Monday, July 31, 2017

Sunday, July 23, 2017

All the predictions


+100kg Men: Riner (FRA)
+78kg Women: Asahina (JPN)
-100kg Men: Haga (JPN)
-78kg Women: Tcheumeo (FRA)
-90kg Men: Toth (HUN)
-70kg Women: Arai (JPN)
-81kg Men: Khalmurzaev (RUS)
-63kg Women: Trstenjak (SLO)
-73kg Men: Soichi Hashimoto (JPN)
-57kg Women: Tsukasa Yoshida (JPN)
-66kg Men: Hifumi Abe (JPN)
-52kg Women: Majlinda Kelmendi (KOS)
-60kg Men: Naohisa Takato (JPN)
-48kg Women: Urantsetseg Munkhbat (MGL)

+78kg Analysis

Full Analysis


+100kg Men: Riner (FRA)
+78kg Women: Asahina (JPN)
-100kg Men: Haga (JPN)
-78kg Women: Tcheumeo (FRA)
-90kg Men: Toth (HUN)
-70kg Women: Arai (JPN)
-81kg Men: Khalmurzaev (RUS)
-63kg Women: Trstenjak (SLO)
-73kg Men: Soichi Hashimoto (JPN)
-57kg Women: Tsukasa Yoshida (JPN)
-66kg Men: Hifumi Abe (JPN)
-52kg Women: Majlinda Kelmendi (KOS)
-60kg Men: Naohisa Takato (JPN)
-48kg Women: Urantsetseg Munkhbat (MGL)

Sarah Asahina has had a string of Grand Slam victories in the past year and has the best track record of all the leading contenders.
The one with the strongest track record going into Budapest is Japan's Sarah Asahina, winner of the 2016 Tokyo Grand Slam, 2017 Paris Grand Slam and 2017 Ekaterinaburg Grand Slam.

China's World Champion Yu Song has competed only once since Rio 2016 and that was at the 2016 Qingdao Grand Prix which she won. But she is still certainly someone to contend with.

Other players to watch out for are Olympic Champion Emilie Andeole of France and rising star Maryna Slutskaya of Belarus.




+100kg Analysis

Full Analysis


+100kg Men: Riner (FRA)
+78kg Women: Asahina (JPN)
-100kg Men: Haga (JPN)
-78kg Women: Tcheumeo (FRA)
-90kg Men: Toth (HUN)
-70kg Women: Arai (JPN)
-81kg Men: Khalmurzaev (RUS)
-63kg Women: Trstenjak (SLO)
-73kg Men: Soichi Hashimoto (JPN)
-57kg Women: Tsukasa Yoshida (JPN)
-66kg Men: Hifumi Abe (JPN)
-52kg Women: Majlinda Kelmendi (KOS)
-60kg Men: Naohisa Takato (JPN)
-48kg Women: Urantsetseg Munkhbat (MGL)

Teddy Riner hasn't competed once since the Rio 2016 but he's been attending training camps and is still the top favorite for Budapest.
On paper, this is an easy one: Teddy Riner of France who has been unbeaten since 2011. Although capable of big throws, he is always prepared to play a strategic game when confronted with tough opponents in the final of an important competition like the World Championships or the Olympics. And with his excellent gripping he always comes up tops. He hasn't competed once since the 2016 Rio Olympics though. So we don't know what kind of shape he's in. But he has been going to international training camps so he's probably in fighting form.

The Japanese are sending two players for this category. Hisayoshi Harasawa fought Riner in the final of the Rio Olympics and although he was as bit tentative at the start, towards the end of the match, he was going after Riner fearlessly. If they meet again, he might not be as tentative. So, he is a real threat. Still, Riner is a master tactician. As for Takeshi Ojitani, he has never fought Riner, which would probably work towards his disadvantage as he would probably succumb to Riner's grips.

We are used to seeing big, fat players in the heavyweight division but none of these big, fat players have been able to dislodge Riner. Perhaps a more athletically-built heavyweight would be able to do so.

Israel's Or Sasson fought well against Riner in Rio but it doesn't look like he will be competing in Budapest. But there are two other athletic heavyweights to look out for. Guram Tushishvili of Georgia is the European Champion and he has excellent drop techniques. Lukas Krpalek has also done well adjusting to his new weight class and he is good at newaza. But both these men have never fought Riner, which again works to their disadvantage as they have never weathered his killer grips before. It's hard to imagine them being able to overcome that on their first try. 

-78kg Analysis

Full Analysis


+100kg Men: Riner (FRA)
+78kg Women: Asahina (JPN)
-100kg Men: Haga (JPN)
-78kg Women: Tcheumeo (FRA)
-90kg Men: Toth (HUN)
-70kg Women: Arai (JPN)
-81kg Men: Khalmurzaev (RUS)
-63kg Women: Trstenjak (SLO)
-73kg Men: Soichi Hashimoto (JPN)
-57kg Women: Tsukasa Yoshida (JPN)
-66kg Men: Hifumi Abe (JPN)
-52kg Women: Majlinda Kelmendi (KOS)
-60kg Men: Naohisa Takato (JPN)
-48kg Women: Urantsetseg Munkhbat (MGL)

Former World Champion Audrey Tcheumeo has the best track record in this category and is the likely gold medalist in Budapest.

