The Abu Dhabi World Pro 2023 is scheduled to take place from November 8th to 10th, 2023 and we’ve put together a preview of the event that includes dozens of the world’s best grapplers. The men’s black belt divisions and women’s brown and black belt divisions are stacked with elite BJJ competitors and there will be a ton of action once the event starts. There are so many athletes entering each division that many of them will require qualifier tournaments before the main bracket starts just to whittle down the competitor list. With so much competition in each division, it can be tough to pick out those who are most likely to win while still keeping an eye on the next generation of top talent that might be about to break through.
Abu Dhabi World Pro 2023 Full Preview
In this preview of the Abu Dhabi World Pro 2023 we’ve picked out multiple favorites to win each division and a dark horse that could end up upsetting the balance in a huge way. This isn’t an exhaustive list of every elite grappler in each division, and there are several exciting young competitors we haven’t picked as the dark horse to win. Every single champion from the 2022 edition is returning, although not all of them will end up retaining their belt once the dust has settled this year.
Men’s Black Belt Divisions
The men’s divisions include several of the best competitors on the planet, and these are the divisions that are exclusively open to BJJ black belts. There are both purple and brown belt divisions taking place over the course of the same weekend as well though.
Light-Featherweight (Under 56kg)
Favorites – The reigning champion at light-featherweight is Zayed Alkatheeri and he’ll be eager to defend his title against some tough opposition. One of his fiercest rivals is also present in the division though, as Yuri Hendrex will be looking to level the score after dropping 1-2 against him in matches. Thalison Soares is another big name at light-featherweight and after beating Alkatheeri at ADXC 1 recently, he’s got a great chance of winning if he makes it through the Brazil Qualifier beforehand.
Dark Horse – Shay Montague is still often overlooked despite some big wins since being promoted to black belt, but it’s not hard to imagine the him shocking the world and taking the title home to Scotland.
Featherweight (Under 62kg)
Favorites – Meyram Maquine is returning to defend his title at featherweight and it’s incredibly hard to bet against him, given that he’s only lost a handful of times since being promoted to black belt back in 2020. Leonardo Mario is a veteran of the AJP Tour circuit though, and he might just be able to beat Maquine in a direct match if a few things go his way.
Dark Horse – Khaled Alshehhi is relatively new to competing at the highest level, as he was only promoted to black belt earlier this year. He’s still young and it’s going to be an uphill battle for him, but he might be able to surprise a few of the more experienced competitors in this preview of Abu Dhabi World Pro 2023.
Lightweight (Under 69kg)
Favorites – The lightweight champion from last year is Diego Sodre, and one of his toughest matches in the division will be Thiago Macedo. He’s already beaten Macedo three times before but they’ve always been close matches, and it’s not hard to imagine Macedo getting one back. Diego’s older brother Alex Sodre also happens to be in the Brazilian qualifier and he will be another top contender for the title if he makes it through.
Dark Horse – Israel Almeida is also in the Brazilian qualifier and although it’s notoriously hard to make it through both the qualifying rounds and the proper tournament, he does have a decent chance of doing it.
Welterweight (Under 77kg)
Favorites – Lucas Protasio is the favorite at welterweight as the defending champion, but it won’t be entirely easy for him to repeat that feat. Two Europeans are interesting threats to him, with Max Lindblad and Leon Larman both being challenging and unique opponents but it’s hard to see anyone stopping Protasio really.
Dark Horse – Jhonathan Pessanha is in an incredibly tough Brazil qualifier with 25 other grapplers but if he does make it through then he might be able to cause some big upsets.
Middleweight (Under 85kg)
Favorites – There’s no returning champion in the middleweight division, but that doesn’t mean there’s no favorites. Uanderson Ferreira was last year’s bronze medalist and he’s eager to do even better this year., but one of his biggest threats comes from Levi Jones-Leary, who returns to the tournament after getting a bronze medal in his last appearance in 2021. The other major player in this preview of the Abu Dhabi World Pro 2023 middleweight division is Jansen Gomes, although he’ll have to make it through the Brazilian qualifier first.
Dark Horse – Faris Ben-lamkadem has been in great form lately and he might be able to carry that on here, but it’s a really tough challenge in such a stacked division.
