Bailey Murphy Tyreeke Saint
Photo Courtesy: Lindsey Little Photography


The U.S. Capitol Classics and China Open, promoted in National Harbor, Maryland by Grandmaster Dennis Brown for the first time in three years due to the COVID-19 pandemic, made an impressive return last week. The 6A NASKA world tour event featured a variety of exciting action in forms, weapons, and point fighting. Click here to view the entire updated Black Belt Magazine Sport Karate Rankings, or continue reading for some highlights and analysis.

Beginning with point fighting, some major waves were made amongst the females as the event celebrated women and girls in the martial arts thanks to the generosity of Maggie Messina and Female Fighters Matter Too. Anne-Sara Cayer of Team Diamond G3 (pictured below) catapulted to number three in the rankings thanks to her dominant performance winning the overall grand championship and open weight titles against formidable opponent Dani Auberger. She shares the number three spot in a tie with the U.S. Open’s 18+ and 30+ champion Melanie Ortiz. Auberger, the reigning Battle of Atlanta champion, makes her debut on the Black Belt Magazine Rankings for her impressive showing and she currently sits in the fifth spot. Just ahead of her is Hungarian Kickboxing World Cup champion Francesca Ceci of Team Proper. The incredible depth of the women’s fighting division practically ensures that there will be plenty of movement in these ratings over the coming months. Of course, the amazing Morgan Plowden and Ki’Tana Everett still sit atop these rankings in the first and second spots respectively.

Anne-Sara Cayer

Photo Courtesy: Point Fighter Live

The men’s fighting divisions did not see much movement in the absence of high-ranked athletes Avery Plowden and Elijah Everill, but there were plenty of titans of the game in attendance such as Kameren Dawson and Bailey Murphy. Those two would clash in the open weight final in an excellent battle that resulted in victory for Murphy, who jumps up the open weight rankings to the number two spot. He trails only Avery Plowden, who clings to number one as a result of his major SuperFights victory at the Ocean State Grand Nationals combined with his sweep of the U.S. Open. Murphy and Dawson each remain the top dogs of the lightweight and heavyweight divisions, with some new names sliding into the top five. For the lightweights, Tyreeke Saint’s run to the lightweight overall grand matchup against Bailey Murphy was enough to pull him into the fourth-place spot in a very deep division. As for the heavyweights, both combatants in the finals, Kristhian Rivas and Brayan Rodriguez, find themselves in the fourth and fifth spots with Rivas leading the way thanks to his overall grand championship win.

Moving into forms and weapons, only one adult division has a new top-ranked competitor in the world after the action in the nation’s capitol… Men’s CMX Forms. Until this tournament, a different competitor had won every overall grand championship this season, but Team AKA’s Salef Celiz (pictured below) became the first competitor to win multiple grands in the division. His unique style, out-of-the-box creativity, and supreme tricking ability make him a threat to win this event at every tournament. Men’s CMX weapons is still led by U.S. Open champion Jake Presley, but Dawson Holt’s win at the Capitol Classics is making that division a tight race. Despite her absence, Haley Glass remains atop three quarters of the women’s forms and weapons divisions. Sara Campbell’s second overall grand championship of the season in women’s weapons helped her maintain her number two position in both weapons categories. Another overall grand championship in the women’s forms category for Gabrielle Rudolph keeps her cemented at the top of the traditional forms division. Another notable competitor on the weekend was Kaitlyn Vong, now the newest member of Team CBR led by Christine Bannon-Rodrigues, as she was impressive in her stage appearances for forms and weapons. She is now ranked in both CMX disciplines.

Salef Celiz

Photo Courtesy: Lindsey Little Photography

The rankings continue to show some much-deserved love to the senior division. Laura Leclerc’s overall forms grand championship earns her a spot in the women’s forms and weapons rankings. As for the men, Joey Castro remains atop the forms division and Samuel Diaz III remains atop weapons, however Eric Tremblay of Team Competitive Edge lifted himself to second place in weapons with a big grand championship win. In the senior fighting divisions, the two best in the world squared off twice as El-Java Abdul-Qadir and Yoskar Gamez duked it out. Gamez got the best of the matchup in the 30+ heavyweight division en route to that grand championship, but Abdul-Qadir would be the victor of their showdown in the 40+ where he won the overall grand championship. These two men are as close as it gets, with Abdul-Qadir remaining just ahead of Gamez as he was prior to the event.

To view the results of the extremely competitive youth and junior divisions, you’ll have to click that link at the top of the article to see how the dust settled in the rankings. However, we will use this opportunity to explain the change to the junior point fighting rankings that took place following the U.S. Open. As opposed to creating an arbitrary list of fighters that are almost impossible to compare due to separation in age groups, Black Belt Magazine has elected to just highlight the winners of the open weight divisions and grand championships at the most recent NASKA world tour event prior to a rankings update. At the U.S. Capitol Classics, these champions would be Aria Martin*, Victoria Homsani, Sofia Rodriguez-Florez*, Maeve McColgan, Natalie Allen, Tony Homsani Jr.*, Hudson Stehle, Daygan Talbott, Michael Macri, Kayne Talbott, and Xavier Ouellet. Competitors denoted with an asterisk won BOTH their open weight and divisional grand championships at the event.

Keep in mind as you review the rankings that the purpose is to create positive discussion about the sport and highlight some of the best competitors in the world. There is a level of subjectivity in any rankings system, but the Black Belt Magazine team works hard to use head-to-head matchups and overall grand championships as the most heavily-weighted factors when deciding the rankings. Stay tuned for more updates from the world of sport karate, and be on the lookout for another rankings update following the Diamond Nationals this October 21-22 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

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