OTM BJJ Player of the Year: Rodolfo Vieira
Rodolfo Vieira did something unique in 2011 in the world of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. He was able to fill the seemingly insurmountable void left in the heavier weight classes of the sport, when jiu-jitsu's most dominant figure Roger Gracie decided to focus on his MMA career. However, as Roger's MMA career in Strikeforce began to take form, a new star was born as Rodolfo's BJJ career took off.
Rodolfo Vieira may be a new name to some, but he certainly isn't a stranger to his fellow competitors, especially other black belts. In fact, he became an overnight sensation in sport back in 2009, after he won the World Pro Jiu-Jitsu Cup (WPJJC) - Brazilian Trials in the combined Black Belt / Brown Belt division. He did so competing as a brown belt defeating high-level black belts with plenty of experience in top tournaments, thus earning him the nickname "Caçador dos Faixas Pretas", which in Portuguese means "The Black Belt Hunter".
Starting out the 2011 competition schedule, Rodolfo repeated that same accomplishment in January, but this time as an established black belt. At the WPJJC - Brazilian Trials, he won his weight class and the absolute division, as well as the finals in April that took place in Abu Dhabi, UAE.
The theme to Rodolfo's win in January wouldn't just be something he saved for WPJJC tournaments either, as it would hold true for every major IBJJF tournament he would enter last year as well. The star pupil from Grappling Fight Team (GF Team), formerly known as Universidade Gama Filho (UGF), would accomplish winning the prestigious double (weight class and absolute) again at the IBJJF Pan Jiu-Jitsu Championship (Pan Ams) in March and later at the IBJJF World Jiu-Jitsu Championship (Worlds) in June.
In order to gain the full appreciation of the way Rodolfo finished his 2011 run at the Worlds, it's worth taking a closer look at who he defeated and how he did it in his weight class and the absolute division. In the heavyweight division, he defeated Dustin Denes (26-0), Gybson Sá (Armbar), Rafael Lovato Jr. (20-2), and Bernardo Faria (3-0), while in the absolute division he defeated Matt Jubera (Triangle Choke), Claudio Calasans (Armbar) Sergio Moraes (Armbar), Buchecha (Armbar), and Bernardo Faria (9-0).
After an amazing year, we are pleased to announce that Rodolfo Vieira is the winner of the 2011 "OTM BJJ Player of the Year" Award!
OTM Submission Grappler of the Year: André Galvão
They say patience is a virtue and after the year André Galvão just had in Submission Grappling, he would be the first to agree with that sentiment. In 2007, Galvão got his first taste of ADCC medals by taking home a bronze medal in both his -77 kg weight class and the absolute division. However, one can argue that the taste that the double-double (weight class and absolute) at ADCC 2007 left in Galvão's mouth was more like a microwavable double-double and not one made famous by In-N-Out.
So like any true champion, Galvão looked to improve upon that performance and did just that in the following tournament at ADCC 2009. This time winning a silver medal in the -88 kg weight class. Even though, he was making progress, he still desired the ADCC gold that had been eluding him.
After taking three MMA fights in the Strikeforce organization in 2010, Galvão took a break from his MMA career in 2011 to concentrate on other goals, such as training specifically for no-gi grappling. He did this in preparation for the biennial ADCC tournament knowing that his best chance to capture ADCC gold would be to concentrate and train specifically for this tournament alongside his star-studded team at Atos.
That focus and dedication paid off tenfold in September, after Galvão flew to Nottingham, England, UK to compete at ADCC 2011. In the first round of the -88 kg division, Galvão would eliminate American grappler Don Ortega via points. In the quarter-finals, Galvão would defeat Icelandic star and Renzo Gracie black belt Gunnar Nelson (3-0). In the semi-finals, Galvão eliminated ADCC 2007 champion Pablo Popovitch (2-0). Then in the finals, Galvão would outclass UFC star and leg-locking stalwart Rousimar "Toquinho" Palhares (9-4). The win gave Galvão his first ADCC gold medal.
