Grappling Insider’s 2019 ADCC Editor’s Awards

Two days and over one hundred submission grappling matches later, another fantastic ADCC World Championship is in the books. Every ADCC is special, but this one really felt like we’ll be talking about it for years to come. It had every storyline you want in sports: Youth verses experience, underdog tales, crushing defeats, and amazing come from behind wins. It was the best the sport had to offer.

Grappling Insider was on hand all weekend with ADCC coverage, and now that the dust is settling, the editorial team has huddled together to give out our Best of ADCC Awards.

Best Athlete: Gordon Ryan

Roy: This is the hardest category to pick. Part of me wants to pick Tye or Kennedy for their phenomenal performances, or Lachlan Giles for his show stealing run in the absolute. The reality is, nobody comes close to what Gordon Ryan achieved yesterday and he absolutely deserves the award of the best athlete at ADCC 2019.

Louie: Without a doubt it’s Gordon Ryan. Love him or hate him, he’s the best nogi grappler in the world at the moment. Worth noting that he scored more submissions than anyone else at ADCC (I’m pretty sure about that, but it might have been a tie with Giles). His final match against Buchecha was sort of a stinker, but Gordon was doing his part to attack and Buchecha was tentative enough that he earned a penalty. Gordon also did it all with a less than 100% knee, which makes it even more impressive

Matt: How can it be anyone else but Gordon Ryan?  The “King” dominated his division, winning three of his matches by submission (including submitting Trator in the final).  Then he won the absolute title, defeating Buchecha, one of the greatest ever. Saying he “barely” beat Buchecha is a minor complaint – Ryan’s performance casts a shadow over everyone else’s.

Rachel: The King is the King, plain and simple. As much as I loved watching Lachlan Giles take on multiple Goliaths, Gordon Ryan has proven time and time again that he can back up every bit of smack that he talks. On top of that, judging by his guard pulls and overall game, his knee wasn’t 100%. His only complaint about ADCC 2019? He didn’t get 8/8 submission victories. Now that’s an athlete.

Lee: ADCC 2019 saw some outstanding performances and as always a fresh batch of breakout athletes. Despite knee surgery earlier in the year and rumours of illness in the days leading up Gordon looked dominant yet again. It says a lot about an athlete when people see victory as a formality and the discussion online is about how and when, rather than if. The big question now is will Gordon move up to +99kg and try and secure that landmark 3rd title in a 3rd weight class.

Best Match: Garry Tonon vs Renato Canuto

Roy: Tye Ruotolo and Kennedy were amazing and their match was relentless, but I still can’t stop thinking about Garry Tonon vs. Renato Canuto. Garry is the most exciting grappler I have ever watched and this was an amazing match.

Louie: Hard call here. Truthfully, a good back and forth match is rare at ADCC. Normally the first to score will win. You have to give credit to Gary, who’s freewheeling style makes for exciting matches, even when he is dominating. ADCC is marked by often extremely strategic matches, but Gary just seems to do whatever is on his mind. His match against Renato was an instant classic.

Lee: Matches at ADCC 2019 were mostly won by the better tactician. Every now and again competitors throw caution to the wind and do the grappling equivalent to ‘swang-and-bang’ in MMA. I could have guessed this in advance because of Canuto and Tonon’s styles – but this match was easily my favourite.

Best Submission: Lachlan Giles Heelhooks Kaynan Duarte

Roy: Whenever anybody tells me to work my guard passing I’m going to butt scoot and remind them of the time a 77kg guy tapped the +99kg champ with a heel hook. Lachlan Giles is my hero and this was the most awesome moment of the weekend.

Louie: Kennedy’s come from behind triangle of Ruan Alvarenga was something special, one of the rare times, maybe the only time this weekend, when a competitor was down on points and managed to submit their opponent.

Matt: I like seeing submissions that are a bit different.  RNCs and heel hooks are fun, but variety is the spice of life, right?  So I’m going with Augusto Mendes submitting Keith Krikorian via arm triangle.

Rachel: I have to agree with Roy here, watching Lachlan Giles submit the +99kg champ with the heel hook was amazing. Honorable mention to Ffion Davies breaking Bia Mesquita’s arm, though, that was amazing. 

Lee: There were a lot of moments that had me jumping out of my chair or shouting with excitement (Jon Blank v Rustam and Ffion Davies v Bia) but Lachlan’s run through the big boys in the absolute quickly became the talking point of the final day – his submission of Kaynan highlights just how skilled he is.

Biggest Upset: Lachlan Giles vs Kaynan Duarte

Roy: This one is all Lachlan too. Nobody expected him to do what he did in the absolute division and his wins over Aly, Duarte and Gaudio will go down as some of the most legendary moments in ADCC.