For the longest time, the -78kg division saw a fierce tussle among three top players: USA's Kayla Harrison, France's Audrey Tcheumeo and Brazil's Mayra Aguiar.

Harrison has since retired. Aguiar has only competed once since Rio and she won at the 2017 Cancun Grand Prix. But Tcheumeo is the Olympic silver medallist and the current European Champion. She also won the Paris Grand Slam this year so she is in good form. She is probably the top favorite.

Former World Champion Mami Umeki of Japan is also a top contender. She is also in good form having won the 2017 Ekaterinaburg Grand Slam and the 2017 Dusseldorf Grand Prix.

Holland's Guusje Steenhuis has been performing well and is ranked No. 1 but she doesn't have the track record or experience of Tcheumeo, Umeki of Aguiar.

Hungary's Abigel Joo has a distinguished track record and is among the Top 5 in the IJF rankings. Home ground advantage might inspire her greatly.

-100kg Analysis

Full Analysis


+100kg Men: Riner (FRA)
+78kg Women: Asahina (JPN)
-100kg Men: Haga (JPN)
-78kg Women: Tcheumeo (FRA)
-90kg Men: Toth (HUN)
-70kg Women: Arai (JPN)
-81kg Men: Khalmurzaev (RUS)
-63kg Women: Trstenjak (SLO)
-73kg Men: Soichi Hashimoto (JPN)
-57kg Women: Tsukasa Yoshida (JPN)
-66kg Men: Hifumi Abe (JPN)
-52kg Women: Majlinda Kelmendi (KOS)
-60kg Men: Naohisa Takato (JPN)
-48kg Women: Urantsetseg Munkhbat (MGL)

Defending World Champion Ryonosuke Haga has not competed much since the Olympics but he is a top prospect for Budapest.
The clear favorite here is defending World Champion Ryonosuke Haga of Japan. He had lost to the Czech Republic's Lukas Krpalek in the 2016 Rio Olympics but Krpalek has since moved up a category. Haga has competed in only one IJF World Tour event since the Olympics -- the 2017 Hohhot Grand Prix -- and he won that one, defeating Russia's Kirll Denisov in the final.

His compatriot Aaron Wolf is also representing Japan in this weight category. While Wolf has done well in domestic competitions, his international track record is not as impressive as Haga's. This is reflected in their rankings. Haga is 7th while Wolf is 31st.

Other exciting players to watch out for are former World Champion Elkhan Mammadov of Azerbaijan; Olympic silver medalist Elmar Gasimov also of Azerbaijan; and double World Silver Medallist Kirill Denisov, who has just moved up to this weight class. And don't forget, Georgia's Varlam Liparteliani is in this weight category too. 

Saturday, July 22, 2017

-70kg Analysis

Full Analysis


+100kg Men: Riner (FRA)
+78kg Women: Asahina (JPN)
-100kg Men: Haga (JPN)
-78kg Women: Tcheumeo (FRA)
-90kg Men: Toth (HUN)
-70kg Women: Arai (JPN)
-81kg Men: Khalmurzaev (RUS)
-63kg Women: Trstenjak (SLO)
-73kg Men: Soichi Hashimoto (JPN)
-57kg Women: Tsukasa Yoshida (JPN)
-66kg Men: Hifumi Abe (JPN)
-52kg Women: Majlinda Kelmendi (KOS)
-60kg Men: Naohisa Takato (JPN)
-48kg Women: Urantsetseg Munkhbat (MGL)

Chizuru Arai has had a fantastic run in the lead up to the World's with many wins in major competitions.
 The top favorites for the -70kg gold are all within the Top 3 in the IJF Rankings but it's the No. 3, Japan's Chizuru Arai, who looks to be the leading candidate for the top spot in Budapest. Her track record is impressive with 2016 Tyumen Grand Slam gold, 2017 Paris Grand Slam gold and 2017 Dusseldorf Grand Prix gold.

Colombia's Yuri Alvear is also a major contender as she does remarkably well at the World's. She's won it three times already. And she's got a good competition record in the lead up to the World's. But she's already 31 while Arai has got youth on her side at 23.

The world ranked No. 1, Elvismar Rodriguez (who fights for the IJF) is definitely a contender but she doesn't yet have the track record of either Arai or Alvear.

