Diego “Pato” Oliveira did his Worlds preparation with the Unity Jiu-Jitsu team in New York City. For the majority of 2021, Pato had been competing in no-gi super fight events under various rulesets. He had won the Worlds in the purple and brown belt divisions and has had a lot of competitive success in the gi. Pato won three fights to advance to the final, where he faced Malachi Edmond of Team Lloyd Irvin. In the final, Pato was able to pass the guard the secure a head and arm choke to get the victory. In the featherweight division, Fabricio Andrey of Fight Sports also competed in his first Worlds as a black belt. He won three fights to get to the final, meeting 2018 black belt world champion Shane Jamil Hill-Taylor in the final. Fabricio had fought Shane at the 2021 Pans, losing the match by a single advantage point. This time, Fabricio took a much more aggressive approach, pulling guard and immediately shooting up a triangle. He adjusted the position and got the tap and his first world championship gold medal.
In the lightweight division, Renato Canuto won his first Worlds gold as a black belt, representing the overall team champions, Checkmat. Renato is known for his dynamic passing style, and used it to great effect in his matches, most notably against Unity Jiu-Jitsu star Levi Jones Leary in the quarter finals where Canuto was able to pass the guard. He won his semi-final match 2-0 and closed out the division with his teammate Matheus Gabriel. Perhaps the most anticipated debut in the black belt division was that of Tainan Dalpra of Art of Jiu-Jitsu. Tainan had been competing against the best middleweights in the world since receiving his black belt after winning the 2020 Pans. Coming into the 2021 Worlds, his black belt record was 32-1, with 23 of those wins coming by way of submission. His road to gold was not an easy one, facing Jeferson Guaresi, Ronaldo Junior, and Tommy Langaker on his way to the final. In the final he faced Dream Art leader Isaque Bahiense, besting the world champion by a score of 8-6 in a back and forth battle.
The Dream Art team brought an impressive squad to the 2021 Worlds. Erich Munis joined the team as a purple belt and went on to win his weight and the absolute at multiple major tournaments. Erich won four matches to win gold, including a win over Felipe Andrew, a submission machine from the Alliance team. Another Dream Art representative who won her first world title was Ana Rodrigues. Ana beat Art of Jiu Jitsu standout Jessa Khan in the semis and 2019 world champion Tammi Musumeci in the final.
Gabi McComb switched teams to train at Atos HQ less than a year ago and has since had some of the best performances of her career. She placed second at the 2021 Pans, losing to Bianca Basillio by foot lock. She faced Bianca in the final of Worlds looking for redemption. This time she was able to get the victory, controlling the pace of the match and winning by a score of 2-0. Melissa Cueto of Alliance competed in Heavyweight division and won three fights before squaring off with Izadora Silva of Dream Art in the final. Melissa used her guard early in the match, but it was her passing that helped her seal the deal. She passed her opponents guard and forced her to turn away. From there, Melissa sunk in a match ending choke and won her first adult world title.
Another one of the most anticipated black belt Worlds debuts was that of Gabrieli Pessanha of InFight Jiu Jitsu. Despite recently being promoted to black belt, Gabrieli has already won the 2021 Pans, Abhu Dhabi Pro, and IBJJF South American titles. Gabrieli had an especially impressive performance, submitting multiple time world champion Gabi Garcia and beating her rival Yara Soares on her way to gold in both her weight class and the open weight.
2021 was a wild year for jiu-jitsu, as the pandemic made it difficult for events to run smoothly and for athletes to be able to travel. The IBJJF has already announced the 2022 Europeans, Pans, and Brazilian Nationals, so we’ll likely see a return to a more normal schedule next year. You can be sure to see more new generation black belts continue to claim some of the sport’s biggest titles in 2022.
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