Louie: Has to be Giles, right? The only question is, which match? Lachlan Giles may be the biggest winner from this weekend despite not taking gold. To watch Kayan Duarte have several slow, methodical victories against world class fighters, and then get smoked by Giles in about a minute, that man can basically punch his ticket from now on.

Rachel: Giles Giles Giles. David v. Goliath. You get a heelhook, you get a heelhook, EVERYBODY gets a heelhook! His run in the absolute division was one unbelievable performance after another. 

Lee: For me the biggest upset isn’t even this one match. It’s the whole run Lachlan had in the absolute – if I were a betting man and you told me his possible match ups in the absolute I would have feared the worst. After witnessing his domination at Kinektic a few months ago I should have had faith!

Feel Good Moments:

Roy: I’m not a huge fan of team sports, but I have to say it was pretty cool watching ATOS lose it when Galvao won. Beating Pena is no small order and seeing how much it meant to Galvao and his team was pretty amazing.

Louie: When Ffion Davies submitted Bia Mesquita and lost it on the mats, I got a little choked up. It will become a career defining moment for her. It’s one of those wins where history may not even remember that she lost her next match. I remember telling Roy before it started that no matter what happened, this match is basically the finals. 

Matt: Seeing Jon “Thor” Blank get to the semifinals was awesome.  He just seems like such a good guy who works so hard, so to see him succeed was satisfying.  He ended up losing to Craig Jones which is nothing to be ashamed about. I feel like this is just the beginning for him.

Lee: Seeing Kade coaching his brother Tye through his underdog run in 66kg division made me smile a lot – both kids athletes have come a long way since the Tapout adverts back in the day. With that being said, my actual feel good moment was seeing Ffion submit Bia. Ffion has visited my home gym a lot over the last couple of years and watching her pull off the upset was a massive moment for UK grappling.

Breakout Star: Tye Ruotolo

Matt: The 16 year old Tye Ruotolo was remarkable, losing out on 3rd place to the legend Paulo Miyao.
Louie: Everyone at ADCC is already so world class, it really has to go to Tye Rutolo. Tye was already  known for his skill, but didn’t yet have the resume until now. His last minute kneebar of Paulo Miyao was insane, even if Paulo refused to tap. It would have been insta-kill on anyone else.

Lee: On the face of it everyone thought this was Nicky Ryan’s year to be the young breakout star. Meanwhile Tye flew under the radar and had a fantastic performance and narrowly missed out on a medal… what’s more impressive is he had darce chokes locked in in both matches he lost!

Cringiest Moments:

Roy:  Watching Ffion Davies break Bia’s arm nearly made me vomit. This moment had me cringing a lot.

Louie: Concrete was really the most vicious opponent this weekend. Several matches spilled off the mats and resulted in injuries not just to athletes, but onlookers. The cringiest for me was Matheus Gabriel trying to hit a flying triangle on the concrete and slamming his back onto the ground. Gabriel seemed unaffected but I imagine when that adrenaline wore off, he felt it.

Matt: A cameraman get crushed by two giant grapplers (Nicky Rod and Mahamed Aly).  Then in the ensuing confusion, Nick Rodriguez saw the timer still going. He ran around to Aly’s back and sunk in a rear naked choke.  Aly was looking over at the ref with a “do you see what this guy is doing?” face. Not a great moment, but memorable.

Lee: This is more of one in retrospect because Paulo Miyao’s game face was on point – the picture doing the rounds of Tye Ruotolo’s knee bar of Paulo is insane!

Best Matches We Didn’t Get:

Louie: Not gonna lie, I felt a little robbed of the chance to see a Geo Martinez vs Nicky Ryan match. Seeing those two styles clash could have made for fireworks.

Matt: I wanted to see Josh Hinger and Craig Jones duke it out, but it didn’t quite happen because Hinger lost to Matheus Diniz.

Lee: I’ve seen (and reffed) Craig Jones v Mattheus Diniz a couple of times now and after listening to the Matburn podcast religiously over the last few months I was really hoping to see Josh Hinger v Craig Jones.

Rachel: I thought it would’ve been cool to see Nicky Ryan face Tye Ruotolo, but they started off on opposite sides of the bracket. Two young up and comers – I think it would’ve been a great match. 

Louis Martin

Louie is a full time writer and content management guy. He owns the site, and has written for JiuJitsuTimes, YouJiuJitsu, BJJFAQ, and GrapplingInsider. He also published "The True Believers", a book about cults in martial arts. He trains under Elliot Kelly, but loves to rep his 10th Planet roots.

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