10 big matches to watch at the 2023 IBJJF No-Gi Worlds

These are 10 big matches we’re looking forward to at the 2023 IBJJF No-Gi Worlds, set for December 7-9 in Las Vegas.

The 2023 IBJJF No-Gi Worlds take place on December 7-9 in Las Vegas, Nevada, with black belts competing on Saturday and Sunday.

As it does every year, the tournament has attracted many of the world’s top no-gi competitors, setting the stage for a number of high-profile matches.

Below are 10 matches – potential or otherwise – we’re most looking forward to this weekend. Some are more likely to happen than others, while two are already set for the first round of the tournament.

View the full tournament brackets, courtesy of the IBJJF, here.

Tammi Musumeci vs. Jessa Khan – women’s light feather

The final of the women’s light feather division could see Tammi Musumeci – widely regarded as the best American-born female BJJ competitor ever – square off with Jessa Khan, the young talent with all the skills to potentially surpass Musumeci’s impressive accomplishments.

After a dominant colored belt career, the 22-year-old Khan seems to have finally found her stride after winning gold at the 2023 IBJJF Gi Worlds. If she can win her first two matches, she’s likely to find herself in the final against Musumeci, who captured her fourth no-gi world title in 2022.

What’s more, this matchup would be a clash between two of the sport’s most technical and dynamic guard players, making for an intriguing stylistic contest.

Junny Ocasio vs. Emilio Hernandez – men’s light feather

Long considered an elite no-gi competitor, Unity Jiu-Jitsu’s Junny Ocasio is enjoying a banner year in 2023, winning gold at the IBJJF No-Gi Pans and European Championships, as well as the ADCC Orange County Open. He’ll look to cap his sensational run with his first no-gi World gold, but he’ll face stiff competition to get there.

In the final of the 2023 IBJJF No-Gi Pans, Ocasio earned a hard-fought victory over Emilio Hernandez in one of the event’s most entertaining encounters, and a rematch could be in the cards if both men can find their way to the final.

Each man will have to win three matches against top opposition to make it to the final. If they both do, fans can expect another barnburner in the light feather division.

Jasmine Rocha vs. Adele Fornarino – women’s feather

The semifinals of the women’s feather division could see an intriguing matchup between ADCC hopefuls Jasmine Rocha and Adele Fornarino.

One of the sport’s most active and entertaining competitors, Rocha is a true submission hunter with skills in all areas but is particularly dangerous from her closed guard. Fornarino, meanwhile, is a 2022 ADCC veteran and one of jiu-jitsu’s fastest-rising stars after winning gold at the 2023 IBJJF No-Gi Pans and European Championships.

If each woman wins her first-round match, fans are in for a treat between two of the sport’s most exciting submission specialists.

Diego “Pato” Oliveira vs. Kennedy Maciel – men’s feather

If they are both able to win their first-round matches, Diego “Pato” Oliveira and Kennedy Maciel could square off in the quarterfinals of the stacked men’s feather division.

Fresh off his victory over Diogo “Baby Shark” Reis at Who’s Number One (WNO), Oliveira is one of jiu-jitsu’s top leg lockers – evidenced by his 2022 ADCC victory z-lock victory over Maciel.

Both men have undoubtedly evolved since that first encounter, and a rematch would surely produce fireworks. “Pato” has relocated from Unity Jiu-Jitsu to Art of Jiu-Jitsu, where he continues to round out his high-paced, attack-style game. Maciel, meanwhile, has competed infrequently, but has surely fine-tuned his leg lock defense as he prepares for another ADCC run.

Oliver Taza vs. Johnatha Alves – men’s middle

The men’s middle division is a true embarrassment of riches, with big-time matches in every single round. Fans certainly won’t want to miss the first-round clash between Art of Jiu-Jitsu’s Johnatha Alves and New Wave’s Oliver Taza.

A 2023 IBJJF Gi world champion, Alves is a top-tier athlete who has already accomplished plenty in the gi. His no-gi game will be put to an incredibly stiff test when he battles multiple-time ADCC veteran and 2023 no-gi Pans champion Taza.

