Favorites and contenders: Previewing 66 kg. at the 2022 ADCC World Championships

The 2022 ADCC World Championships take place on September 17-18, live from Las Vegas, NV. Ahead of the big tournament, Grappling Insider will be previewing each division.

For the first time since 1998, the 66 kg. division at the ADCC World Championships won’t see a returning champion, as 2019 gold medalist Augusto “Tanquinho” Mendes opted to retire. And now with the door wide open for a new champion, the smallest men’s division feels more difficult than ever to predict.

With that in mind, let’s look at the favorites, contenders, and dark horses in the 66 kg. division. Below is the full, current list of competitors.

66 kg.

The Favorites: Kennedy Maciel, Garry Tonon

In a field that is relatively light on ADCC veterans, it’s difficult to find clear-cut favorites — which is exactly what makes 66 kg. so interesting.

Returning silver medalist Kennedy Maciel will likely be given the top seed. The 25-year old black belt has competed frequently on the IBJJF circuit since 2019, but its worth noting he suffered a 2021 decision loss under submission-only rules to fellow 66 kg. competitor Josh Cisneros.

Another top seed will be returning 77 kg. third-place finisher Garry Tonon. One of the longest-tenured and most accomplished no-gi specialists in the field, Tonon has largely focused on his MMA career over the past few years, but that doesn’t mean the New Wave Jiu-Jitsu product should be considered any less dangerous. His ultra-aggressive, submission-hunting approach makes him an early favorite to go deep into this bracket.

The Contenders: Cole Abate, Diogo Reis, Diego “Pato” Oliveira

Because 66 kg. is so loaded with talent, seemingly every athlete qualifies as a legitimate contender to take home gold. Among that crowded field, a few names stand out.

First, Art of Jiu-Jitsu teenage phenom Cole Abate will look to break his instructor’s record and become the youngest ever ADCC champion. Abate looked unstoppable in his run through the ADCC East Coast Trials, displaying his deep technical ability as well as a perfect understanding of tactics and strategy. And although this will be Abate’s first appearance at the ADCC World Championships, he seems destined for the podium.

Primarily known as a gi player, Diogo “Baby Shark” Reis seems to have easily transitioned to no-gi competition, winning the first ADCC South American Trials, defeating other 66 kg. competitors Fabricio Andrey and Diego “Pato” Oliveira along the way. Reis’s unending cardio and well-rounded skill set make him a contender to watch.

Finally, Oliveira is arguably Brazil’s best leg locker and is similarly poised to make waves this weekend. He has been one of the sport’s most active competitors over the past two years with a number of wins over elite competitors; “Pato” has more than an enough ability to medal or even win ADCC gold.

Dark horses: Ash Williams, Keith Krikorian, Ethan Crelinsten

Some competitors might not jump out as divisional favorites but nonetheless have the ability to turn heads and make it to the podium if they perform well.

Trials winners Ash Williams and Keith Krikorian both stand out as potential dark horses. The pair met at Grapplefest earlier this year in one of 2022’s most entertaining matches, with Williams edging Krikorian by decision. Two very different grapplers, Williams has underrated wrestling, expert leg lock defense, and world class guard passing, while Krikorian is a submission hunter of the highest level and is one of the best leg lockers on the planet. If either of these men get hot, look for them to upset some of the more established competitors.

And while he is likely to be seeded relatively high, few people are talking about The B-Team’s Ethan Crelinsten. His blend of back-takes and leg locks, along with his experience under the ADCC rule set, make him a name to watch.

How to watch: The 2022 ADCC World Championships take place on September 17-18 and will air live on FloGrappling (subscription required).

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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