OTM Female BJJ Player of the Year: Luanna Alzuguir
Luanna Alzuguir kicked off her 2011 jiu-jitsu (gi) competition schedule without missing a beat, after enjoying a very successful run in 2009 and 2010. In January of last year, Alzuguir left Lisbon, Portugal with a gold medal at the IBJJF European Open Jiu-Jitsu Championship in the Female Brown Belt / Black Belt lightweight division, as well as a silver medal in the Absolute.
She followed that up two months later by winning the prestigious double (weight class and the Absolute) at the IBJJF Pan Jiu-Jitsu Championship in Irvine, California, USA. It should also be noted that Alzuguir did this at last year's "Pan Ams", which many consider the toughest Pan Jiu-Jitsu Championship to date with the who's who of jiu-jitsu's elite filling the black belt divisions from top to bottom.
Alzuguir would then travel to Abu Dhabi, UAE in April, where she would look to win World Professional Jiu-Jitsu Cup (WPJJC), which has quickly become one of the world's top BJJ tournaments with many stars in jiu-jitsu focusing on this event and the WPJJC regional trials for an opportunity to win an all-expense paid trip to advance to the finals and win cosnsiderable amount of prize money. Alzuguir would do just that, as she defeated Gracie Humaita's Beatriz Mesquita to win the $8,000 purse.
The Marco Barbosa black belt, Alzuguir, then looked to put the finishing touches on an incredible individual year of achievement in jiu-jitsu (gi). In June, she entered the IBJJF World Jiu-Jitsu Championship in Long Beach, California, USA. She did so looking to earn her third Gi world championship in Jiu-Jitsu, after winning her lightweight division in 2009 and the absolute in 2010.
It should also be noted, that Alzuguir actually entered the Worlds with a badly injured rib. She had broke her rib before the "Pan Ams" in March and it never fully healed. After going back to Brazil to rest and recuperate, she aggravated the injury during her win at the WPJJC in April and her instructor Fabio Gurgel at Alliance had advised her that she would only be allowed to compete in her weight class at the Worlds and not against the bigger women in the absolute this year. Showing the true heart and determination of a champion, she would indeed win her third Gi world championship by winning her Female Brown Belt / Black Belt lightweight division.
After such an amazing year filled with gold medals won on 3 continents in each of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu's most prestigious worldwide tournaments, the Euros, Pan Ams, WPJJC, and Worlds, it is our distinct pleasure to present Luanna Alzuguir with the 2011 "OTM Female BJJ Player of the Year" Award!
OTM Female Submission Grappler of the Year: Kyra Gracie
Kyra Gracie is one woman in the world of grappling that really needs no introduction. Kyra has been the topic of discussion amongst the jiu-jitsu community for over the past decade, since the time she was just a teenager, and even more so once now that she is one of the few Gracie women to achieve a black belt in jiu-jitsu. She is also the first female Gracie, jiu-jitsu's first family, to actively compete in the sport.
Now that Kyra is a multiple time world champion in the Gi (IBJJF Worlds) and has been recently focusing on MMA training with Claudio Coelho (Striking) and Leo Leite (Wrestling), many wondered if she would decide to compete in last year's biennial ADCC Submission Wrestling World Championship in Nottingham, England, UK, after missing out on the most recent edition of the tournament in 2009.
Kyra had won both editions of the tournament to take place in the United States, ADCC 2005 and ADCC 2007, and would indeed participate in the first ADCC event to be hosted in the United Kingdom. The decision to return to ADCC competition this past year was aided in the fact that her unlce Renzo Gracie would also be making a return to the event after missing 2009's tournament. While Renzo would compete in a Superfight against Mario Sperrt, Kyra would return to the women's -60 kg (132 lb) weight division.
In her first match of ADCC 2011 this past September, Kyra would submit Swedish grappler Sara Svensson via armbar. In the semi-finals, Kyra would meet Japanese MMA veteran Takayo Hashi. Hashi, who headlined a Showtime event for Strikeforce in 2010, had defeated local British favorite and fellow MMA veteran Rosi Sexton in her first match. Kyra would attempt a flying triangle and attack with an omoplata and sweeps before submitting Hashi via Guillotine Choke.