-90kg Analysis

Full Analysis


+100kg Men: Riner (FRA)
+78kg Women: Asahina (JPN)
-100kg Men: Haga (JPN)
-78kg Women: Tcheumeo (FRA)
-90kg Men: Toth (HUN)
-70kg Women: Arai (JPN)
-81kg Men: Khalmurzaev (RUS)
-63kg Women: Trstenjak (SLO)
-73kg Men: Soichi Hashimoto (JPN)
-57kg Women: Tsukasa Yoshida (JPN)
-66kg Men: Hifumi Abe (JPN)
-52kg Women: Majlinda Kelmendi (KOS)
-60kg Men: Naohisa Takato (JPN)
-48kg Women: Urantsetseg Munkhbat (MGL)

Krisztian Toth has not been in his best form lately but home ground advantage may be enough to push him all the way to the top.
The top favorite for the -90kg gold won't be in Budapest due to injury. Japan's Olympic Champion Mashu Baker seriously injured his shoulder in the All-Japan Weight Class Championships, and had to undergo an operation. This unfortunately meant that he would have to skip the World's.

The Olympic silver medalist Varlam Liparteliani of Georgia has moved up to -100kg so he won't be competing in this division either. His fellow Georgian, Beka Gviniashvili, who fought at -100kg in Rio, has moved back down to -90kg. He is a powerful player and certainly a contender for the top spot but there are many others who are good prospects for the gold.

Krisztian Toth is both powerful and technical and was a World silver medalist. So, he's definitely a top prospect but his form has been a bit off lately. Still, he has the benefit of home ground advantage and that could be enough to tip the scales in his favor. By virtue of this, he probably is the top favorite.

Two other hot contenders are Aleksandar Kukolj of Servbia, the reigning European champion; and Cheng Xunzhao of China who amazed everyone at the Olympic Games when he demolished the legendary Ilias Iliadis of Greece, Hungary's Toth and Marcus Nyman of Sweden, with his trademark ippon-osoto-gari. Cheng later used that same technique to win himself the 2017 Paris Grand Slam gold medal. He has been absent from international competition since then though.

-63kg Analysis

Full Analysis


+100kg Men: Riner (FRA)
+78kg Women: Asahina (JPN)
-100kg Men: Haga (JPN)
-78kg Women: Tcheumeo (FRA)
-90kg Men: Toth (HUN)
-70kg Women: Arai (JPN)
-81kg Men: Khalmurzaev (RUS)
-63kg Women: Trstenjak (SLO)
-73kg Men: Soichi Hashimoto (JPN)
-57kg Women: Tsukasa Yoshida (JPN)
-66kg Men: Hifumi Abe (JPN)
-52kg Women: Majlinda Kelmendi (KOS)
-60kg Men: Naohisa Takato (JPN)
-48kg Women: Urantsetseg Munkhbat (MGL)

Tina Trstenjak is the odds-on favorite. She has won the last four times she fought her rival Clarisse Agbegnenou of France.
There are two very obvious top contenders here: Tina Trstenjak of Slovenia and Clarisse Agbegnenou of France. Of the two, Trstenjak has the slight edge. She is the defending Olympic, World and European champion and she has won the last four encounters with Agbegnenou.

Israel's Yarden Gerbi is not competing. She hasn't competed since Rio 2016 and might be retired.

Kathrin Unterwurzacher of Austria is a steady campaigner who has been busy competing since the 2016 Rio Olympics. Notably, she won gold in the 2016 Tokyo Grand Slam. The last time she fought Trstenjak, in 2016, she lost. But who knows what could happen in Budapest.


Friday, July 21, 2017

South Korean Men's & Women's Teams


The men's team will have 9 members. The big surprise is Kim Won Jin will not be fighting at -60kg. The team has two players at -66kg and two at -90kg.

Not quite a full team, with 8 players. It has two players at -70kg. Jeong Bo-kyeong's absence is surprising. Maybe injured?

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Mongolian Men's & Women's Teams


The men's team mostly has the usual suspects but noticeably missing from the line-up is Tumurkhuleg Davaadorj. In his place at -66kg is lesser-known Kherlen Ganbold who last won IJF World Tour gold medals in 2012 and 2013. Granted, Davaadorj hasn't been on form lately but he is far more accomplished and experienced. It's a bit of surprise to see him left out. Mongolia is sending two players each for the -60kg and +100kg divisions. Their national hero, Olympic ChampionTuvshinbayar Naidan, now already 33, is still competing but at +100kg. Can he take on Riner?



Mongolia is not sending a full women's team. They are not sending anyone at -78kg but will have two representatives each at -57kg and -63kg.

-81kg Analysis

Full Analysis


+100kg Men: Riner (FRA)
+78kg Women: Asahina (JPN)
-100kg Men: Haga (JPN)
-78kg Women: Tcheumeo (FRA)
-90kg Men: Toth (HUN)
-70kg Women: Arai (JPN)
-81kg Men: Khalmurzaev (RUS)
-63kg Women: Trstenjak (SLO)
-73kg Men: Soichi Hashimoto (JPN)
-57kg Women: Tsukasa Yoshida (JPN)
-66kg Men: Hifumi Abe (JPN)
-52kg Women: Majlinda Kelmendi (KOS)
-60kg Men: Naohisa Takato (JPN)
-48kg Women: Urantsetseg Munkhbat (MGL)

Khasan Khalmurzaev hasn't fought much since winning gold in Rio 2016 but when he does he shines. He is the top prospect in Budapest.

