It's no secret that Brazilians are still the dominant force in the sport of jiu-jitsu. The South American nation has dominated jiu-jitsu even since the art expanded to countries across the world.
Only a handful of non-Brazilians have won gold medals at the World Championships over the years, but there are many who have made it to the podium.
Here we identify six American medal prospects to keep an eye on in the black belt divisions.
Alec BauldingAlliance black belt Baulding is little-known in comparison to some of the bigger names from the powerhouse team, but he is the 2017 European champion and has no problem fighting his teammates if circumstances require it: he took out tough names such as Marcos Tinoco and Isaque Bahiense in Lisbon in January. The middleweight division is stacked with talent and is one of the most competitive of all categories, but Baulding should not be overlooked -- he could spoil more than a few people's plans.
James PuopoloRibeiro Jiu-Jitsu rep James Puopolo took silver at last year's Worlds after meeting undisputed ultra heavyweight king Marcus Buchecha in the finals. Puopolo is a big, technical man with a dangerous leg lock game. He has an incredibly tough bracket though, with some of the biggest (literally) and best athletes in the sport, but he is the lone American representative among a sea of international competitors.
Tanner RiceOne of the best American competitors of the current generation of athletes, Rice made it to the finals of the heavyweight division at Euros and Pans this year. He's one of four Americans in the division, but if he maintains this level of performance then he is possibly the best American hope for a medal in the heavyweight division.
Shane Jamil-Hill TaylorFeatherweight up-and-comer Shane Jamil-Hill Taylor of Team Lloyd Irvin turned heads with his impressive performance at Pans and proved he belongs in the upper echelons of the division by beating Gianni Grippo and going toe-to-toe with veteran Osvaldo 'Queixinho'. Featherweight is one of the most competitive divisions in the entire tournament and a podium finish for Hill would be an impressive feat.
Danielle AlvarezA new arrival to the black belt division, Alvarez is the newest Gracie Humaita black athlete to enter the female black belt lightweight division. On the other side of the bracket from defending champion Beatriz Mesquita, Alvarez has tough opponents including Luiza Monteiro and Tammi Musumeci to get though to make it to the finals. As a debuting black belt though, she has nothing to lose.
Isaac DoederleinLight featherweight is one of the few black belt divisions where there is no clear favorite to win and around 5-6 very tough athletes with a legit chance of taking gold. One of those is American athlete Isaac Doederlein, a black belt under Cobrinha and representing Alliance. He holds wins over major names such as Ary Farias and Michael Musumeci, although the competitive nature of the bracket means it's nearly impossible to predict how the podium will look.
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