This upcoming September 17, 2022, grappling fans will witness what promises to be the biggest no-gi jiu-jitsu show ever made, with the return of the ADCC World Championships – submission grapplings most prestigious tournament. The well-known bi-annual event had its 2021 championship postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic but this layoff only allowed organizers more time to prepare and set up the big show, promising to take the sport’s reach to a bigger mainstream audience.
In this article, we bring you all you need to know about the tournament’s 88 kilograms (194 lbs) division past and present; the competitors, the champions, and the numbers.
88-KILOGRAM 2022 CHALLENGERS
MATHEUS DINIZ (BRA) – Current Champion
2019’s ADCC Champion, Diniz has the perfect style for the ADCC. He is aggressive, fast, tactically sound, and works well from the feet. The biggestF riddle here will be what type of shape/confidence Diniz will be coming into this year’s tournament, considering he’s had a few “ups-and-downs” since he conquered grappling’s top prize with a record of 9-6-0 over the past 3 years. On a good day, Matheus can take home another gold medal, no doubt.
EOGHAN O’FLANAGAN (ENG) – 1st European Trial winner
Well-known inside the UK’s no-gi scene, O’Flanagan made a name for himself in his home country’s submission grappling circuit as a lanky guard player with very solid leg-locking skills, a style that got him through the ADCC door when he won the European Trials. Ever since clocking his ticket to the big show at the qualifiers, Eoghan has taken a lot of time to work on his strength development, having added some serious muscle to his frame, which will certainly help his chances at the World tournament, though his lack of takedown experience and points based game could prove to be a big handicap to overcome when challenging for the top prize.
SANTERI LILIUS (FIN) – 2nd European Trial winner
A very well-rounded grappler with proficient skills across the board, Santeri is also a veteran with over 70 matches at the black belt level and wins over solid names such as Adam Wardzinski and Bruno Lima. Despite not being one of the front runners, Lilius will be a problem if taken lightly.
GIANCARLO BODONI (USA) – 1st North American Trial winner
One of the most interesting talents to come out of the United States in recent memory, Giancarlo Bodoni is the real deal and a real challenge in the division. With a solid competitive mindset, very few holes in his game, and with John Danaher in his corner, expect this young man to be the dark horse in this weight class.
JACOB “JAY-ROD” RODRIGUEZ (USA) – 2nd North American Trial winner
Will Jay be capable of repeating his bigger brother (Nick Rodriguez’s) 2019 deed of reaching the final with relative inexperience? That is the question everyone is asking themselves at this point. Jacob brings a similar set of skills to the mat as Nicky Rod with outstanding takedown and back-taking abilities, but also brings a similar kink in his armor – guard defense.
If he manages to apply the same game plan he executed at the ADCC Trials, meaning – take everyone down, take their back and finish with the RNC – then the guard will not be an issue, but no doubt he will face far superior talent at the World Championships than he did at the qualifier.
ISAQUE BAHIENSE (BRA) – 1st South American Trial winner
One of the top gi-players in the world, Mr. Isaque Bahiense will enter the shark-infested waters of no-gi grappling at the ADCC World Championships. A tough test, no doubt, considering Bahiense traditionally competes at 82-kg (with the gi) and has a lot less experience under this ruleset when compared to most other athletes on the roster.
Drawbacks aside, Isaque is a natural-born competitor who is very good at winning. Scrappy, fast, and strategic are Bahiense’s strongest attributes, all essential tools to have when challenging for an ADCC medal.
ALEXANDRE DE JESUS (BRA) – 2nd South Am. Trial winner
Another gi athlete who has recently shifted towards no-gi is Claudio Calasans’ top student Alexandre de Jesus. In the gi, Jesus was more of a judo-style thrower and distance passer, somewhat similar to what he brought to the table in his winning performance at the South American Trials of the ADCC where he beat tough names such as Rafael Paganini, André Porfirio, and Calon Sabino.
Jesus competed last year at the IBJJF World No-Gi Championships at under 79 kg – that’s 174.5 lbs for our American readers – 20 lbs below the weight limit of the ADCC tournament, meaning, de Jesus will be one of the smallest athletes on the roster and also one of the least experienced in the no-gi set-up. Nevertheless, his high-profile wins at the qualifiers must be taken into consideration, Jesus is a force.
ROBERTO DIB (BRA/AUS) – Oceania & Asian Trial winner
A veteran in Australia’s combat sports scene, Roberto has continuously stood on the podium steps of Oceania’s top grappling events over the past few years. Internationally, however, we have not yet seen enough to warrant a challenger status. That could very well change next month.