The -81kg category used to be loaded with lots of really top and exciting players like South Korea's World & Olympic Champion Kim Jae-Bum (now retired), Georgia's World Champion Avtandili Tchrikishvili (moved up a weight class), France's World Champion Loic Pietri (not selected) and USA's Olympic Silver Medalist Travis Stevens (seemingly retired).

They are all gone now but there remains two big prospects for the gold: Olympic Champion Khasan Khalmurzaev of Russia and World Champion Takanori Nagase of Japan. Both have fought very little since the 2016 Rio Olympics but when they did, they shone brightly. Khalmurzaev won the 2017 Ekaterinaburg Grand Slam while Nagase won the 2016 Tokyo Grand Slam. These men have fought only once, in 2015 at the Rabat World Masters where Nagase was triumphant.

The interesting thing is that while Khalmurzaev is ranked No. 2, Nagase is currently outside the Top 10 (he's currently No. 11). Depending on the draw, they might end up on the same side of the pool, which means they could meet earlier in the day rather than in the final.

Alan Khubetsov of Russia is the current World No. 1 and he has a great sode-tsurikomi-goshi. He is also the European Champion but he doesn't have the track record of Khalmurzaev.

Attila Ungvari is the home favorite. He did well in the Ekaterinaburg Grand Slam where he made it to the final (he lost to Khalmurzaev there). With home ground advantage, he might just pull off a suprise.

Other exciting players to watch are Ivaylo Ivanov of Bulgaria and Frank De Wit of the Netherlands, both of whom use a modified version of the Khabarelli technique with great effect. For more traditional or classical judo, you have to look at Victor Penalber of Brazil, who has massive throwing skills. Lastly, it's worth looking out for Antoine Valois-Fortier who recently won the Hohhot Grand Prix, defeating Russia's Khubetsov.

Japanese Men's & Women's Teams


The Japanese men's team will comprise of the full 9 members allowed. It has decided to do away with the -90kg category after Mashu Baker got injured and had to have surgery. It will have two -60kg players, two -100kg players and two +100kg players.


The women's team will also have 9 members and has an intriguing line up. It has done away with the -63kg division because it felt that there was no one among its players who was good enough. It is sending two -48kg players, two -52kg players and two -78kg players.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

-57kg Analysis

Full Analysis


+100kg Men: Riner (FRA)
+78kg Women: Asahina (JPN)
-100kg Men: Haga (JPN)
-78kg Women: Tcheumeo (FRA)
-90kg Men: Toth (HUN)
-70kg Women: Arai (JPN)
-81kg Men: Khalmurzaev (RUS)
-63kg Women: Trstenjak (SLO)
-73kg Men: Soichi Hashimoto (JPN)
-57kg Women: Tsukasa Yoshida (JPN)
-66kg Men: Hifumi Abe (JPN)
-52kg Women: Majlinda Kelmendi (KOS)
-60kg Men: Naohisa Takato (JPN)
-48kg Women: Urantsetseg Munkhbat (MGL)

Tsukasa Yoshida (in white) has a massive uchimata that would make Japan's head coach Kosei Inoue proud. She's the top favorite
This category has two notable absentees -- Japan's Kaori Matsumoto and France's Automne Pavia, both of whom just gave birth.

Originally, I had listed Mongolia Sumiya Dorjsuren as the top favorite for this category based on her very strong performance at the 2016 Rio Olympics where she dispatched Matsumoto for ippon like it was child's play. She eventually took a silver but her final against Brazil's Rafaela Silva was a hard-fought one. She was on fine form. However, in looking more closely at her track record since Rio, her performance has not been impressive. Despite taking part in several IJF World Tour events, she hasn't won a single one so far. Silva's performance is just as bad. She too has been competing in several IJF World Tour events but hasn't won any yet.

So, I'm switching my prediction for gold to Japan's Tsukasa Yoshida, the girl with the devastating uchimata. She is the current Asian Champion and last year she won the Tokyo Grand Slam. It was also last year that she beat both Dorjsuren and Silva. So she definitely knows how to fight these two.

South Korea's little-known Kwon You-Jeong is a dark horse. She's relatively young at 22 and has had only a few international matches under her belt but she shocked everyone by winning the 2017 Paris Grand Slam. Interestingly, she defeated Yoshida in that event although the Japanese player got her revenge in the recent Asian Championships, where she beat Kwon in the final. Kwon's not a top favorite by any means but is definitely someone to look out for.

Another dark horse worth paying attention to is Taiwan's Lien Cheng-ling. A late bloomer who is already 29, she won her first IJF World Tour title this year at the 2017 Baku Grand Slam. She famously beat Matsumoto in groundwork at last year's IJF World Masters and very narrowly lost to Matsumoto in Rio. She's definitely a strong contender.

