Levi, Canuto & More | The Stacked Middleweight Division At No-Gi Worlds


Forty athletes are registered for the male black belt middleweight division at No-Gi Worlds, making it the deepest of the tournament. That roster includes six ADCC veterans, three returning IBJJF no-gi world champs, and one Levi Jones-Leary looking to make his no-gi debut as a black belt.

The middleweight division is composed of some of the most electric competitors in grappling: guys like Dante Leon, Renato Canuto, PJ Barch. Leon and Canuto are both looking to capture their second no-gi world titles, as is 2019 champ Hugo Marques; but they’ll face a new challenge this year.

For the first time ever, heel hooks will be allowed for adult black belts at the no-gi world championships, making competitors like Oliver Taza more dangerous than ever. This could be Taza’s best opportunity to collect a major IBJJF title; he fell out of No-Gi Pans early, disqualified for breaking a rule unrelated to leg locks.

The IBJJF allowing heel hooks has brought out a lot of new faces, such as Bellator MMA fighter Jay Jay Wilson, 8-0 in MMA with four submissions, 10th Planet figures including the up-and-coming Alan Sanchez. 

But the real story of this division is the presence of the Australian rising star, Levi Jones-Leary. Levi had a sensational run in the gi in his rookie season in 2019, capturing European and Pans titles and winning the $100,000 prize at the Spyder Invitational. The berimbolo player teased his transition to no-gi earlier this year, training with Lachlan Giles while living in Australia, and adding new wrinkles to his already precise style.

This will be Levi’s first foray into the no-gi scene as a black belt, and he could walk away as a world champion. If he’s successful, this could be a harbinger of superstardom for Levi in the no-gi sphere, as — win or lose — he’ll face Oliver Taza a few weeks later at WNO: The Return of Gordon Ryan on October 20.