The next edition of the IBJJF FloGrappling GP series goes down this Friday March 3rd in Austin, Texas. With a mix of highly accomplished champions and new black belts, and modified rules to prevent stalling, this event is set to deliver some of the best matches of the year. The following is a preview of the Men’s Lightweight GP, the Women’s Heavyweight GP, and two of the three super fights.
Men’s Lightweight GP Features Highly Accomplished Black Belts & Newcomers
As one of the most competitive divisions historically, there was no shortage of elite black belts ready to compete for the Lightweight GP title. Andy Murasaki, Johnatha Alves, Carlos Henrique, and Elijah Dorsey were selected and will all look to become the Lightweight GP Champion.
Andy Murasaki On Fire Coming Into The GP
In the last six months, Andy Mursaki has looked unstoppable in competition. After sustaining a rib injury at the 2022 Worlds where he ultimately took silver, Andy has gone undefeated in competition. He’s won gold medals at the Charleston and Houston Opens, the Worlds No-Gi, and the Europeans. Andy also won a super fight at the IBJJF Absolute GP, going up two weight classes and defeating Mateus Rodrigues of AOJ. At the 2023 Europeans in Paris, France, Andy won his first major title in the gi, submitting three of his four opponents. His highly effective mix of de la riva and x guard sweeps and crushing pressure on top have proved a difficult puzzle for his opponents to solve. AOJ’s Johnatha Alves, who has three wins over Andy at black belt, could prove to be his toughest challenge in the bracket.
3X Pan Champ Johnatha Alves Looks To Build Off 2022 GP Matches
In 2022, 3X Pan Champion Johnatha Alves participated in two IBJJF Grand Prix events, both in the form of super fights. At the IBJJF FloGrappling GP in October of last year, Johnatha took on Mathias Luna of CheckMat, an opponent he had faced before in the colored belts. Though Johnatha was able to get the win, he was unhappy with his performance in the match. He’d return to the IBJJF Absolute GP in November, this time facing ultra heavyweight Roosevelt Souza in an open weight match. Roosevelt would win the match with a guard pass, but Johnatha showed the effectiveness of his jiu-jitsu against an opponent five weight classes above his own. Johnatha’s only competition in 2023 thus far was at the Austin Open, where he won all of his matches. He’s had very competitive matches with the aforementioned European Champion Andy Murasaki, and matches with newer generation black belts Carlos Henrique and Elijah Dorsey could be interesting challenges as well.
New Black Belt Carlos Henrique Looks To Take Out Top Lightweights
Despite only receiving his black belt in November of 2022, Carlos Henrique has already shown that he’s comfortable competing at his new rank. In December of last year, he competed at the Waco Open and the Worlds No-Gi, where he won gold and silver medals, respectively. Carlos faced one of his biggest challenges on the mats thus far in the lightweight final of the 2022 Worlds No-Gi, going up against 2019 World No-Gi Champion Dante Leon. He lost a close 2-0 match, but Carlos showed excellent guard retention and poise and was the only athlete Dante didn’t submit on his run to gold. The Dream Art athlete has a dangerous guard and dynamic passing, skills he’ll look to showcase against his opponents at the GP.
TLI’s Elijah Dorsey Joins Lightweight GP As A Late Addition
Elijah Dorsey was promoted to black belt in June 2022 following excellent results in the colored belt divisions. Though he’s been a black belt for a short time, Elijah’s skills are indicative of a promising career. Since his promotion, Elijah has competed in three tournaments, winning gold at the Orlando Summer Open and taking bronze at the 2023 Europeans. His quarterfinal match against 4X European Champion Marcio Andre was a back and forth battle from start to finish, with Elijah getting the win on points. He would go on to lose the semifinal against Andy Murasaki, but the performance proved he’s among the lightweight elite. Elijah was added to the IBJJF Lightweight Grand Prix less than two weeks out from the event. The opportunity came not only because of his results, but because of the way he performed and his willingness to take risks against high level opposition. Look for Elijah to have both exciting and competitive matches at the GP this Friday.
Women’s Heavyweight GP Athletes Have A Combined 14 World Titles
For the first time in the history, the IBJJF and FloGrappling will host a women’s heavyweight grand prix. With 14 World titles between these competitors, it’s safe to say that this is one of the most accomplished GP brackets we’ve ever seen. Ana Carolina Vieira, Nathiely de Jesus, Melissa Stricker, and Andressa Cintra will look to add GP Champion to their already impressive list of accomplishments.
