes, coming in, had won five of the eight meetings between them—all were decided by more than a few points or advantages—there was a much different result this time around. With one beautiful transition going from a leg drag pass looking for side-mount, Rafa threw on a picture perfect armbar that forced “Cobrinha” to tap out in under four minutes. There was a stunned silence in the crowd, as no one had ever seen the former four-time World Champion get submitted before, but yet there it was. With the win, Mendes not only secured his spot as the best featherweight in the World, but possibly the best pound-for-pound Jiu-Jitsu player in the World today.

2) Roberto Satoshi vs. Lucas Lepri — 2012 Abu Dhabi World Pro

To me, this was a battle of new versus old; now although Lepri is no old man, Satoshi is only 22 years young, so someone had to take the old label. Coming in, although Satoshi had already beaten Davi Ramos and JT Torres, not too many people thought he had the right game to upend the 2008 lightweight World champion. Well, the Bon-Sai competitor proved all of his naysayers wrong. Not only did he win the bout, but he (and Lepri) put on arguably the best bout of the entire event as Satoshi came away with a thrilling 2-0 win. What Satoshi showed most in his performance was his patience and his amazing defensive abilities as Lepri brought it to him and nearly took the back numerous times.

3) Marcus “Buchecha” Almeida vs. Kron Gracie — 2012 Pan

There can never be a “best match recap” without having one of Kron Gracie’s bouts in there. Whether Rickson’s son wins or loses, he knows how to put on a show; “Buchecha” is no slouch either at making things exciting. The two black belts locked horns in the absolute semifinal and what we were witness to is exactly what Jiu-Jitsu is all about. Through the duration of the bout there was hardly a moment of pause as both competitors went back and forth trading takedowns, sweeps and submission attempts. After seven minutes, the match was finally brought to its conclusion as “Buchecha” applied a slick kneebar forcing the Gracie to tap out. Although Almeida was awarded the win, both were applauded for their efforts.

4) Rodolfo Vieira vs. Andre Galvao — 2012 Abu Dhabi World Pro

Aside from the dreamed-of match-up between Vieira and Roger Gracie, many were intrigued coming into this year’s World Pro for the possible match-up between Vieira and Andre Galvao. Thankfully, the crowd got the match-up they were looking for as both athletes worked their way through their respective brackets to make it to the absolute final against one another. What we learned from this final was that Rodolfo can also win when under pressure. Not too often has the reigning absolute champion been challenged, but Galvao brought his A-game and Vieira was well prepared for the test.

In the beginning of the bout, the two exchanged grips for approximately one minute until Vieira landed a picture perfect throw, scoring two points. Galvao did not let anything rattle him though, and he came right back with a sweep of his own to tie up the score. Coming towards the tail end of the match, Vieira displayed his versatile guard and swept back the Atos star to score another two points, bringing his total to four. Soon after, time expired and Vieira was crowned yet again at the World Pro event, becoming Abu Dhabi’s first two-time absolute champion.

5) Roberto Satoshi vs. Michael Langhi — 2012 Europeans

Satoshi has proved to be so good and so exciting to watch that he makes the top five list twice! This time Satoshi went to battle against Alliance’s other lightweight star, Michael Langhi. Against a two-time World champion, the odds were stacked against Satoshi, but yet again, as always, he went against the odds and came out on top. In this lightweight semifinal, Satoshi made Langhi look slow as the young Bon-Sai black belt never stopped moving, which frustrated Langhi. Satoshi started the scoring fast by landing a reverse de la riva sweep in under 15 seconds, and in the end he stood strong, avoiding all of Langhi’s sweep attempts, and ran the clock out with him holding the edge: 6-4. In the final, Satoshi would continue on and beat JT Torres by a 5-0 score to win his first major IBJJF black belt title in his first major tournament as a black belt.

So there are just a few of the best matches 2012 has had to offer so far! What match-ups are you looking forward to in the near future? And who do you think will be the biggest standout once the Brazilian Nationals and Worlds roll around? Have a great week everyone! Osss!

Photo: Rafael Mendes (blue gi) submits Cobrinha by armbar (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.