Two oldies but goodies are Portugal's Telma Monteiro and USA's Marti Malloy. Both are 31 but still competing. Monteiro is a Rio Olympics bronze medalist and Malloy recently won the 2017 Cancun Grand Prix. Who knows, they might just spring a surprise and defeat the young ones.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

-73kg Analysis

Full Analysis


+100kg Men: Riner (FRA)
+78kg Women: Asahina (JPN)
-100kg Men: Haga (JPN)
-78kg Women: Tcheumeo (FRA)
-90kg Men: Toth (HUN)
-70kg Women: Arai (JPN)
-81kg Men: Khalmurzaev (RUS)
-63kg Women: Trstenjak (SLO)
-73kg Men: Soichi Hashimoto (JPN)
-57kg Women: Tsukasa Yoshida (JPN)
-66kg Men: Hifumi Abe (JPN)
-52kg Women: Majlinda Kelmendi (KOS)
-60kg Men: Naohisa Takato (JPN)
-48kg Women: Urantsetseg Munkhbat (MGL)

Soichi Hashimoto's reputation might not loom as large as Shohei Ono's has but he is already a dominant force in the category.
The top favorite here is also the IJF No. 1 ranked player in this category: Soichi Hashimoto of Japan. Armed with impressive throwing skills -- he's able to throw the left and to the right, with equal facility -- he has been undefeated all of this year and last year. Along the way, he has picked up gold medals at the 2016 Asian Championships, 2016 IJF World Masters, 2016 Tokyo Grand Slam, 2017 Paris Grand Slam and 2017 Ekaterinburg Grand Slam. Confident, stylish and effective, Hashimoto is the man everyone will be looking out for in Budapest.

One of Hashimoto's main rivals will be An Changrim, arguably South Korea's best prospect for a gold medal in any category. He is Asian champion this year but he has not fought much since the Olympics. In the 2017 Paris Grand Slam (the only IJF World Tour event he's taken part in since the 2016 Rio Olympics) An got a silver medal, losing to Hashimoto, no less.

Hashimoto's other key rival is Olympic silver medalist Rustam Orujov of Azerbaijan. Always at or near the top of the IJF rankings, he's very active and takes part in a lot of IJF World Tour events. This year he has lost to An and to his compatriot Hidayat Heydarov (twice) though.

Speaking of Heydarov, it's likely that both he and Orujov will be sent to the World's. He's still very young at 19 but is the current European champion. He also won the 2017 Islamic Solidarity Games defeating his teammate Orujov in the final. He had also beaten Orujov earlier in the year at the 2017 Paris Grand Slam.

Dark horses are Georgia's Lasha Shavdatuashvili, a former Olympic champion (albeit at a lower weight class) and Russia's Dennis Iartcev who holds the distinction of being the last European player to have beaten the great Shohei Ono (but that was back in 2014 in the World Team Championships). Alas, Ono is not fighting in the World's as he did not take part in the Japanese trials this year (ostensibly due to wanting to focus on his academic studies).

-52kg Analysis

Full Analysis


+100kg Men: Riner (FRA)
+78kg Women: Asahina (JPN)
-100kg Men: Haga (JPN)
-78kg Women: Tcheumeo (FRA)
-90kg Men: Toth (HUN)
-70kg Women: Arai (JPN)
-81kg Men: Khalmurzaev (RUS)
-63kg Women: Trstenjak (SLO)
-73kg Men: Soichi Hashimoto (JPN)
-57kg Women: Tsukasa Yoshida (JPN)
-66kg Men: Hifumi Abe (JPN)
-52kg Women: Majlinda Kelmendi (KOS)
-60kg Men: Naohisa Takato (JPN)
-48kg Women: Urantsetseg Munkhbat (MGL)

There's no such thing as a "sure thing" in judo but Kosovo's Majlinda Kelmendi sure comes pretty close to it.
Kosovo's Majlinda Kelmendi for gold.

I could end the analysis with just that sentence above because in all likelihood, she will win it. Nobody else comes close. Of course, as they say, anything can happen in judo so yes, there could be an upset. But it's extremely unlikely.

Since she won her first World title in 2013, Kelmendi has had only one defeat in four years. That was to Erika Miranda of Brazil in the 2015 Abu Dhabi Grand Slam, just two months after Kelmendi returned to competition after a very long layoff due to injury (Kelmendi was out of competition from January 2015 through August 2015 due to knee and back injuries).

So dominant is Kelmendi in this category that I would say everyone else is considered a dark horse. So, let's go through them, starting with Miranda. There's no doubting she's a top player but I just don't see Miranda repeating her Abu Dhabi victory against a well-prepared and uninjured Kelmendi.

Kelmendi herself has said that Natalia Kuziutina of Russia is one of her toughest rivals. Perhaps she says that because early in her career, in 2010, Kelmendi lost twice to this Russian. But since then they have fought three more times and all three went to Kelmendi.