In the finals, Kyra would meet Michelle Nicolini. Kyra would be gunning for a bit of redemption after losing in the Gi to Nicolini in the finals of the Female Brown Belt / Black Belt lightweight division at the the IBJJF World Jiu-Jitsu Championship in June. The match was mostly spent mostly in Nicolini’s closed guard with Nicolini applying two deep armbars, but Kyra defended with superior technique and heart. After Nicolini scored a takedown, Kyra was able to gain top position, and transition to an omoplata. That would prove to be the deciding technique as Kyra won ADCC 2011 with an omoplata.
After making a triumphant and exciting return to ADCC and the submission grappling scene, capturing her third ADCC Submission Wrestling World Championship in the process, we here at OTM are honored to present Kyra Gracie with the 2011 "OTM Female Submission Grappler of the Year" Award!
OTM Female MMA Fighter of the Year: Miesha Tate
Miesha Tate came into her own as an elite Mixed Martial Artist in 2010, after defeating all four opponents she faced, including three in Strikeforce, which is the world's premier organization for women's MMA. The first of her three Strikeforce wins that year came over current Bellator strawweight champion Zoila Gurgel. The other two came in the same night against Maiju Kujala and Hitomi Akano to win the Strikeforce women's bantamweight tournament.
Two months after Tate won her title shot, she would see the title change hands after Dutch fighter and former 145-pound title challenger Marloes Coenen submitted Strikeforce's 135-pound champion Sarah Kaufman via armbar. This was the first loss of Kaufman's career, who is only one of two women to ever defeat Tate. However, this did not change Tate's mindset heading into 2011. That goal and ambition remained the same: win the Strikeforce bantamweight title. She would have her title shot against Coenen scheduled for the big Strikeforce - Feijao vs. Henderson event on Saturday, March 5, 2011. Unfortunately, Tate was forced to withdraw from the fight after suffering a knee injury in training and the bout would be postponed until summer.
She would not let that setback derail her dream and with her strong will, determination, and the support of her longtime boyfriend and trainer Bryan Caraway, the hard work finally paid off once the title fight was rescheduled as the co-main event for Strikeforce - Fedor vs. Henderson on Saturday, July 30, 2011 in Hoffman Estates, Illinois. As the title fight unfolded, Tate would be tested considerably by the larger Dutch fighter Coenen, who has fought some of the largest and most physically imposing women in the sport, such as former Strikeforce women's featherweight champion Cristiane "Cyborg" Santos.
Tate would remain calm and composed throughout the bout, relying on her strong wrestling base, which has earned her the nickname "Takedown". Eventually, she would weather the storm and dangerous submission game from the champion, force the bout past Round 3, and into the championship rounds. That is where Tate saw an opportunity and took it. She was not content with keeping dominant positioning on Coenen and had no desire to let this fight be decided by the judges, which is what promted her to jump on an asphyxiating Arm-Triangle Choke, which forced the champion to tap at 3:03 of Round 4.
The win proved that the quality of her championship win in 2011 had indeed eclipsed the quantity of work she put forth the year before. It also showed that her hard work, skill, and the will to win effectively trumped the injury she sustained earlier in the year. Now that Tate is the only remaining women's champion under the Zuffa umbrella (Cyborg was recently stripped of her title due to a failed steroid test), only bigger things lay ahead for her in 2012. Specifically, her first title defense against Olympic Judo medalist, undefeated MMA fighter, and 2011 "OTM Breakthrough MMA Fighter of the Year" award winner Ronda Rousey. The bout has been signed and is scheduled to take place at the same venue in which Tate's first title shot was orignally scheduled to take place last year. During the Arnold Sports Festival on Saturday, March 3rd, 2012 in Columbus, Ohio, USA.
After winning the Strikeforce women's bantamweight title and leading the way for women's MMA during Zuffa's first year involved with women's MMA, we here at OTM are honored to present Miesha Tate with the 2011 "OTM Female 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.