The latest edition of the world’s most established submission wrestling event just went by (see results here). Historically the ADCC tournament has been ruled by Brazilian jiu jitsu stylists, with a few pockets of successful freestyle wrestlers (Mark Kerr, Kareem Barchlov, Sasha Savko) and judo/catch wrestlers (Sanae Kikuta, Mark Robinson).
Although jiu jitsu’s strengths in the past, have come from the style’s versatility, this year we witnessed a clear shift of focus by many BJJ athletes who opted to spend the majority of their training schedules working on their wrestling ahead of the tournament. This willingness to engage in lengthy stand up battles seems to have been at the route of this year’s low submission rate.
ADCC SUBMISSION RATE
To further accentuate the lack of submissions and the detriment this may cause to a martial art that is making a break towards becoming a professional spectator sport, we saw an obscene number of matches being won by judge decision, the most we have ever witnessed. The negative guard pull rule (which in the past seemed to have been given only after the 5 minute mark), gave way to lengthy pushing contests, 19 of which ended up going to the judges.
Among the top winners of the decision game, two athletes stood out, Claudio Calasans (4 JD) and Orlando Sanchez (3 JD). In fact, Claudio Calasans was the first ever ADCC champion to have won without scoring ONE single point or submitting anyone throughout the tournament. Orlando was close, but submitted his first opponent (armlock from crucifix).
DECISION WINS IN THE ADCC
But is the wrestling game (or lack of it) solely to blame for one of the lowest submission rates since the tournament began? It may very well be a combination of factors.
This year’s organizers had a hard time holding the most talented jiu jitsu athletes true to the ADCC card. A sign of how much the tournament has regressed in terms of prestige over the past few years. This may have been due to a collage of issues, from substandard marketing campaigns to the lack of a professional presentation (i.e. no timers on mats or screen scoreboards, puzzle mats in the world’s premier event [!] ) obscure rules, etc.
There was also a degree of plain bad luck. For the first time we witnessed an ADCC tournament without both (current) open weight World Jiu Jitsu Championship finalists, namely Bernardo Faria and Alexander Tráns – sidelined by injury. This was also the cause for Marcus Almeida‘s absence, the sport’s main figure.
Other important jiu jitsu world champions missing from the card were: Joao Miyao (refused invite), Rafael Mendes (refused invite) and Leandro Lo (refused invite), all of which would’ve certainly helped push the submission rate.
ADCC 2015 – ATHLETES WITH MOST SUBMISSIONS
Swimming against the current, the ADCC still had some very entertaining matches, with athletes relentlessly fighting for the submission against all odds. From the many exciting grapplers under the spotlight, 3 stood above all others in terms of efficiency. Davi Ramos, Vinny Magalhaes and Rodolfo Vieira.
Ramos has always had the talent to succeed at the highest level, but had been somewhat inconsistent in the past. This year he decided to put in the hard work and improve on his tremendous physical attributes. The result was nothing short of amazing. Davi finished 3 out of his 4 matches (RNC 2x and a flying armbar), winning the 77 kilogram title by landslide.
Vinny also finished 3 matches out of his 4 wins. Magalhaes was one of the most entertaining athletes in this year’s ADCC tournament. Technically sound but with bundles of flair, “Pezão” pulled off a twister submission against the wrestler Rodrigo Artilheiro, the very first successful attempt of its kind in the ADCC. A great display of creativity by the BJJ & 10th Planet Jiu Jitsu black belt, and hopefully a sign of more to come.
Another competitor who was on fire was Rodolfo Vieira. Not known for his no gi game, Rodolfo showed up prepared, with his fluid guard passing perfectly adapted to the lack of grips. Fast and powerful, Rodolfo played flawlessly from the top, obtaining three subs in 6 wins (RNC, kimura/triangle & an arm triangle).
ADCC AND THE FUTURE
Though the numbers may paint a slightly dull picture over this year’s ADCC, one look at athletes such as Lucas Lepri, Geo Martinez or Abraham Marte (to name a few) and your mind would be positively changed.
But aside from all the numbers, it seems as though the ADCC is at a crossroads. With many new organizations consistently pushing great grappling events forward, this historic tournament is at risk of being pushed back and losing its “untouchable” status. At the moment it holds a reputation among the grappling community that no other organization can rival, proving to be one of the most apt solutions to the eternal point system vs submission only debate. But the Abu Dhabi Combat Club needs to step up and evolve towards professionalism, and regain the trust of the better athletes. For its own sake, for the sake of the sport and for the sake of us, the fans who want to see it succeed.