Nathiely de Jesus Returns To Take On Fellow World Champions
5X World Champion Nathiely de Jesus will return to competition at the Women’s Heavyweight GP. Nathiely earned her black belt in 2016 and won Worlds gold the following year. Her first Worlds gold was followed by weight and open class titles in 2018 and 2019, making Nathiely one of the most accomplished female competitors of her generation. With the 2020 pandemic and the birth of her daughter, Nathiely took a break from competition. She returned at the 2022 Austin Summer Open, taking gold in the open class division with all submissions. Now the Rodrigo Pinheiro athlete will look to earn wins over fellow World Champions Ana Vieira, Melissa Stricker, and Andressa Cintra.
Ana Vieira and Andressa Cintra Step Up In Weight To Contend For GP Crown
Ana Vieira and Andress Cintra are two of the most accomplished active female competitors on the scene. At the 2022 World Championships, Ana won her fifth title in the medium-heavy division while Andressa won her third at middleweight. They’ll move up in weight for the Women’s Heavyweight GP to take on 2018 and 2019 open class champion Nathiely De Jesus and 2021 Heavyweight World Champion Melissa Stricker. Though they’ve historically competed in lighter weight categories, Ana and Andressa have had success in open class divisions. Ana took second in the open class at the 2021 Pans, defeating #1 ranked Gabrieli Pessanha in the semifinal, while Andressa won double gold at the 2017 Worlds as a brown belt. Ana's pressure based passing style and Andressa’s dynamic open guard game make them top contenders in any bracket they enter.
World Champion Melissa Stricker Is Ready For Huge Challenge
Melissa Stricker of Alliance San Diego has had tremendous results in competition in the past year and a half. In the best performance of her black belt career, she won the heavyweight division at the 2021 Worlds. In 2022, Melissa won gold at the Pans and World Masters, continuing her string of competitive success. With phenomenal sweeps from spider and de la riva guard combined with solid passing and back attacks, Melissa has positioned herself as one of the top female black belts in the World. The Heavyweight GP will undoubtedly be one of her biggest challenges, but with her world-class team at Alliance San Diego, Melissa has consistently shown improved jiu-jitsu every time she competes and will bring a more refined and efficient game to the GP.
Janaina Lebre and Nathalie Ribeiro Look To Settle The Score
Janaina Lebre and Nathalie Ribeiro fought twice in 2022. Their first match was the lightweight final of the 2022 Europeans in Rome, Italy. The match ended 10-0 after Nathalie swept, took the back, and mounted Janaina. It was a decisive victory for Nathalie, but Janaina was able to put some offense together with solid pass and sweep attempts and an armbar from guard that earned her an advantage. They met again in the semifinal of the 2022 Worlds, but this time it was Janaina who had her hand raised. It was a battle of sweeps, as Janaina scored two sweeps to Nathalie’s one.
Since their 2022 matches, Janaina won the inaugural IBJJF FloGrappling Women’s Lightweight GP and Nathalie took second at the 2023 Europeans. Though both athletes are well-rounded, they often look to set up their preferred guard positions. In both of their matches in 2022, Nathalie was able to pull guard before Janaina, but we may see different tactics in this super fight.
Ronaldo and Francisco Lo Are Guaranteed To Put On A Show
Ronaldo Junior and Francisco Lo are two of the most athletically gifted competitors in jiu-jitsu. Ronaldo combines unbelievable speed and pressure while passing the guard that is unmatched in the sport. Francisco, on the other hand, uses his athleticism to fly into submissions from everywhere. Not only are Ronaldo and Francisco incredible athletes, they are able to combine their physical attributes with sharp technique and perfect timing.
Ronaldo has already won two gold medals in 2023, winning the Atlanta and Memphis Opens with four fights, three submissions, and a total of twenty seven points scored. Francisco is coming off excellent no-gi performances in 2022 that included two of the best submissions of the year. Will we see Ronaldo use his explosiveness to pass Francisco’s guard or will Francisco find another highlight reel submission? One thing is for certain, you will not want to blink during this match.
Watch the Tezos IBJJF FloGrappling GP this Friday March 3rd, only on flograppling.com.