Light-Heavyweight (Under 94kg)
Favorites – This is the only division with two reigning champions in it, as Fellipe Andrew has moved up from middleweight after winning that division last year. Catriel Fernandes is the returning light-heavyweight champion though, and it’s tough to pick between these two men. With these two in the same division, it’s a pretty safe bet that one of them will be this year’s winner.
Dark Horse – It’s going to take something truly special for anyone else to win here, but Marcos Carrozzino is just the man who might be able to do it.
Super-Heavyweight (Under 120kg)
Favorites – Yatan Bueno is a dominant force in the super-heavyweight division and dethroning him as the champion will be very hard. There’s not many people in the bracket who would be likely to beat him in a straight match, although Anton Minenko is definitely in with a shout and he should be able to reach the podium at the very least.
Women’s Brown And Black Belt Divisions
The Abu Dhabi World Pro 2023 will follow the same format as the other AJP Tour events in that women will compete in mixed brown and black belt divisions, so this preview will feature some brown belt competitors as well. The only other women’s divisions available at the event will be for purple belts only.
Roosterweight (Under 49kg)
Favorites – Brenda Larissa is the reigning champion at roosterweight and she would normally be a clear favorite, but the Brazil qualifier only features two women and one of them happens to be Mayssa Bastos. The pair have met several times on the mats and Bastos leads the series between them by 5 wins to 2, with Larissa’s last win against her coming in 2021.
Dark Horse – Diana Teixeira is the returning silver medalist so it’s not as if she’s an unknown here, but she hasn’t beaten Larissa in all 3 of their matches before. It’s going to be difficult for her to beat Larissa or Bastos but she could win the division if she does manage to.
Light-Featherweight (Under 55kg)
Favorites – The light-featherweight division was won by Anna Rodrigues last time around and although the silver medalist Rose El Sharouni is also returning, Rodrigues has won all 8 of their previous matches. Alexa Yanes is another top competitor in the bracket that will be determined to dethrone her, particularly seeing as she has also lost all 3 of her matches with Rodrigues until now.
Dark Horse – Astrid Scholin has been putting in some great work to establish herself as a promising talent around Europe lately and she could spring an upset on some of other the top contenders, but it’s hard to imagine her dethroning Rodrigues.
Lightweight (Under 62kg)
Favorites – Julia Alves was the lightweight champion last year and without the rest of the podium returning, she may very well run clean through the division this time around. Nadine Tavares is one of a select few women in the bracket who might be able to stop her if things go right for them though, but she’s going to have to win the Brazil qualifier before she gets a chance to do so.
Dark Horse – Selma Vik is a very tough competitor and will probably demonstrate why she’s one to watch for the future, although it might be a little too early to see her standing at the very top of the podium just yet.
Middleweight (Under 70kg)
Favorites – The reigning middleweight champion is Izadora Silva but last year’s bronze medalist is also coming back for another chance. Ingridd Alves might have lost 3 of her 4 matches with Silva, but she has submitted her in one of them and could potentially do it again. There’s quite a few elite competitors who could end up winning this division though, including Leticia Cardozo and Nikki Lloyd-Griffiths.
Dark Horse – Nia Blackman is one of only three teenagers competing in the women’s brown and black belt divisions but she’s been making waves in the UK for some time now. It’ll be hard for her to overcome the experience gap fully, but she could leave the tournament with some big names added to her resume.
Heavyweight (Under 95kg)
Favorites – Gabrieli Pessanha is the biggest favorite in this entire preview of the Abu Dhabi World Pro 2023, and rightfully so. Not only is she the reigning heavyweight champion but she hasn’t lost a single match since 2021, and has hardly ever even been in trouble. Yara Soares was the last woman to beat her and she is in the Brazil qualifier, but Pessanha has won their last 7 matches in a row and should be able to extend that run further if they meet again.
Dark Horse – Giovanna Jara is also in the Brazil qualifier and she’ll almost certainly have to beat Soares to get into the proper bracket and Pessanha to take the title. That would be one of the greatest runs in the division’s history, but Jara is a fantastic competitor who might just be able to do it.
The full Abu Dhabi World Pro 2023 event, including all of the above divisions in this preview, will be available to watch live from November 8th to 10th, 2023 on AJPTour.tv.