MASON FOWLER (USA) – (-99 trial winner) dropping to -88
Fowler is one of 3 athletes who will be dropping down to the 88 weight class after finding their way to the event through the under 99-kg div. If he can make the weight cut and remain healthy at 88, he will undoubtedly be one of the biggest threats to the gold medal, a top 3 contender at the very least.
Mason is the full package, strong, very well-rounded, technical, and experienced with wins over Paul Ardila, Craig Jones, Gutemberg Pereira, Vinny Magalhães, BB Monster, Manuel Ribamar, Devhonte Johnson, and more – a list as long as it is impressive. Truly one of the guys to keep an eye on.
“XANDE” RIBEIRO (BRA) – Invited
Impossible not to love what a veteran like Alexandre Ribeiro brings to the mat. With a black belt career at the highest level that started back in 2001 (!) the 2x ADCC champion (2007 / 2009) will be making his 8th appearance in the tournament. He is, likely, the athlete with the most matches in the event, his last medal at the World Championship was a bronze in 2017 (his last ADCC showing), to which we can add that the last time he was mounted in a competitive setting was back in 1991 (yellow belt). Oh, also, his guard has only been passed 2x with the gi and never in no-gi at the black belt level. Crazy stats.
Ribeiro is a masterful technician who will be very hard to compete against despite his “old” age for a top-shelf grappling event. Will he have enough in the gas tank to go up against the new breed of athletes who are hungrier and will (possibly) have better cardio than the Six Blades Team founder? We can’t wait to find out. On a personal level, the match we would most like to see in this tournament would be Tye Ruotolo vs Xande Ribeiro. Hopefully, we get to see it.
JOSH HINGER (USA) – Invited
The guillotine master will be back once again after his bronze medal back in 2019. Since the last ADCC tournament, Josh has competed less than usual, but every time he’s entered the mats, he’s done so with competence.
Josh trains at one of the toughest camps on the planet (Atos HQ), so expect him to come prepared. He has the wrestling skills to match everyone on the roster and a killer submission hunting instinct to boot.
TYE RUOTOLO (USA) – Invited
One of the most loved grapplers on the planet is 19YO Tye Ruotolo, arguably the most dynamic athlete on this roster. Sadly, due to the tournament rules, we will likely see Ruotolo face two of his training partners early in the tournament (Hinger and/or Hulk) rather than a fan-favorite clash with Xande Ribeiro, nevertheless, expect fireworks from this young man.
Tye’s style is impetuous. His defense is impregnable. He is just ferocious, much like a lanky (less temperamental) grappling version of Iron Mike Tyson, and just as fun to watch compete. He is also, in our eyes, one of the favorites to win the big show.
VAGNER ROCHA (BRA/USA) – Invited
A former ADCC bronze medalist at 77kg and one of the most well-known veterans of the sport, Rocha is seldomly out of place or hyperextended in a match. He plays a counter style with plenty of mind games and often gets physical/communicative to frustrate and force others to engage with him as he sits and waits for an opportunity to score. Although this may not be the most fun style to watch as a spectator, what it is is extremely effective at winning bouts and that is what makes Vagner a dangerous opponent on this roster.
LUCAS “HULK” BARBOSA (BRA) – Invited
Always entertaining and always a threat to a gold medal in anything he competes in, Lucas “Hulk” Barbosa will be a contender here. The picture-perfect body-type and style for the ADCC ruleset being strong, fast, great takedown ability, solid mindset, good cardio, and a tough guard to pass.
Back in 2019, we believe, Hulk competed in the wrong weight class (99kg), yet, he still made it to the semi-finals. Now in his natural division, expect Barbosa to be a very serious contender.
IZAAK MICHELL (AUS) – (-99 Oceania Trial winner) dropping to -88
Another exciting prospect from Australia, a country that is slowly but steadily bringing out top talent to the grappling world. Michell has shown to be a promising young man for some time now, being first brought out to the international scene as a purple belt through GrappleFest. Izaak has since moved to the United States to pursue a full-time career in this sport where he also added plenty of muscle to his frame, making him a good prospect in the division.
Very technical, on paper Michell has everything to pull through an upset at the big show, with his lack of experience at the highest level being the only box left to tick to make this assertion a reality.
PEDRO MARINHO (BRA) – Dropping to -88
First invited to the 99 kg division, Marinho has now taken a vacant spot in the 194 lb division, a weight class that is much closer to where Pedro has done his best work in the sport.
