TXMMA – Texas Mixed Martial Arts

Top Athletes to Watch at the 2012 IBJJF Houston Open

Ryan Hall (50/50) vs. Frost Murphy (Elite MMA) at the 2011 IBJJF Houston Open | photo: Mike Calimbas


HOUSTON, TX, February 9, 2012 The 2012 IBJJF Houston Open is upon us this weekend (Feb. 11-12) from the from the Jerabeck Activity and Athletic Center at University of St. Thomas and it’s shaping up to an exciting display of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in action. As is customary every year (and every IBJJF event), top athletes from all over the world will be swarming onto the mats in order to vie for prestigious IBJJF gold in preparation for other exclusive events through the year like the Pan-Ams and the Worlds so the competition should be fierce at all levels.

Let’s being by checking out some of the top black belt athletes flying in from out of town to compete in the adult divisions this weekend.


IBJJF Houston Open 2012 – Black Belts to Watch


Rafael and Guilherme Mendes (ATOS)

We could write a page on each of these brothers but for the sake of brevity, we’ll just group them together and simply say that both Rafael Mendes and Guilherme Mendes belong in the discussion of best lighter weight competitors in the world. An innovator of the controversial yet effective 50/50 guard, Rafael Mendes has built himself to be practically unbeatable in the featherweight division as a 5x world champion and 2x ADCC champion in recent times. Likewise, his brother Guilherme is a 2x Jiu Jitsu World Pro Cup champion himself and has also won twice at the IBJJF European Open.


Ryan Hall (50/50)

A black belt under 2-time world champion Felipe Costa, Ryan Hall has steadily built himself up to be one of the best players in the world in the past few years. His accolades include 24 Grapplers Quest titles to go along with numerous IBJJF medals and an ADCC bronze medal. His triangle chokes and heel hooks are known to be amongst the best in the sport.


Jonathan (JT) Torres (Team Lloyd Irvin)

Known as “Spiderman,” JT Torres is an exciting Lloyd Irvin black belt that’s been competing at the top of his weight class (leve) since getting his black belt in 2009. Since that time he’s medaled at the Nogi Pan Ams, Worlds Nogi, and the Brazilian Nationals. He also recently took silver at the recent IBJJF European Open and will be looking to continue his 2012 run against a strong field also featuring former Lloyd Irvin student Ryan Hall this weekend in Houston.


Abmar Barbosa (Drysdale BJJ)

A black belt under Robert Drysdale, Abmar Barbosa made his mark in the BJJ world by defeating heavily-favored Kron Gracie and also submitting Lucas Leite at the 2010 Pan Ams. His main titles so far include a silver medal at those games and a bronze at the open weight of the brown belt division in 2008.


Andre Galvao (ATOS)

A multiple-time world champion and winner of the ADCC World Championship at both his weight and the absolute division, André Galvão is already considered one of the best of all time. His accolades on the mats speak for themselves. He’s beaten a who’s who of top competitors throughout his career, including Rousimar Toquinho Palhares and Pablo Popovitch to win the absolute title at the ADCC this past September. A black belt protégé of Fernando Tererê Augusto, he now heads the ATOS team in the U.S. and has also authored Drill to Win, one of the best BJJ instructional books anyone can find.


Jake Mackenzie (Fight Sport)

A black belt under r Roberto “Cyborg” Abreu, Canadian Jake Mackenzie s a well-traveled athlete that has won all over the world, including mulitple titles under both the CBJJO and CBJJE in Brazil. He is also a 2009 champion at the IBJJF American Nationals and 2x winner at the Abu Dhabi Pro North American Trials.


Texas Black Belts

No list of top names to look out for at the 2012 IBJJF Houston Open would be complete without mentioning some of Texas’ finest set to challenge for gold this weekend. Guys like Andre Monteiro (Carlson Gracie) and Pablo Silva (Gracie Barra) are coming to challenge the Mendes Brothers at Pena. Likewise, Albert Hughes (Genesis) and Chris Westfall (Nova Uniao) will be gunning for Hall and Torres at Leve. Stephen Hall (Alliance) Fabiana Borges (Gracie Barra) and Brandon Mullins (Gracie Barra) are also set to appear at the Open pending opponents in their brackets. There’s a ton more guys from the lone star state in both the adult and masters divisions that have yet to be mentioned but they’ll all be gunning to let the world know who they are this Sunday.


IBJJF Houston Open 2012 – Brown Belt Preview


Brown belt should be fun to watch this year.

At pena, we’re looking forward to seeing Gianni Grippo (Renzo Gracie) come in and compete against a field that includes Gracie Barra’s Arnold Garza.

