Next Saturday at the Pyramid in Long Beach, Calif., the IBJJF will return for its last Open tournament on the 2013 calendar. To start the day, the IBJJF will run it’s second annual Long Beach Fall Open, where all belts from white to black are eligible to compete and try to earn some more hardware to end the year. Then, later in the day, the organization shifts its focus to the main event: the second-ever Pro League event.

The Pro League is divided into four weight categories. Four of the best black belts in each weight category will compete for a hefty cash prize. This event is a perfect example of the development of the art as a professional sport. Although there is still much to improve and build on, the Pro League is an indicator that jiu-jitsu is continuing to progress in the right direction.

In the lightest weight class, which combines the rooster, light-feather and featherweights, there isn’t too much of a favorite between consistent competitors and World champions. The field of four athletes right now consists of Samir Chantre, Laercio Fernandes, Gabriel Moraes and Rafael “Barata” Freitas.

Of the four, the favorite looks to be Moraes, who is the current light-featherweight World champion and has two black belt World titles on his resume. Right behind Moraes, Fernandes surely stands as the second favorite. The 2012 Worlds runner-up to Guilherme Mendes has been steadily improving since he began training with Rubens “Cobrinha” Charles and doesn’t look to be slowing down. If the two favorites get through their first bouts, look for an intriguing finals match-up between the World champion Moraes and the serious contender in Fernandes.

The light and middleweight category is shaping up to be the most intriguing of the event. The four spots belong to Marcelo Mafra, Francisco Iturralde, Vitor Oliveira and Victor Estima.

Going in, the favorite seems to be Estima, but it is always hard to tell when it comes to the light and middleweight categories. Oliveira may be one of the most consistent black belts on the circuit today, competing in and winning nearly every tournament he has entered. Iturralde has come into his first year at black belt stronger than anyone could have expected and has already won the No-Gi Pans and Chicago Open, defeating stalwart black belts such as Daniel Tavares, Phillip Della Monica and Vitor Oliveira, who will be looking to get his revenge this weekend. We must not count out Mafra, who made it through the toughest bracket at this year’s Pans to make it to the middleweight finale with Clark Gracie. So, although Estima is the favorite, there is no sure thing here.

At medium-heavy and heavyweight, we have a true contest of old versus new. While Roberto “Tussa” Alencar and Diego Gamonal represent the old generation, their opposition in Keenan Cornelius and Jackson Souza, both first-year black belts, represent the new generation.

Each match-up, especially a possible rematch between Cornelius and Tussa, looks to be intriguing. Last year, while Cornelius was still a brown belt and representing Lloyd Irvin, the young American defeated the veteran black belt to earn a trip to Abu Dhabi. Now, Tussa has his opportunity for revenge. However, if looking at favorites going in, many may see the final coming down to another Cornelius-Souza match-up. The two are starting to become familiar with each other, as this could possibly be their third encounter this year.

Finally, in the superheavy/ultraheavyweight category, it looks like it will be another old-school versus new-school battle. Along with Ricardo Evangelista and Gustavo Pires, 2013 Worlds runner-up Joao Gabriel Rocha and longtime black belt absolute World champion Marcio Pe De Pano round out the field of four. The brackets should come down to the latter two competitors in what should make for yet another intriguing finals match-up.

Recap of predicted finals:

Rooster/Light-feather/Feather: Laercio Fernandes vs. Gabriel Moraes
Light/Middle: Victor Estima vs. Vitor Oliveira
Medium-heavy/Heavy: Keenan Cornelius vs. Jackson Souza
Superheavy/Ultraheavy: Joao Gabriel Rocha vs. Marcio Pe De Pano

So, what match-ups do you look forward to seeing most? Also, what are your finals predictions? Comment below! Osss!

Photo: Gabriel Moraes (L, white gi) (Ivan Trindade/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.