As the 2018 edition of the IBJJF World Championships inches closer, there are a number of different storylines to watch. Whether it’s a wave of new black belts competing at that rank for the first time, or paying close attention to the colored belts at lower ranks; there’s something for everyone heading into this showcase. But the focus is at the black belt level and these are some of the storylines that jump off the page.
At Roosterweight, one must wonder if we’re going to get another matchup between BJJ legends, Caio Terra and Bruno Malfacine. This duo has combined to win the last 11 championships with Terra taking two and Malfacine taking nine. Both men are heading back to the mats this week and we could be looking for another chapter in this story. If Malfacine gets the victory he will be the third athlete to win ten championships, joining Roger Gracie and Marcus Almeida on that sacred list.
Last year Michael Musumerci Jr. became the first American to win the title at 64 kilograms. He’s looking to defend and he’s the favorite to do so as former champions Ari Farias and Paulo Miyao are both out of the event. This is an important division for American grappling fans as Musumerci looks to become the first American to defend an IBJJF world title; a feat that BJ Penn, Robert Drysdale and Rafael Lovato Jr were unable to do.
Featherweight may be considered the “Group of Death” at this year’s tournament. In 2017 Rubens Charles stepped out as the winner of the division, but he is not looking to defend his title in 2018. That leaves the group wide open for a number of names to emerge at the top. Athletes such as Gianni Grippo and Leo Saggioro stand out as favorites, but you also can’t overlook AJ Agazarm and Jamil Hill-Taylor. With such a deep group of competitors at featherweight, this is a division that can’t be missed.
Lucas Lepri is looking for his third straight championship and his fifth overall in the 76 kilogram division. In order to get that done he will have to work his way through a division that includes another champion and Alliance teammate in Michael Langhi who is looking for his fourth title. JT Torres and Edwin Najmi are two other names that could emerge at the top of the list on Sunday.
At middleweight, Gabriel Arges is looking to defend the title that he took home in 2017. This is a huge division with 42 competitors listed to perform. Three-time champion, Otavio Souza stands out as a potential favorite other than Arges, but 2015 champion Claudio Calasans is scheduled to compete as well.
Middle-heavyweight is an intriguing division coming into Worlds 2018. Last year, Andre Galvao took the title; winning his fifth championship, but Galvao did so as a last-minute entry and one who qualifies for the Masters’ division as well. With Leandro Lo moving up to higher weight classes, this division seems wide open for the taking. Matheus Diniz, Murilo Santana and Lucas Barbosa are three men who could find themselves with a gold medal around their neck when the event is over.
The heavyweight division is another group that features a variety of names that could come out as the champion. With last year’s champion, Nicholas Meregali moving up to the Super-Heavyweight division, Keenan Cornelius, Tim Spriggs and Jackson Souza are three names worth recognition. Cornelius may be the favorite but neither Spriggs nor Souza should be counted out of this division.
At Super Heavyweight, Lo jumps off the page as the name to watch in this division. The five-time champion is looking to add to his resume as he continues to move up in weight classes. Last year’s champion, Erberth Santos has been on a tear of his own but is not appearing in the 2018 edition of the tournament. Lo will still have to get through a deep division which includes the heavyweight champion from last year, Meregali.
The Ultra Heavyweight division features 19 big men and perhaps the biggest name in the sport today, Marcus Almeida, as he is looking for his 11th title and third-straight in the division. It will be interesting to see if any of the competitors in the bracket can upset him and carve out their own place in history.
Everyone will have their eyes on the black belts. The black belts get started on Saturday and then take center stage to close out the event on Sunday. With so many big names prepared to step on the mat it should be expected that the black belts will deliver with exciting action in every division. The entire lineup of grapplers can be found on the IBJJF site and the event will be broadcast by FloGrappling.com.