Black Belt Adult Male Roosterweight
Much like the UFC Flyweight division, the champions at Roosterweight are so far ahead of the rest of the pack, we are almost assured to see Caio Terra and Bruno Malfacine in the finals for the millionth time. Generally, the matches are too close to be particularly interesting, but with the questionable boundary enforcement calls last year, there was some drama where many, including both Caio and myself, believe Caio was robbed of a win. Caio at the very least showed he is still neck and neck with Malfacine, and with the Alliance ace having shifted his focus to MMA, maybe Caio and swing this one in his favor? I don't think so, but I'm more interested in watching this year, than in years past.
Black Belt Adult Male Light Featherweight
This is easily one of the toughest divisions to win in terms of how many contenders and former world champions there are in the division. Doubtlessly, Mikey Musumeci, last year's champion, has the most favorable bracketing, being on the opposite page of both Farias and Miyao. Without Isaac Doederlein at light feather (he moved up one weight category) it would be shocking to not see him in the final. I see Joao Miyao being a hair sharper than Farias, due to constant activity, but it will certainly be a test. In last year's final between Miyao and Musumeci, Musumeci once again bested Miyao, but only because he was able to hold onto a footlock which staved off the sweep points in the waning moments of the match. He hasn't been competing regularly, and with distractions in his academic career, I see this as the year Joao Miyao cements himself as a champion.
Black Belt Adult Male Featherweight
Featherweight is one of the most wide open categories this year with no former World Champions competing as far as I can tell. In the last 12 years, only Cobrinha, Rafael Mendes and Tanquinho have worn the crown, and there is a wealth of up and comers who can potentially win. This is the division in which I am most torn making predictions, and I'll explain why. Marcio Andre and Gianni Grippo. Marcio has historically had trouble making featherweight. He is not reliable in showing up (see: Pan Ams 2018). He has struggled against top tier opponents such as Langhi and Lepri one weight up. But yet, he has been dominant at Featherweight when he is on point. He passed Cobrinha's guard before giving Rafael Mendes hell. Gianni has a slew of razor thin wins over Shane Jamil-Hil-Taylor, and a couple of close losses to Rafael Mansur... but Grippo is not one to just throw himself into the fire and hope to come out unburnt. He is too cerebral for that, and with any loss, he comes back stronger and better. He performs best when stakes are high and this is why I believe he takes it between himself and whoever wins between Mansur and Saggiorio this time around. I don't think Hil-Taylor has the experience or most importantly, the physicality to top Andre yet. Smart money, says Andre will defeat Grippo in the final. But ignoring my brain, I have to admit I have a gut feeling Grippo pulls it out. I ignored an unexplainable urge to put Grippo as #1, but as I type this, I have to admit in full disclosure, I think Gianni Grippo will be the 5th American World Champion this year.
Black Belt Adult Male Lightweight
Black Belt Adult Middleweight
The most interesting part of Middleweight's huge field this year is the bracket placement, which projects Tinoco and Arges to be in the semifinal together, rather than the finals. This makes the podium likely to be different than Worlds and Pans. Arges will not have an easy path, taking on Leon and Langaker en route to the semi final. Langaker especially has shown his ability to upset the champion and has been on a tear this year. Tinoco has a test in Yago de Souza, who placed second at Brazilian Nationals this year. Ultimately, i think that although he will fall short in the final, this year we will see how truly talented Jaime Canuto is, and perhaps he will start to receive the recognition that he deserves. Arges has looked practically unstoppable, and the only thing that may hold him back is if his attention is divided from the new academy he's opened.
Black Belt Adult Middle Heavyweight
Black Belt Adult Heavyweight
I'm not a media outlet, or an journalist concerned with eliminating bias from what I write. I will freely admit I am pulling hard for Keenan and would love nothing more than to see his innovation, talent, hard work and dedication pay off. This is a nightmare bracket however, with the likes of Tim Spriggs (who although he has lost to him before, has dominated him recently), Patrick Gaudio, and Felipe Pena in his way. Pena should move to the finals fairly smoothly I believe. Although Xande is a perennial contender, he has slowed down recently with Pena only getting better and coming off an phenomenal ADCC run. Keenan has the advantage of wearing the gi to add to his bag of tricks. This is one of the divisions I look the most forward to, and although I am picking Pena, I am hoping to see Keenan added to the short list of American champions.
Black Belt Adult Super Heavyweight
The smallest bracket of the tournament is also the one most fans of the sport are looking forward to the most. I know everyone wants to see Leandro Lo rematch with Meregali, but I don't think it is going to happen. Meregali was upset at Brazilian Nationals in his return to competition and had his guard passed, and Gutemberg Perreira has been on fire lately. I smell another upset in this match up. Leandro Lo will cruise to the finals and take another close one home, regardless of whether he faces Gutemberg again, or Meregali. In my opinion, the boundary enforcements played a large role in Meregali's win last time. We need bigger mat spaces, or at least some consistency.
Black Belt Adult Ultra Heavy
So. Ultra Heavyweight huh? No Cyborg, Trans, Demente, etc. Sure it is cool that Yuri is in, but let's be real. Buchecha wins. I'm interested in Joao Gabriel Rocha and Luiz Panza's match. Since Panza beat Bernardo last year, I've been very interested in watching his game. I believe he will make it to the finals where Buchecha and Panza will close out and give Buchecha some much needed rest for the open weight final.