Well it seems we have a new challenger entering the ring/cage to represent the art of BJJ in modern MMA. Recently, Gordon Ryan announced his intention to start an MMA career and, as his mentor/teammate Garry Tonon is experiencing initial success currently sitting at 3-0, you’d be hard pressed to tell me why he shouldn’t.
His grappling record is extensive, sporting a 63-5 record (BJJ Heroes), with 50 submission wins to boot. He’s beaten the likes of Yuri Simoes, Rustam Chsiev, Keenan Cornelius, Antonio Carlos Junior, Vagner Rocha, Dillon Danis, Alexandre Ribeiro, Josh Barnett, and Jackson Souza. And of course, we can’t forget his best accomplishments either, he’s taken gold at ADCC 2017 at his weight class and 2nd in absolute, multiple time EBI winner, and IBJJF Pans No-Gi weight and absolute champion (2018). At just 23 years old, and with this deep of a resume, Ryan would be an exciting edition to the MMA sphere.
But of course the question everyone has with high level athletes crossing over from other sports is, how would they do? MMA is a different animal from other combat sports, and we’ve seen both success and failures from not just BJJ crossovers. We just watched Aaron Pico, an Olympic caliber wrestler, suffer his second loss, this one by brutal KO, which has people questioning his current ability to press onward.
Then we have the recent BJJ crossovers to look at as well. Garry Tonon and Dillon Danis have experienced recent success. Rafael Lovato Jr. is still undefeated and was scheduled to get a title shot against Mousasi (who unfortunately had to pull out for an injury). And there’s less recent crossovers like Maia and Jacare still plugging away as well as guys like Antonio Carlos Junior and Ryan Hall. BJJ specialists still have their place in MMA, and Gordon Ryan is one of the guys who can easily follow in their footsteps.
Now, don’t get me wrong, Gordon did say he wants to win black belt World’s before making the switch, so it may be some time before that happens if he really means he won’t switch until that point (or at least gives it a few tries), but under the assumption we do see him soon, what should we/could we expect?
Well, before going into it, we have to address something. Gordon’s physical transformation. While he’s 6’2, Gordon has fought at 77kg as recently as 2017 while also bulking up and weighing in at 220 these days walking around. Speculation regarding the muscle gain aside, this means that his choice of weight class to fight in will give him multiple options to work with, something not many grapplers have initially.
While he may not be able to make 170 (77kg) right now, if he dropped a few, we could be seeing a huge Gordon Ryan fighting at Welterweight, or a slightly less huge, but still solidly sized Middleweight as well. And considering his incredible grappling skills already, allowing Gordon a size and strength advantage would not be pleasant for his opponents.
So, if we see Gordon Ryan come over, what should we expect? Well, he’s not exactly a passive fellow so we can expect to see Gordon ready and willing to engage his opponents and impose his game. Considering 13 of his 50 submission wins are via leg attack (including 11 via heel hook), one should not be surprised to watch him bring home a couple of legs with him. Now, that doesn’t mean he’s a one-trick pony at all. He has 15 RNC wins, which should encourage him to work on developing ground and pound to force his opponents to give him their backs, as well as 8 finishes coming by way of triangle. Because of his aggressive submission game, we can expect Gordon will have no qualms as to how he gets the fight to the mat, he just will get it there (similar to how Dillon Danis pulled half guard in his debut or Ryan Hall rolls for heel hooks).
Considering his background, Ryan is not exactly known as a takedown artist, and that is something he will need to shore up before his debut. Garry Tonon is seemingly trying out his striking in his fights, which we’ve seen work nicely for him in some spots (like his debut), but it’s gotten him tagged a fair amount as well. We also haven’t seen him get “insta-subs” either. So if Gordon doesn’t find a way to consistently get his opponents down, he may find himself on the losing side of a decision (see the recent debut of AJ Agarzam).
So what should we take away from so little to go on? We don’t know where he’d train although considering the connection to Tonon and Danaher, I’d expect the Renzo Gracie Academy. This wouldn’t be bad at all considering they have a successful batch of fighters to work with, but he will need to have the right attitude. Considering he apparently doesn’t believe in luck, only hard work and all that, we can definitely expect him to devote himself 100% to making a career once he makes the decision.
If I had to speculate the kind of style we would see him implement (and I think he will start at 185 as well), we should expect a forward moving, boxing centric fighter on the feet. Granted this is me making a call purely on my perception of his personality but his aggression and mentality fit that mold. He’s a kid though, which can’t be forgotten, and young fighters/kids tend to make mistakes (in cage and out) so I also believe we’ll see him attempt some wild techniques as well in order to get the fight to the ground if he feels the need or desire. I expect him to try and give the wow factor in his debut, and his best shot is with a spectacular submission.
So here’s how I see him fighting his debut, he comes out hard and fast, throwing heat, backing up his opponent and clinching where he will attempt some trip takedowns. If he gets one, he’ll land some punches if they are there, but I see him just attacking with passes to work for a dominant position and get the sub. If he can’t get it, he jumps on the back and gets that RNC.
You gotta love how I just predicted an entire fighting style and fight based off nothing huh?
I hope we get to see him fight sooner than later, considering Maia and Jacare are on their way out, we could use a few BJJ phenoms shoring up the ranks.