Three-time World Champion Misato Nakamura of Japan is the other great rival to Kelmendi but they have fought only once, at the 2016 Rio Olympics where the Japanese lost by a mere shido. Nakamura seems to have retired though and has not fought since Rio. In Budapest, the Japanese representative is likely to be Natsumi Tsunoda, the winner of the 2016 Tokyo Grand Slam. She has shown great potential and has beaten Miranda as well as Krasniqi although she lost to Kelmendi at the 2017 Paris Grand Slam.

Actually, the player who can give Kelmendi the toughest time is probably her training partner and compatriot, Distria Krasniqi. They know each other so well that when they meet each other in competition it's usually decided by penalties rather than a throw. But there is the question of whether Krasniqi can make it to the final.

-66kg Analysis

Full Analysis


+100kg Men: Riner (FRA)
+78kg Women: Asahina (JPN)
-100kg Men: Haga (JPN)
-78kg Women: Tcheumeo (FRA)
-90kg Men: Toth (HUN)
-70kg Women: Arai (JPN)
-81kg Men: Khalmurzaev (RUS)
-63kg Women: Trstenjak (SLO)
-73kg Men: Soichi Hashimoto (JPN)
-57kg Women: Tsukasa Yoshida (JPN)
-66kg Men: Hifumi Abe (JPN)
-52kg Women: Majlinda Kelmendi (KOS)
-60kg Men: Naohisa Takato (JPN)
-48kg Women: Urantsetseg Munkhbat (MGL)

Hifumi Abe may be ranked No. 7 but he is by far the top favorite to win the gold in Budapest.
The -66kg division is an interesting one with a few top prospects and many dark horses who may just pull off an upset.

The top ranking player is South Korea's An Baul but rankings sometimes really do not reflect who is the top favorite. In this case, the one who many people think will win the gold is 7th ranked Hifumi Abe of Japan.

An, a former world champion, is surely a top prospect for the final. He has not fought in many major tournaments since the 2016 Rio Olympics where he got silver. But he did win the 2017 Asian Championships. He's only fought Abe once, back in 2014 in the World Junior Championships. He lost that one.

Abe, who is still only 19 years old, has had a string of stunning victories in the past year. He won gold at the 2016 Tyumen Grand Slam, the 2016 Tokyo Grand Slam and the 2017 Paris Grand Slam, all very convincingly. There simply isn't any player around who is as dynamic as this young superstar. He is the firm favorite for gold.

One player who might be able to upset him on the way to the top, if they happen to meet in the preliminary rounds, is Mongolia's Tumurkhuleg Davaadorj who has fought and beaten Abe twice. But this was back in 2015. Abe has come a long way since then. Still, the cagey Mongolian might be Abe's undoing.

Former World Champion Georgii Zantaraia did poorly in the 2016 Rio Olympics but he has bounced back this year, winning the 2017 European Championships. He also got a silver medal at the 2017 Hohhot Grand Prix. The only time he fought Abe and An was at the same competition, the 2014 Tokyo Grand Slam, where he lost to both of them. But Zantaraia is a such an unpredictable, explosive and dynamic player. On a good day he can't beat anyone in the world and he might just be able to pull it off in Budapest.

Two dark horses with big throws are Nijat Shikhalizada of Azerbaijan and Charles Chibana of Brazil. Neither has fought Abe before. It would be an interesting encounter if they did in Budapest. Another dark horse worth mentioning is Abdula Abdulzhalilov of Russia who has had some very good results lately, including golds at the 2017 Ekaterinaburg Grand Slam, the 2017 Antalya Grand Prix and the 2016 Qingdao Grand Prix.  He lost to An in 2017 Rome World Cup thought and he has never fought Abe.

Italy's Fabio Basile has only competed once since winning the gold at the 2016 Rio Olympics. He took part in the 2016 Tokyo Grand Slam where he lost his first match to a relatively unknown Japanese player named Norihito Isoda (currently ranked No. 50). Since then he has taken part in a dance contest but no judo. It's not even clear whether he will compete in Budapest.

Monday, July 17, 2017

-48kg Analysis

Full Analysis


+100kg Men: Riner (FRA)
+78kg Women: Asahina (JPN)
-100kg Men: Haga (JPN)
-78kg Women: Tcheumeo (FRA)
-90kg Men: Toth (HUN)
-70kg Women: Arai (JPN)
-81kg Men: Khalmurzaev (RUS)
-63kg Women: Trstenjak (SLO)
-73kg Men: Soichi Hashimoto (JPN)
-57kg Women: Tsukasa Yoshida (JPN)
-66kg Men: Hifumi Abe (JPN)
-52kg Women: Majlinda Kelmendi (KOS)
-60kg Men: Naohisa Takato (JPN)
-48kg Women: Urantsetseg Munkhbat (MGL)

Munkhbat loves her newaza. A former world champion and tough as nails, she is the leading contender for -48kg gold in Budapest.
Top of the world rankings for women's -48kg is Otgontsetseg Galbadrakh, formerly from Mongolia and now fighting for Kazakhstan, who has a devastating ura-nage. However, in our opinion the top prospect is the No. 2 ranked Urantsetseg Munkhbat, a former world champion with killer newaza.

