2023 Female Grappler of the Year: Gi and no-gi world champion Ffion Davies

After winning gold at the gi Worlds and double gold at the no-gi Worlds, Ffion Davies is the 2023 Female Grappler of the Year.

Ffion Davies came into 2023 widely regarded as the top pound-for-pound female jiu-jitsu competitor in the world, and she’ll start 2024 with that same distinction.

Following her first gi world title and ADCC gold medal in 2022, expectations were high for the Welsh grappler this year. Despite just a few speed bumps along the way, she largely lived up to – or even surpassed those expectations as she turned in another banner year to cement her status as an all-time great.

With her elite takedowns, relentless pacing, and seemingly unstoppable top game, the 28-year-old appears to have all the skills and proper mindset to remain at the top of the sport for some time.

Ffion Davies in 2023

Davies’s first competition of the year was the talent-stacked 66kg grand prix at Polaris 24. After taking out Giovanna Jara by points in the first round, she suffered a submission loss to the always-dangerous Elisabeth Clay. That would mark her first of just three losses in 2023.

The remaining two defeats of Davies’s year would come next, at the IBJJF Pans. She was submitted by multiple-time world champion Ana Carolina Vieira in the absolute division, and, in the final of the lightweight division, fell against Luiza Monteiro.

Davies would go on a tear for the remainder of the year.

At the IBJJF Worlds, she submitted two of four opponents to claim her second gi world title in as many years.

After that, she returned to no-gi and the Who’s Number One (WNO) stage to defend her flyweight title against Jasmine Rocha. Although tensions ran high before that match, Davies put on a cool, collected, and clinical performance over the course of 15 dominant minutes to retain her WNO belt.

Davies closed out her year with perhaps the best single-tournament performance of her career – and one of the finest performances of any grappler in recent memory. 

In December, at the IBJJF No-Gi Worlds, she dominated the lightweight division and won four matches in the absolute division to mark an unforgettable double-gold outing. Notably, in the final of the absolute division, Davies submitted middleweight champion Gabi McComb in one of the year’s most thrilling matches.

Ultimately, it was Davies’ success across both gi and no-gi competition, as well as her strong showings against larger opponents, that earned her the Grappler of the Year honors.

Female Grappler of the Year honorable mentions

Elisabeth Clay: The Ares BJJ representative submitted Davies and defeated +60kg ADCC world champion Amy Campo to win the Polaris 66kg grand prix, won gold at the IBJJF Pans, and picked up impressive no-gi victories over Brianna Ste-Marie and Luiza Monteiro. 

Mayssa Bastos: Bastos went undefeated in 2023 to further solidify her dominance at the lighter weight classes. Now training under the Mendes brothers at Art of Jiu-Jitsu, she won gold at the IBJJF Euros, Pans, Brasileiros, Worlds, and No-Gi Worlds.

Tammi Musumeci: The New Jersey native competed infrequently in 2023, but always against elite opponents. In ONE Championship, she earned decision wins over 2019 ADCC champion Bianca Basilio and 2016 no-gi world champion Amanda Alequin before winning gold at the IBJJF No-Gi Worlds.

Andressa Cintra: Cintra looked dominant in both gi and no-gi competition, taking home gold at the IBJJF Worlds, Brasileiros, and no-gi Worlds.

Gabi Pessanha: The Brazilian heavyweight extended her unprecedented run of dominance in 2023, going undefeated to win every major gi competition while submitting the vast majority of her opponents.

Ben Coate

Ben has been involved with grappling, whether through wrestling or Brazilian jiu-jitsu, essentially his entire life. After wrestling throughout his childhood, Ben found Brazilian jiu-jitsu as a young adult and quickly fell in love. He has been training for over ten years and currently holds the rank of brown belt, and remains involved in both the MMA and BJJ scene. Ben has been writing about combat sports since 2017. He has interviewed and profiled some of MMA's biggest stars, including multiple UFC champions.

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