2023 IBJJF Worlds black belt recap and takeaways

We look back at the major takeaways and standout performances from the black belt divisions at the 2023 IBJJF Worlds.

The 2023 IBJJF Worlds took place last week in Long Beach, California, with black belts competing over the weekend.

Now that the dust has settled on the most prestigious gi tournament of the year, we look back at several standout performances and key takeaways from the black belt ranks.

Jansen Gomes hands Tainan Dalpra first IBJJF defeat to capture middleweight gold

Checkmat’s Jansen Gomes was, in many ways, the star of the event as he won his first black belt world title. And while that accomplishment is impressive in its own right, it’s how he went about it that made for an unforgettable performance.

After spending all of his relatively brief black belt career at medium-heavyweight, the 21-year-old dropped to middleweight and took the division by storm. In the opening rounds, he took out Lucas Brito and Alexandre Jesus before squaring off with 2022 world champion Tye Ruotolo in the semifinals. In what would turn out to be an instant classic, Gomes put an incredible pace on Ruotolo, never once taking his foot off the gas pedal on his way to a 4-0 points victory.

That win set him up for a showdown in the final against Art of Jiu-Jitsu’s Tainan Dalpra. Widely regarded as the planet’s top pound-for-pound gi competitor, Dalpra is a two-time world champion and came into the match sporting an undefeated IBJJF black belt record.

Gomes scored a pair of advantages early, thanks to a flurry of attacks that brought the raucous crowd to its feet. From there, the Checkmat athlete displayed expert technique in avoiding sweep attempts while continuing to press the action to secure a dramatic victory and put an end to Dalpra’s reign of dominance in the middleweight division.

Victor Hugo and Gabi Pessanha claim double gold at IBJJF Worlds

Ultra and super-heavyweight athletes Victor Hugo and Gabi Pessanha each impressed with double-gold performances.

Already a returning two-time IBJJF world champion in his weight class, Six Blades’ Hugo won a total of eight matches over the weekend, including five victories by submission. In the absolute final, he picked up a highlight-reel kneebar on three-time super heavyweight world champion Erich Munis.

And on the women’s side, Gabi Pessanha continued her run of supreme dominance to now be a three-time IBJJF Worlds double-gold medalist. The 22-year-old won five matches, all by submission to extend her undefeated streak that dates back to 2021.

Art of Jiu-Jitsu puts on incredible team performance

The black belt semifinals and finals were filled with athletes from the world-renowned Art of Jiu-Jitsu Academy, which enjoyed one of the best single-school team performances ever seen at the IBJJF Worlds.

Of the 10 male divisions, Art of Jiu-Jitsu boasted four black belt finalists and two world champions – Diego “Pato” Oliveira at light featherweight and Johnatha Alves at lightweight. The school also saw Mayssa Bastos and Jessa Khan take home gold in the roosterweight and light featherweight divisions, respectively.

And beyond those championship performances, several of the academy’s representatives had breakout performances, including Margot Ciccarelli’s near victory over Anna Rodrigues and Dalpra’s run to a second-place finish in the middleweight division.

Lucas Pinheiro wins first world title, retires from competition

Veteran Atos athlete Lucas Pinheiro captured gold in the roosterweight division before officially retiring from competition.

“Bad Boy’s” elite guard guard passing was on display all weekend in a division typically known for its guard play, as he took out returning world champion Thalison Soares in the final to secure his first (and seemingly last) world title.

Pinheiro’s gold at the 2023 IBJJF Worlds is a fitting end to an accomplished career that includes gold at gi and no-gi IBJJF Worlds, Pans, Brasileiros, American Nationals, and no-gi Europeans.

7 reigning world champions repeat

Finally, seven different 2022 world champions returned for more gold at the 2023 IBJJF Worlds, firmly establishing themselves as their divisions’ top gi competitor.

On the men’s side, the aforementioned Munis and Hugo each won first place in the super heavyweight and ultra heavyweight divisions. The two men seem to have a stranglehold on the upper weight classes, but 2022 world champion Nicholas Meregali has made plenty of noise about wanting a match with Hugo, which could take place at a Who’s Number One event in the near future.

Also, five women earned consecutive world titles. Those athletes were Mayssa Bastos at roosterweight, Bianca Basilio at featherweight, Ffion Davies at lightweight, Andressa Cintra at middleweight, and Pessanha at super heavyweight (as well as absolute).

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.

Ben Coate has 1190 posts and counting. See all posts by Ben Coate