Munkhbat won the 2016 Tokyo Grand Slam defeating Jeong Bok-kyeong of South Korea in the final. She also made it to the final of the 2017 Paris Grand Slam but there she lost to Jeong. The two met again in the semi-final of the 2017 Asian Championships where the Mongolian prevailed. In the final, Munkhbat met with Galbadrakh and won the gold. In the recent 2017 Hohhot Grand Prix Munkhbat didn't bother to lose weight and fought at -52kg where she lost to little-known Canadian Ecaterina Guica. But that competition was clearly a practice event for Munkhbat who will surely go back down to -48kg for the 2017 Budapest World Championships.

South Korea's Jeong is a scrappy fighter and not as technically accomplished as her rivals like Munkhbat, Galbadrakh or Japan's Ami Kondo although she does have a very strong side takedown technique. Mainly, she is all-action, all the time, which has proven to be effective against her opponents. She has beaten Munkhbat, Galbadrakh and Kondo at one time or another, so she is definitely a dangerous contender.

Kazakhstan's Galbadrakh is a fine fighter but since her good showing at the 2016 Rio Olympics where she won bronze, she has lost to Munkhbat, Jeong and Kondo.

Japan's Kondo is a former world champion with a very strong harai-goshi, which is unusual for a lightweight and she is very capable on the ground. She sometimes finds difficulty going up against scrappy fighters like Jeong, whom she has fought twice in the past two years and lost on both occasions. She does better against the more upright and technical Munkhbat whom she has fought four times and won three of those exchanges. She lost to Galbadrakh the first time they fought at the beginning of 2016 but in the subsequent two matches they've had last year, it was Kondo who came up tops.

Argentina's World and Olympic Champion Paula Pareto, who is still in the Top 10 rankings (at No. 6), would be a top contender for the gold but it doesn't seem like she will be competing in Budapest. Argentina is sending four players to the World's and all are male. She did compete twice this year, both times in competitions in South America. So perhaps while she is not exactly retired, she is staying away from major international competitions.

A dark horse is Brazil's Stefanie Arissa Koyama, who was born in Japan and used to compete in domestic competitions there. She has since switched countries and has had some success, winning two Grand Prix gold medals this year. She has never fought any of the main contenders in the -48kg division in the IJF World Tour.

-60kg Analysis

Full Analysis


+100kg Men: Riner (FRA)
+78kg Women: Asahina (JPN)
-100kg Men: Haga (JPN)
-78kg Women: Tcheumeo (FRA)
-90kg Men: Toth (HUN)
-70kg Women: Arai (JPN)
-81kg Men: Khalmurzaev (RUS)
-63kg Women: Trstenjak (SLO)
-73kg Men: Soichi Hashimoto (JPN)
-57kg Women: Tsukasa Yoshida (JPN)
-66kg Men: Hifumi Abe (JPN)
-52kg Women: Majlinda Kelmendi (KOS)
-60kg Men: Naohisa Takato (JPN)
-48kg Women: Urantsetseg Munkhbat (MGL)

Nagayama is probably the biggest threat to Takato. He defeated Takato in this year's All-Japan Weight Class Championships.
Looking at the -60kg division for the World Championships, the player most likely to win is Naohisa Takato of Japan. He has solid traditional judo techniques like sode-tsurikomi-goshi, drop seoi-nage and uchimata but he is also capable of doing unorthodox techniques more commonly associated with European judo such as side takedown, utsuri-goshi and sumi-gaeshi.

He's fought three major competitions since the 2016 Rio Olympics and won two of them (silver at the 2016 Tokyo Grand Slam and gold in the 2017 Paris Grand Slam and 2017 Asian Championships). That's not a lot of competitions over the course of a year since the Olympics but it is sufficient and his results show that he is in top form.

Takato's biggest rival is probably his compatriot Ryuju Nagayama who has already beaten him twice. Nagayama's main weakness is that he is relatively new to the world scene and has not had that much experience fighting foreigners. He might not make it far enough to face Takato.

Russia is sending Olympic Champion Beslan Mudranov to Budapest but he has not competed at all since the 2016 Rio Olympics. That can't be a good thing. South Korea has not yet announced who it's -60kg representative will be but if it's Kim Won-Jin, he is another one who has not competed since Rio.

Georgia's Amiran Papinashvili is the top seed in the IJF World Rankings and he defeated Takato in the 2016 Rio Olympics. But it's hard to imagine him repeating that feat if these two were to meet again. He has fought in many IJF World Tour events since Rio but he has not won any major tournaments in the past year.