That wasn't enough for him that day, however, as he would happily agree to take part in the absolute division as well. In the first round of the absolute, Galvão submitted Japanese grappler Shinzo Ansai via Rear Naked Choke. In the quarter-finals, he would defeat Alliance star Sergio Moraes via points (6-0). In the semi-finals, Galvão would defeat Mario Yamasaki black belt Murilo Santana via an advantage. Then in the finals of the absolute division, Galvão submitted the nearly unsubmittable Pablo Popovitch via Toe Hold.
This gave Galvão the prestigious ADCC double and the opportunity to face Braulio Estima in a ADCC Superfight in 2013. Braulio won both his weight class and absolute in 2009, as well as a superfight against Ronald "Jacare" Souza at ADCC 2011 making an ADCC 2013 Braulio Estima vs. André Galvão superfight a match everyone will be waiting for over the next two years!
Now without further ado, we here at OTM are happy to announce André Galvão is the winner of the 2011 "OTM Submission Grappler of the Year" Award!
OTM MMA Fighter of the Year: Jon Jones
What can you really say about the year Jon Jones just had, other than when does he fight next? As 2011 began, Jones was only 23 years old, but found himself already in the title picture. To get that coveted title shot, he would be tasked with facing fellow rising star in the undefeated Ryan Bader who is most well-known for winning The Ultimate Fighter 8. The bout, which took place at UFC 126 in Las Vegas of last year as part of the UFC's annual Super Bowl weekend card, drew a lot of attention due to the similarities between Jones and Bader.
If you look past the DQ loss on Jones' record, which happened in a bout he was dominating Matt Hamill, then both Jones and Bader would have been 12-0 coming into the bout. Furthermore, both fighters came from collegiate wrestling backgrounds and showed tremendous striking power. However, all of the Internet debates got put to bed early that night, as Jones dominated the first round and sunk a fight-ending guillotine choke in Round 2.
After his "Submission of the Night" award winning victory over Bader, UFC president Dana White walked into the cage and gave Jones his title shot. That title shot would come the following month in the main event of UFC 128. Jones would face current UFC light-heavyweight champion Mauricio "Shogun" Rua, who at one time was considered the best 205-pound fighter on the planet. Jones would dispense of the champion with a brutal onslaught of punches and knees in Round 3, which made him the youngest champion in UFC history.
Jones was then set to defend his belt for the first time at UFC 133 in August against former friend and teammate Rashad Evans, but a hand injury kept him out of the bout. He instead returned a month later to face Quinton "Rampage" Jackson in the main event of UFC 135. Rampage made it into Round 4, but that is when Jones decided to call an end to things by submitting Rampage via Rear Naked Choke.
Jones' win over Rampage looked to set up the highly-anticipated grudge match with Evans, but this time Evans had an injury to rest and Jones would instead fight Lyoto Machida at UFC 140 in December. Machida came out in the first round with an approach unlike anything Jones had faced before, but he quickly adapted, figured it out, and choked Machida unconscious in Round 2 for his second title defense.
The Cliff's Notes version of Jones' 2011 run in the UFC reads like this: 1 UFC championship title, 3 submission wins, 1 TKO win, 2 wins over former UFC champions, 1 win over a TUF champion, 1 Submission of the Night bonus, and 2 Fight of the Night bonuses. It should also be noted that win #1 was over an undefeated fighter and TUF 8 champion, win #2 was over the current UFC light-heavyweight champion, win #3 was over a former UFC light-heavyweight champion, and win #4 was over a former UFC light-heavyweight champion. Moreover, not one of those fights went the distance, showcasing Jones' ability and willingness to finish fights.
Therefore, we here at OTM are proud to announce that Jon Jones is the winner of the 2011 "OTM MMA Fighter of the Year" Award!
Check out the rest of the winners from the OTM Awards 2011 here: www.onthemat.com/blogs-posts/otm-awards-2011-recap.