Grappling is the sport that never stops surprising us with upsets and exciting newcomers on a regular basis. ADCC 2019 has already shown it’s no exception. The first day kicked off yesterday and it genuinely had it all. From fresh faces making a huge impact to returning veterans finding old form, there was plenty of stellar performances to pick from. These are the biggest takeaways from Day 1:
1. The King Is Back & He’s Not Alone
There was a lot of skepticism going into ADCC 2019 about Gordon Ryan’s performance. After getting over a rough knee injury back in February, many thought this tournament was too early for him to have made a full recovery. Ryan proved the naysayers wrong by pulling guard in both his matches and finishing both with a Rear-Naked Choke in less than 10 minutes combined. Today, we’ll see Ryan take on Hulk in the Semi-Finals and finish his run towards his second consecutive ADCC championship.
This wasn’t the only reason for John Danaher to be happy with yesterday’s performance as the Danaher Death Squad went 7-1 overall with a string of fantastic showings. Nicky Rodriguez showed superb wrestling en route to two decision victories, setting up a world-class Semi-Final match against Cyborg. Garry Tonon also won both of his fights against stiff competition in order to meet reigning champion, JT Torres, later today. The only DDS competitor to lose was the young Nicky Ryan. After a close match against a tough opponent in the opening round, Paulo Miyao showed what makes him a world champion by shutting down Nicky’s offense and securing the decision victory.
2. Ruotolo Breaks Out At ADCC 2019
Tye Ruotolo was the youngest entrant in the history of the tournament when he got invited as a late replacement for ADCC 2019. Many people had high hopes for Ruotolo’s debut (including yours truly) but what he accomplished yesterday shocked everybody. Ruotolo won two matches by decision, showing skills way beyond his years and incredible cardio in both.
His first match was against ADCC veteran, Bruno Frazatto, who earned his black belt before Ruotolo could even walk. After battling for position and exchanging leg entanglements, Ruotolo edged out a 2-0 decision victory to move onto the second round. His next performance against Pablo Mantavani in the Quarter-Final was truly exceptional. Mantavani is young enough to compete with Ruotolo athletically and has the experience at the highest level to beat him. Ruotolo’s pace in this fight was eye-watering and he wore Mantavani down over fifteen minutes, even coming close with a Rear-Naked Choke before the end of the match. This set the stage for a Semi-Final against another exciting youngster, Kennedy Maciel, today.
3. The British Isles Are Here To Stay
There was one English, one Irish and two Welsh representatives at ADCC 2019 yesterday and every single one of them put on a great display, despite mixed results. Ben Dyson was first up against his division’s favorite, Craig Jones. After fending off numerous submission attempts, Dyson eventually succumbed to Jones’ patented Inside Heel-Hook finish. Ross Nicholls stepped on the mats shortly after to face the living legend, JT Torres, taking him all the way to decision in a very close match.
The lone Irish competitor, Thomas Halpin, was looking very competitive against Pablo Mantavani. They traded takedown attempts and leg-attacks before Mantavani managed to get the sweep and take Halpin’s back, this allowed Mantavani to rack up a significant point-lead as the fight was ending. The final welsh representative and only woman, Ffion Davies, got the first win of the day in dominating fashion, beating Rikako Yuasa 12-0. She moves on to an epic rematch of her only loss since competing at black belt against the reigning -60kg queen, Beatriz Mesquita. This is one of the hardest fights to call today and should give Ffion a chance at gold in her ADCC debut.
Alex Lindsey trains out of Newport, South Wales and represents Newport MMA whenever he’s not too fat to compete, to follow his articles see @alexlindsey92 on Twitter.
(For the Absolute Division brackets on Day 2, go here)