Sharafuddin Lutfillaev of Uzbekistan is always something of a threat but he has only fought once this year, in the 2017 Paris Grand Slam, where he lost to none other than Takato. Orkhan Safarov of Azerbaijan is another potential threat but the last two times they fought, in the 2016 Rio Olympics and the 2017 Paris Grand Slam, he lost to Takato.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Full teams & self-funded players


Russia is sending a full team

Latest Update

Germany is sending a full team!


If my memory serves me well, it's been some time since Germany has sent a full team to the World Championships. (Tks Iljana, for the heads up!)

***

If you look at the countries that have already registered their players for the 2017 Budapest World Championships, you will notice that 5 countries have registered a full team. That means 18 players (a maximum of 9 per gender is allowed). They are

a) Brazil
b) China
c) France
d) Russia
e) United States

Japan is not yet registered and it would be expected that they would send a full team although this is not certain as there were some earlier reports that the women's category might not be filled with 9 players. South Korea and Mongolia have also not registered yet and again, one would expect that they would send a full team, but we shall see.

Of the five countries that have already registered, three are judo powerhouses: Brazil, France and Russia. China is a hardly a powerhouse although some of its female players have been world and Olympic champions. Its male team is starting to produce some good results but it's not a powerhouse... at least not yet. The US is also not a judo powerhouse, and with Kayla Harrison and Travis Stevens retired from competition, it is even less so now.

It's clear that both China and the US have the philosophy that it's important to expose its players to the World Championships so they can become world-class players. It's surprising that some other countries like the UK would not do the same. Surely the World's is a great opportunity for its up-and-coming players to gain invaluable experience.

Perhaps budget is a reason for not sending a full team. If that's the reason, any remaining vacant slots should be made available to the top ranked players to self-fund their way to the World's. Let's say the -66kg division is not being filled. Let whoever is the top player at -66kg pay his own way to Budapest. I'm sure most top athletes would take up such an offer even if they had to resort to donations or crowdfunding to pay for it. And if they really can't or won't self-fund, offer it to the next in line in the rankings. For sure filling up all 18 slots with a mixture of funded and self-funded players would not be a problem.

So, why don't more countries allow self-funding for big events like this? The usual reason given is that they don't want players who are not good enough to go there and perform badly (i.e. lose in the first round). But just look at the results of any World Championships or Olympics and you will find plenty of examples of top players losing in the first round. So that argument just doesn't hold water.

And even if a player does lose in the first round, the experience they will get of preparing for the worlds, of facing the nervousness before a fight, of learning to deal with the disappointment of losing and so on, are all important lessons that an up-and-coming fighter should learn. And they won't learn that if you force them to stay at home.

If more countries were to allow self-funding, there would be far more full teams than just five. I am sure a lot (if not all) those vacant slots would be filled up by self-funded ranked players who were not selected. Why not have more competitors rather than fewer?

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Travis Stevens's new blog



Travis Stevens has a new blog and one of the first few video clips he's showcasing there is one on how he "cheats" with an illegal grip. It's quite ingenious and rather interesting that he would show this.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Mixed Teams' Rules


Interesting rules for the mixed teams competition, which for the first time will feature teams consisting of three men and three women. The winning team is decided as follows:

1. The number of contests won.

2. If the number of contests won are equal, the sum of all achieved scores in the team will
decide, every ippon will count as 10 points and every waza-ari as 1 point.
Points will be given as follows:
a. Ippon Gachi/Fusen Gachi (opponent does not show up)/Kiken Gachi (opponent withdraws)10 points
b. Waza-ari 1 point
c. Win by Shido 0 points
The same points apply regardless of whether they are achieved in regular time or during
Golden Score. In the case of osaekomi during the Golden Score an athlete can continue the
hold to gain maximum points.

3. If the number of scoring points are equal a random draw will be made and one couple
will re-fight a Golden Score contest where the first score or penalty of any kind decides the
winning team.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Predictions for 2017 Budapest World Championships



Men’s
JudoCrazy
JudoHeroes
-60kg
Takato (JPN)
Nagayama (JPN)
-66kg
Abe (JPN)
Abe (JPN)
-73kg
Hashimoto (JPN)
Hashimoto (JPN)
-81kg
Khalmurzaev (RUS)
Khalmurzaev (RUS)
-90kg
Toth (HUN)
Gviniashvili (GEO)
-100kg
Haga (JPN)
Wolf (JPN)
+100kg
Riner (FRA)
Riner (FRA)

Women’s
JudoCrazy
JudoHeroes
-48kg
Munkhbat (MGL)
Kondo (JPN)
-52kg
Kelmendi (KOS)
Kelmendi (KOS)
-57kg
Yoshida (JPN)
Dorjsuren (MGL)
-63kg
Trstenjak (SLO)
Agbegnenou (FRA)
-70kg
Alvear (COL)
Arai (JPN)
-78kg
Joo (HUN)
Aguiar (BRA)
+78kg
Slutskaya (BLR)
Asahina (JPN)