Favorites and contenders: Previewing 99+ 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. Read a preview of the 66 kg. division here, the 77 kg. division here, the 88 kg. division here, and the 99 kg. division here.

For many fans, Gordon Ryan’s dominance of the 99+ kg. division at the 2022 ADCC World Championships is already a foregone conclusion. And while he is deservedly the favorite to take home gold, he will have to face a number of credible challengers, including potentially Felipe Pena — the last man to defeat Ryan in competition.

The returning 99 kg. and absolute champion, Ryan is widely considered the best pound-for-pound grappler on the planet, and will understandably have a target on his back this weekend. But outside of Pena, who are those contenders, and do any of them have a chance at dethroning submission grappling’s current king?

Below we look at the favorites, contenders, and dark horses of the heavyweight division at the 2022 ADCC World Championships. But first, let’s look at the division as whole.

99+ kg.

The Favorites: Gordon Ryan, Felipe Pena, Nick Rodriguez

After a 2021 that saw Ryan largely sidelined due to illness, he seems to have returned to peak form now. In July, he utterly dominated no-gi world champion Pedro Marinho, and followed that up with a victory, albeit under unique circumstances, over longtime rival Felipe Pena in a no-time limit match.

With takedowns, leg locks, a stifling mount and a puzzle of a guard, Ryan has elite skills in all areas. Simply put, this feels like his division to lose.

Of course, Pena will be looking to put an end to Ryan’s incredible unbeaten streak. Pena holds two wins over Ryan from 2016 and 2017, respectively, making him the only man to beat Ryan twice at black belt. Pena’s recent loss to Ryan came less than a day after the tragic death of his close friend Leandro Lo, calling into question his mindset in that match.

A 2017 ADCC absolute champion, Pena tends to do his best work when attacking from open guard where he is a world class back-taker.

Another divisional favorite is Ryan’s former Danaher Death Squad teammate Nick Rodriguez. Now with The B-Team, Rodriguez shocked the grappling world in 2019 when he took home silver at the ADCC World Championships despite only holding the rank of blue belt in BJJ. He might be the most physical competitor in the division and will once again use his explosive takedowns and solid submission defense to work his way to the final.

Contenders: Victor Hugo, Roberto “Cyborg” Abreu, Roosevelt Sousa

A trio of Brazilians make up this division’s contenders. A 2019 no-gi world champion, Victor Hugo has arguably the best guard in all of heavyweight BJJ, making him a unique opponent for the wrestling-heavy bracket. Notably, he holds recent victories over fellow divisional competitors Roberto “Cyborg” Abreu and Max Gimenis.

At 40-years old, “Cyborg” is the bracket’s most experienced ADCC competitor, but has yet to show many signs of slowing down. The Fight Sports head coach will be looking to avenge a controversial decision loss to Rodriguez in the semifinals of the 2019 ADCC World Championships.

Finally, South American Trials winner Roosevelt Sousa has shown all the traits of an ADCC medalist. Still a relatively fresh black belt, the 29-year old used his raw athleticism and elite leg locks to submit each of his opponents at Trials.

Dark Horses: Haisam Rida, Vinny Magalhaes, John Hansen

Assembly Jiu-Jitsu’s Haisam Rida has quietly amassed an impressive 5-1 record at Who’s Number One, defeating a number of fellow ADCC competitors along the way. Tall and lanky, Rida possesses an excellent judo-based takedown game that he could use this weekend to spring at least one upset.

Also keep an eye on former ADCC champion Vinny Magalhaes. One of the few men to defeat Gordon Ryan in competition, Magalhaes has competed in grappling infrequently over the past few years, instead focusing his efforts on MMA. Magalhaes is a technician of the highest degree and, despite his recent inactivity, shouldn’t be counted out against any opponent.

Finally, look for Pedigo Submission Fighting’s John Hansen to turn heads with an upset or two. Hansen’s blend of wrestling and BJJ make him well-suited for ADCC, and he impressed fans in the final of the East Coast Trials when he submitted fellow 99+ kg. competitor Damon Ramos in under 30 seconds.

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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