We dive into seven big matches that could potentially go down this weekend at the 2023 IBJJF Worlds in Long Beach, California.
The 2023 IBJJF Worlds – the most significant gi tournament of the year – is already underway, and black belts are set to compete on Saturday and Sunday. Year in and year out, the event attracts the planet’s best gi competitors looking to etch their names in the history books.
As we look ahead to this weekend, here are seven can’t-miss potential matches at the 2023 IBJJF Worlds.
#1 Diego ‘Pato’ Oliveira vs. Diogo ‘Baby Shark’ Reis – light featherweight
The #2-seeded Diego “Pato” Oliveira and the #3-seeded Diogo “Baby Shark” Reis are no strangers to each other, having battled three times before as black belts, splitting a pair of gi matches between them.
At the 2022 IBJJF Worlds, Oliveira secured a 2-0 semifinal victory. But earlier this year at the IBJJF Pans, Reis earned his own narrow win.
Two of the most skilled all-around grapplers, Oliveira and Reis haven’t disappointed each time they’ve met, and a potential semifinal showdown this weekend is sure to produce action for as long as it lasts. Notably, Oliveira has recently relocated from Unity Jiu-Jitsu to Art of Jiu-Jitsu, and fans should be interested to see if the change in camps gives him the edge in this ultra-competitive rivalry.
#2 JT Torres vs. Johnatha Alves – lightweight
A two-time ADCC champion, an IBJJF no-gi world champion, and a two-time IBJJF Pans champion, JT Torres is one of the best competitors on the planet who hasn’t yet won an IBJJF world title. This weekend, he hopes to take the lightweight division by storm.
Due to his lack of recent IBJJF competition experience, Torres sits as the division’s #30 seed. If he can get past his first three opponents, the Essential Jiu-Jitsu founder can look ahead to a possible semifinal match against Art of Jiu-Jitsu’s Johnatha Alves – a man many are picking as an early favorite.
While Torres is known as an elite pressure passer, Alves is an expert tactician capable of shutting down seemingly any opponent’s game. If they do meet, look for Torres to force Alves on the defensive early and often to create an intriguing clash of styles.
#3 Tye Ruotolo vs. Tainan Dalpra – middleweight
In what might be the most anticipated potential match of the entire event, 2022 IBJJF lightweight world champion Tye Ruotolo returns for just his second gi competition at the black belt level, now at middleweight. Sitting across the bracket from him is Art of Jiu-Jitsu’s Tainan Dalpra, who is undefeated in IBJJF black belt competition and widely regarded as the world’s top gi grappler.
Simply put, a clash between Ruotolo and Dalpra has the makings of an all-time classic. Ruotolo is an unorthodox and ruthlessly aggressive grappler who uses his pace and constant attacks to exhaust his opponents. And although he has competed almost exclusively in no-gi recently, his 2022 Worlds performance proves he can quickly transition to the highest levels of gi competition.
It’s also worth noting that if Ruotolo does reach the final, he might first have to get past the ultra-entertaining and athletic Checkmat representative Jansen Gomes in the semifinals in what would be a can’t-miss match in its own right.
Dalpra, meanwhile, is the ultimate technician and arguably the planet’s best guard passer. The two-time IBJJF world champion has ruled the middleweight division since earning his black belt, but a meeting against Ruotolo – with a third world title on the line – would secure his status as an all-time great.
#4 Adam Wardzinski vs. Fellipe Andrew – heavyweight
A black belt since 2016, Polish standout Adam Wardzinski appears to be in top form after putting on a career-defining, gold-medal performance at the 2023 IBJJF Pans. In the final of that tournament, the Checkmat athlete took out top-ranked IBJJF black belt Fellipe Andrew in a high-scoring, back-and-forth match.
Shortly after that event, Andrew avenged the loss at BJJ Stars. The two top-seeded heavyweights can look forward to a potential showdown in the final this weekend.
#5 Bianca Basilio vs. Anna Rodrigues – featherweight
After winning back-to-back world titles in the light featherweight division, Anna Rodrigues hopes to pick up her third straight, this time in the featherweight division. But sitting on the other side of the bracket is the top-seeded returning world champion Bianca Basilio.
The pair of elite Brazilians have met four times as black belts, with Rodrigues holding a 3-1 advantage.
Both athletes possess truly elite skills in all areas, whether it be guard passing, guard play, or aggressive submission hunting. And if Rodrigues can take out Basilio, she will have made a strong case to be considered the world’s top pound-for-pound female gi competitor.
#6 Ffion Davies vs. Luiza Monteiro – lightweight
In 2022, Ffion Davies became the first British-born athlete to capture gold at the IBJJF Worlds. Now training full-time at Essential Jiu-Jitsu under JT Torres, Davies hopes for a repeat performance.
But first, she can expect a possible final match against veteran black belt and multiple-time world champion Luiza Monteiro, who recently defeated Davies in an ultra-competitive match at the 2023 IBJJF Pans.
Another clash between Davies, with her relentless guard passing and incredible top game, and Monteiro and her all-around skill and mountain of experience, would be one of the biggest matches of the entire tournament.
#7 Elisabeth Clay vs. Andressa Cintra – middleweight
Submission hunter Elisabeth Clay is off to a great start in 2023, winning the Polaris women’s grand prix (no-gi) and capturing gold at the 2023 IBJJF Pans.
Two-time world champion and recent Brasileiros champion Andressa Cintra, though, is also riding high and could give Clay an incredibly stiff test were the two to meet in the final of the middleweight division.
How to watch: The 2023 IBJJF Worlds take place on June 1-4 and air live on FloGrappling (subscription required).