5 big matches we could see at the 2022 IBJJF No-Gi Worlds

The 2022 IBJJF No-Gi Worlds take place on December 8-11, live from Anaheim, CA, with black belts competing on Saturday and Sunday.

The 2022 IBJJF No-Gi Worlds are right around the corner, and there’s no shortage of intriguing potential match-ups to be had.

From established veterans seeking another shot at the top of the podium, to all-action fan-favorites, to debuting black belts hoping to make a splash, this weekend will be filled with top-tier grappling. Full brackets from every division may be viewed here.

These are five potential black belt matches that could go down at no-gi Worlds this weekend.

1 – Ash Williams vs. Gianni Grippo

After a first-round exit at the ADCC World Championships, Draig’s Ash Williams is now in a position to redeem himself and win his first no-gi world championship. The #2-seed in the featherweight division, Williams was a 2016 European Open champion and is a current multiple-division Polaris champion. 

Known for his tenacious guard passing and seemingly impenetrable leg lock defense, Williams is arguably the UK’s top male competitor and is an established elite talent.

Sitting on the other side of the bracket will be returning no-gi world champion Gianni Grippo. After nearly a decade of competing against – and typically beating – the best black belts in the world, Grippo has shown few signs of slowing down.

The berimbolo and back attack specialist recently returned to competition after suffering a leg injury at the ADCC West Coast Trials.

If this match happens, it will take place in the final, and fans can look forward to an intriguing clash of styles between two of the top featherweights on the planet.

2 – Dante Leon vs. Josh Cisneros

In what would undoubtedly be a high-paced, action-packed match, ADCC veterans Dante Leon and Josh Cisneros could meet in the final of the lightweight division.

Now representing Pedigo Submission Fighting, Leon was a 2019 no-gi world champion at medium-heavy, and now drops two weight classes to test himself in the loaded lightweight division.

Built like a tank, Leon is one of the sport’s most aggressive yet technical grapplers. With his solid takedown game, tricky reverse de la riva guard, and always-dangerous guillotine choke, the Canadian is a threat to score or submit in all positions.

Cisneros, meanwhile, is one of jiu-jitsu’s best entertainers. Like Leon, the Ares BJJ representative has quality wrestling and skills in all areas on the mat. Watch for Cisneros to use his “black hole” system of attack to look for armbars and triangles from the top position. His most effective weapon, though, might be the relentless pace he puts on opponents.

This match, were it to happen, is sure to deliver fireworks.

3 – Vagner Rocha vs. Hunter Colvin

The men’s heavyweight division could see a quarterfinal clash between Fight Sports’ Vagner Rocha and Triton Fight Center’s Hunter Colvin.

At 40 years old, Rocha is one of jiu-jitsu’s most tenured veterans. Widely known for his gritty – occasionally referred to as “dirty” – style of grappling, Rocha is a fan-favorite for his refusal to concede a single step back or a single position.

That tenacity was on full display in his Match of the Year contender against Izaak Michell at the 2022 ADCC World Championships.

Rocha could meet an equally gritty opponent in Colvin. Seemingly never in a boring match, in this year alone Colvin has been involved in unforgettable battles against Jay Rodriguez and Roberto Jimenez, among others.

Simply put, this potential quarterfinal match features two grapplers with an incredibly high work rate and skills to match.

4 – Tammi Musumeci vs. Bianca Basilio

In the women’s featherweight division, fans can look forward to a possible semifinal showdown between 2019 ADCC champion Bianca Basilio and three-time no-gi world champion Tammi Musumeci.

Despite losses to Brianna Ste-Marie and Bia Mesquita at the ADCC World Championships, Basilio is still very much a pound-for-pound talent. The Atos representative is a ferocious takedown artist, loving to set a high pace. And while she’s a skilled guard passer and back-taker, Basilio is perhaps best known for her straight ankle locks and toeholds.

That ultra-aggressive style would make for an intriguing clash against Musumeci and her complex berimbolo game. Musumeci won her first no-gi world title in 2013 and has largely continued to compete and succeed at the elite black belt ranks ever since.

If this match happens, watch for Basilio’s relentless guard passing against the elite open guard game of Musumeci.

5 – Brianna Ste-Marie vs. Nikki Sullivan

ADCC silver medalist Brianna Ste-Marie will make her IBJJF black belt debut in the lightweight division one year after winning no-gi Worlds as a brown belt. If she makes it to the final, she can look forward to a possible meeting with Atos black belt Nikki Sullivan.

With her traditional yet highly-effective closed guard, half-guard, and pressure passing game, Ste-Marie has firmly established herself as one of the world’s top competitors. Indeed, her showing at the ADCC World Championships – after winning both the East and West Coast Trials – validated her status as world-class.

Sullivan might be less known and, on paper, less accomplished than Ste-Marie, but that doesn’t make her any less of an interesting opponent. A 2019 Masters world champion, Sullivan tends to play a more open guard-oriented game. More than anything, though, she is an aggressive, constantly attacking grappler.

It’s that offensive style of jiu-jitsu that could give Ste-Marie a stiff test as she tries for her first no-gi world championship at the black belt level.

How to watch: The 2022 IBJJF No-Gi Worlds take place on December 8-11 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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