2021 World Jiu-Jitsu IBJJF Championship

The Rookie Black Belts Spearheading The Rise Of The Next Gen At Worlds

The Rookie Black Belts Spearheading The Rise Of The Next Gen At Worlds

These first-year black belts are taking center stage at the IBJJF World Championships for the first time, and the future looks bright.

Dec 2, 2021 by Corey Stockton

The IBJJF World Championships gives jiu-jitsu fans an opportunity to watch their favorite veteran athletes as they hunt for a first, or a repeat world title. It’s a showcase for the best and most beloved grapplers on the planet. But it’s also an opportunity for brand new black belts to earn their recognition, try to ascend the ranks, and — perhaps — start dynastic runs atop the World podium.

This year, there are nearly two dozen rookie black belts registered for Worlds. Any of them could upset their divisions and take gold. And even those who fall before the finals could create upsets in the early rounds and earn the attention of the fans. Here are the rookies to watch at the 2021 IBJJF World Championships.

** note: For the purpose of this article, “rookies” refers to the black belts promoted after the dates originally scheduled for the World Championships in May 2020. Therefore, some of the athletes on this list have been black belts for slightly longer than one year.

Of all the rookies registered for Worlds, Tainan Dalpra may have the best chance of winning gold in his division. The Art Of Jiu-Jitsu star has amassed a record of 32-1 this year with 23 submission victories. He earned his first major black belt title at Pans earlier this year, and continued his momentum at the IBJJF Grand Prix where he won matches against Renato Canuto and Jonnatas Gracie to win the $20,000 prize.

Dalpra is one of three rookies registered at middleweight. He’ll be joined by Lucas Gualberto And Alex Munis.

The light featherweight division is also loaded with rookie talent, and the frontrunner among them is Meyram Maquine of Dream Art. Maquine has been nearly unstoppable since earning his black belt in June 2020, and has brought an explosive energy to each of his matches, forcing — and winning — scrambles. At light featherweight, he could run into brown belt Pan champ and purple belt world champ Keven Carrasco, and the dangerous Pan bronze medalist Jordan Vaisman.

Featherweight is a loaded division in general, but it’s also packed with first-year black belts. Samuel Nagai could be the favorite among them, especially now that his world champion Checkmat teammate Matheus Gabriel has moved up to lightweight. Nagai looked outstanding at Pans in 2020 before losing to the eventual champion, and has continued to take out top names since. But he has a recent loss to yet another rookie, Fabrico Andrey, who recently won Brasileiros, and took a bronze medal at Pans. Andrey is an energetic competitor, and fans should hope to see a rematch, as it promises to be action packed. 

Other rookies to watch include Nick Salles, Daniel Maira and Damion Oranday.

Andy Murasaki of Atos stands alone as the only lightweight rookie. The 2020 brown belt lightweight and absolute Pan Champion has only had one match on the IBJJF scene since earning his black belt, a loss to Johnatha Alves at Pans earlier this year. But Murasaki has taken out some of the top lightweight talent earlier this year, including Matheus Gabriel, Gianni Grippo and Kennedy Maciel. 

Andre Porfirio upset the medium heavyweight division at Pans, winning gold in his rookie year against a deep division. He’ll face a deeper division at Worlds. Make no mistake, he could do it; but the division’s top dog is Leandro Lo. First year black belts Bruno Matias and Alex Munis are also registered in this division.

Speaking of the Munis brothers, Anderson Munis and Erich Munis are registered at super heavyweight. Erich is coming in off gold at World Pro and Brasileiros, while Anderson also holds several high profile victories, recently defeating Erberth Santos. They’ll look to close out the super heavyweight division, but will have to get through favorites like Felipe Pena and Fellipe Andrew. Either way, the Munis brothers will likely enter the absolute division, and they’ll be title contenders there, too.

Jessa Khan and Elisabeth Clay hardly seem like rookies, they’ve been knocking off top-ranked opponents for years. But both will be competing at Worlds as black belts for the first time. Khan will be looking to rebound after a narrow defeat in the Pans final, and is among the favorites. But she’ll have tough opposition in Ana Rodriguez, and the reigning division champion, Tammi Musumeci.

Clay, for her part, has the potential to submit anyone in her division, but she’ll have to get through Ana Carolina Vieira, who has beaten Clay in their last two encounters. Chloe McNally, a rookie from Unity will join Clay and Vieira in the medium heavyweight division.

Margot Ciccarelli has earned a few tough division rivals in her short stint at black belt. She’s got a Pans silver medal for her effort, but she’ll be up against the best of them at Worlds, including Nathalie Ribeiro and Beatriz Mesquita. Rookie Janaina Maia is also registered at lightweight.

Vanessa Griffin is in at middleweight, where she could run into world champion Andressa Cintra and tough veteran Raquel Canuto.