Stylistically, this is a dream matchup. While Alves is a tactically minded guard passer who has loads of experience in the IBJJF ruleset, Taza is a no-gi specialist who owns some of the sport’s best leg locks.

Elijah Dorsey vs. Tommy Langaker – men’s middle

On the other side of the bracket, ADCC veteran Tommy Langaker and recent ADCC Trials champion Elijah Dorsey could meet in the second round.

After an impressive career in the gi, Langaker has firmly established himself as an elite no-gi talent, winning the 2022 ADCC European Trials and taking Kade Ruotolo the distance in a fun match in ONE Championship.

The Norwegian’s vaunted guard would be put to the test against a relentless and technical passer in Dorsey, who impressed at the ADCC East Coast Trials with victories over Oliver Taza and Nicky Ryan.

Jansen Gomes vs. Ronaldo Junior – men’s medium heavy

The first round of the men’s medium heavy division will see a rematch of one of the year’s most thrilling gi matches, as 2023 gi world champion Jansen Gomes takes on Atos representative Ronaldo Junior.

Simply put, both men are explosive, attack-oriented guard passers with a penchant for scrambles. Given their stylistic tendencies, it’s no surprise that their first encounter produced fireworks from start to finish. Gomes won that match by decision, giving Junior plenty of motivation to exact revenge this weekend.

Andressa Cintra vs. Rafaela Guedes – women’s heavy

After competing just one time so far in 2023, Rafaela Guedes hopes for a successful return to IBJJF competition in the heavy division, where she could potentially meet returning no-gi world champion Andressa Cintra in the final.

Widely regarded as one of the sport’s top no-gi competitors, Guedes earned double gold at the 2021 IBJJF No-Gi Worlds and silver at the 2022 ADCC World Championships. She possesses a gritty, high-paced style that typically makes for entertaining matches.

Cintra, meanwhile, is one of jiu-jitsu’s most accomplished current competitors and is enjoying a historic run of dominance. 

If both women are able to make it to the final, fans won’t want to miss a second of this matchup.

Jacob Couch vs. Adam Wardzinski – men’s heavy

Fresh off his spectacular run through the ADCC East Coast Trials, Jacob “The Hillbilly Hammer” Couch will look for his first major IBJJF title as a black belt in the heavy division. If he’s able to win his first match, he’s likely to square off with Polish standout Adam Wardzinski.

A genuine submission hunter with elite leg locks and a dangerous guard, Couch has shown massive improvements in the past year. For his part, Wardzinski is an established veteran who has recently seen plenty of success, taking home gold at the 2023 IBJJF No-Gi Pans.

A potential showdown between these two in the quarterfinals would surely produce action, as Couch’s leg locks would clash with Wardzinski’s passing and butterfly guard.

Roberto Jimenez vs. Elder Cruz – men’s heavy

Staying in the men’s heavy division, the semifinals could see a match between all-action scrappers Roberto Jimenez and Elder Cruz.

An ADCC veteran, Jimenez might be the sport’s most entertaining athlete, known for his ultra-aggressive style, lightning-fast back-takes, and seemingly endless gas tank. Cruz boasts a similar, albeit more wrestling-heavy style.

Both men will need to win their first two matches for this contest to take place, but if it does, it has the makings of one of the year’s most electrifying encounters.

How to watch: The 2023 IBJJF No-Gi Worlds take place on December 7-9 and will air live on FloGrappling (subscription required).

Ben Coate

Ben has been involved with grappling, whether through wrestling or Brazilian jiu-jitsu, essentially his entire life. After wrestling throughout his childhood, Ben found Brazilian jiu-jitsu as a young adult and quickly fell in love. He has been training for over ten years and currently holds the rank of brown belt, and remains involved in both the MMA and BJJ scene. Ben has been writing about combat sports since 2017. He has interviewed and profiled some of MMA's biggest stars, including multiple UFC champions.

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