The 2019 IBJJF European Championship is underway, the championship is the first of the four IBJJF “majors” of the year and for most competitors the first tournament of the year, for the European competitors, it is an opportunity to show off their skills in front of a home crowd. This year has many of the best European black belts set to put it all on the line. Find out which Europeans we think will find success on their side of the Atlantic.
Norway’s Espen Mathiesen and Tommy Langaker are two young and hungry Middleweights who have already made a name for themselves at black belt. Langaker took 3rd in the open class last year at his first Europeans as a black belt, in last years run he submitted Erberth Santos by triangle choke. He has definitely earned his reputation as a finisher and has successfully been able to bring his aggressive style to the black belt level. We could see a rematch in the final from last year’s World final between Langaker and Brazilian ace Isaque Bahiense.
Mathiesen has one of the toughest guards to pass in the world. He utilizes the lapels to attack the back from the guard often and has improved his game from the top position since graduating to black belt. Known as a student of the game, it will be exciting to see what new innovations he will bring to the table this year. He will have a big test to start his tournament with Irishmen Darragh O'Conaill.
Darragh O'Conaill is a seasoned veteran who has helped establish the BJJ community in his native land. He leads Irelands top team, East Coast Jiu-Jitsu Academy and has a large batch of students making a name for themselves in the colored belts. O’Conaill uses an excellent X-Guard, guillotine and is an expert at attacking the neck from the front headlock. He will need to be on point this weekend, as he faces a tough road to gold at middleweight with Espen Mathiesen, Isaque Bahiense and Progress Jiu Jitsu sponsored athlete Sebastian Brosché on his side of the bracket.
Sebastian Brosché has competed sporadically in recent years but, will be a factor in the Middleweight Divison. The Swedish born black belt and yogi brings a unique style and approach to BJJ which makes it difficult for opponents to prepare for. To find the podium he will need to overcome some tough challenges but don’t count this veteran out.
Adam Wardzinski will throw down a Heavyweight and is favorite for the open class should he chose to enter. Wardzinski keeps a busy schedule competing (and winning) all over the world and recently took gold at UAEJJF Grand Slam Abu Dhabi. The Heavyweight division is stacked but, this Polish guard player is a favorite for gold.
Kingz Kimonos standout Ffion Davies became the first Welsh first black belt world champion when she captured gold at last months World No-gi. Now training in Ireland at East Coast Jiu-Jitsu Academy she has continued to be successful since receiving her black belt from Darragh O'Conaill last November. She is the favorite for gold at Featherweight.
Amal Amjahid, another Kingz athlete, is another recently promoted black belt who is a favorite to win their first European gold medal at the black belt level. The Belgian grappler took gold at the UAEJJF Grand Slam Tokyo recently and is also a world champion in the JJIF rule set. Amjahid will be competing in the Light-Featherweight Division.
England’s Samantha Cook will move down to Middleweight after finishing 2nd last year at Medium-Heavyweight. Representing CheckMat, Cook is always poised to win gold no matter who is in her division. She was a bronze medal winner at last years World Championship. She will be a force at black belt for years to come.
Venla Luukkonen is Finland’s first black belt world champion winning the title in 2014. Luukkonen is a seasoned veteran who is still active on the competition circuit. She is a fierce guard passer with strong finishes from the top position. Luukkonen will need to overcome super tough Carina Santi and Jessica Flowers to take home gold. She is also a favorite for open weight podium if she enters.