Likewise, we’re looking forward to seeing 2011 TXMMA purple belt of the year Julian Vega (Elite MMA) in one of his first big competitions yet at brown belt at Federico Reyes (Paragon) and out-of-town challenger Rafael Costa (Renzo Gracie) at leve.

Meio-Pesado is also shaping up to be a good four-man battle between Mark Peltier (Paragon), Robert Yamashita (Elite MMA), Dondi Morgan (Nova Uniao), and Daniel Sweeney (Alliance).

Last but not least on our list to watch out forin the men’s adult classes will be an epic clash at super-pesado between Arsenal JJ’s Luis Rubalcava taking on big Gabe Campbell from Oklahoma’s Lovato School of BJJ. That one should be a great matchup.


IBJJF Houston Open 2012 – Purple Belt Preview


It gets a little harder to narrow down who to look out for at purple belt because it’s such a wide open class and many guys are still looking to make their names or we just haven’t seen them yet. In any case, here are a few divisions that caught our eye.

Leve should be a good one with Brandon Russell (DDR JJ) coming in to compete against a field that also includes Sanjay Rao of Gracie Barra Texas along with several others.

Also at medio, Michael Foster (Alliance) comes in after an impressive 2011 showing to compete against a strong field that includes Tyler Steppe (Marcelo Garcia) in the first round.

Next at medio-pesado, Keenan Cornelius (Llloyd Irvin) leads the field as the favorite. Camron Couch (Alliance) will also be marking his return to the US after a few months stay in Brazil against an 8-man division (so far) that includes tough competitor Shiloh Roberts (Lovato) and many others.

Last but not least for our purposes, we go to the pesado division where Braden Masters (Fight Sport) and Reed Shelger (GF Team) are both competing against 3 other tough guys in what should be another one to watch.


IBJJF Houston Open 2012 – Blue Belt Preview


There are WAY too many athletes competing at blue belt and we’re not about to pick needles out of the haystack but we do have out eye on two divisions in particular.

At pena, 18 athletes will be vying for gold including Cameron Graves (Team Tooke), 2011 TXMMA Blue Belt of the Year Emmanuel Martinez (Texas Punishment Crew), Jonathan Wheeler (Texas Punishment Crew), Jermaine Brown (Lovato), and Roman Hernandez (Arsenal JJ). Out of all divisions, this would certainly be one of the ones to watch out for.

Even more athletes have entered at medio with 22 overall so far on the list. Among them is Pedro Migliano (Rillion Gracie), and Cooper Cardinale (Nova Uniao) but there are so many guys in this division that it could go any way and should also certainly be one to watch.


IBJJF Houston Open 2012 – Female Divisions


What’s a full preview of this event without mentioning the ladies? Incomplete, that’s what it is.

Aside from Fabiana Borges, plenty of other women from Texas and beyond are making their way to Houston this weekend and we’re looking to seeing them give their all on the mats.

Here are a few names that caught our eye.

Lana Hunter (Carlson Gracie) vs. Kristin Summer (Gracie Barra Texas) at purple belt pluma should be a good one.

There’s also an epic divisional showdown brewing at leve between Lora Hallock (Paragon)< Kristine Felts (Nova Uniao), and Angelica Galvao (ATOS). Lora’s been on a tear competing against the men lately and for those of you that don’t know, Angelica Galvao is wife to a one of the best in the world and already a champion at faixa roxa so this should be hotly contested.

Danielle Alvarez (Nova Uniao), Laura Uyeda (Avengers), and many others are also set to appear at the blue belt level along with a sea of female competitors looking to make their name at white belt. For the sake of brevity, we’ll let them make their names known this weekend rather than mentioning all of them here.


IBJJF Houston Open 2012 – Who Else?


So did we miss anybody? We’re sure we did but that’s why they will lay out the mats out the mats this Saturday and Sunday. We’ll be there to cover all the action and recap the event so those names that weren’t mentioned herein will get a chance to prove us wrong and put our eye on them next time around here in Texas.

We’ll leave you with a few notable matches from last year’s 2011 IBJJF Houston Open to take us away from this preview until this weekend.

See you on the mats!

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  • Jfzippererjr

    We can’t forget to mention black belt Jeff Messina (Revolution Dojo/BJJ Revolution Team) who has won multiple medals on the national and international circuit. WAR ALWAYS STARTS WITH A REVOLUTION! OSSS!

    • I didn’t mention anybody in the masters divisions otherwise he would have been right up there. 
      Jeff is awesome!

  • C Farias

    Too bad i’m not there, because I’m sorely missed! 

  • Dpevoteaux

    Macaco didn’t register either for masters, card expired, has fight coming up next month or so!