Marinho was a double gold medalist at the 2021 IBJJF World No-Gi Championships but, since then, has had plenty of highs and lows with his 2022 record currently standing at 8-6-0. When physically and mentally well prepared, Pedro has plenty of potential through a strong takedown game, solid guillotine offense, and cardio.
ADCC’S 88-KILOGRAM DIVISION BY THE NUMBERS
In this segment of the ADCC 77-Kilogram division, we bring you a few important stats from the past ADCC World Championships in an attempt to celebrate the legends of our sport while also presenting a few of the current game meta. Meaning, that what the new generation of grappling is doing at the highest level under this ADCC ruleset, as it is widely regarded as the most complete and inclusive of all submission-wrestling promotions.
MOST MATCHES IN ADCC 88KG HISTORY
The athlete with the most matches at 88-kg is 2x ADCC champ and living jiu-jitsu legend, Saulo Ribeiro with 16 matches across a span of 4 years. Saulo also competed in the 99-kilo division (where he reached the final), in the +99-kilo, and in the 77-kilo weight class, truly an incredible career all round. Always ready to test his skills with everyone and anyone, Ribeiro ended his ADCC career with a total of 30 matches and 22 victories.
Equaling this 16-match record is Saulo’s own student, Mr. Rafael Lovato Junior, a pioneer of North America’s jiu-jitsu, and a unique figure in the sport. Not only has Lovato broken records in no-gi with the most matches in the 88-kg weight class AND THE MOST SUBMISSIONS IN THE DIVISION (6), ever, Lovato Junior was also the first non-Brazilian to win the CBJJ Brazilian National Championship in the gi as a black belt (2007), the first non-Brazilian to win the Brasileiro’s open weight division (2013) and the 3rd American citizen to win the IBJJF World Championship in the black belt division (2007)
TOTAL SUBMISSIONS AT 88KG
With the second lowest submission count in the tournament, the medium-heavyweights have not overwhelmed the crowds with the beloved match-ending finish. Much of this statistic could, likely, come down to this weight class’s past champions who have been, traditionally, more positional grappling oriented, names such as Sanae Kikuta, Saulo Ribeiro, and André Galvão, none of which is known as a submission hunter.
ADCC MACROS AT 88-KILOGRAMS
POSITIONAL STATS, please note that the stats here presented were taken from a deep study performed by BJJ Heroes over 2015, 2017, and 2019 events of the ADCC World Championships. The data on the positional grappling exchanges here published accounts solely for solidified positions. Near attempts were not taken into account in this study, nor were the open-weight divisions as the purpose of these stats was to attempt to pinpoint the different dynamics of modern-day submission-grappling among each division.
17 are the total takedowns we have seen in the 88-kilogram division over the past 3 editions of the ADCC, the second-lowest rate of takedowns in the promotion. Don’t get fooled by this bottom-of-the-takedown pool metric though as this division was nearly 100% higher than the featherweights (66-kg) in successful takedowns and very close to all other weights.
Takedowns are indeed crucial in this medium-heavyweight division when addressing this weight class’s past champions, namely Ronaldo Souza, André Galvão, Sanae Kikuta, Demian Maia, Saulo Ribeiro, Kareem Barchlov, Romulo Barral, Matheus Dinis, etc.
Sweeps are another element that isn’t particularly strong in the 88-kilogram division. In fact, one could say that this medium-heavyweight class is somewhat moderate in the numbers department as it shows mid-of-the-range ratios across all main aspects of grappling, despite historically being also one of the most talent-dense weight classes in the tournament. Takedowns, sweeps, guard passes, and back takes all show numbers that place this division among the more balanced in the tournament.
When it comes to the highest scoring sweepers at 88, Australia’s Craig Jones was the most accurate athlete in this weight class since we started recording these stats. Jones achieved 4 successful sweeps back in 2019, just 2 shy of the tournament’s top reversal specialist, Paulo Miyao.
Once again, the 88-KG division maintains its middle-ground with 18 guard passes, 10 passes below the #1 guard passing division of the ADCC – the 99+ weight class – and also 10 passes above the hardest guards to pass in the tournament, the 66-kg featherweights.
One of the top guard passers in the ADCC, Yuri Simões was one of the 88-kilogram division’s champions back in 2015, however, most of Simões’ guard passes were conquered in the 99-kg weight class, after his medium-heavyweight title. That said, guard passing is an important part of the game, particularly in such a balanced division where every positional dominance is scarce and counts so definitively when it happens.
The 88-KG division saw the least back takes out of all the divisions over the past 3 editions of the tournament, but interestingly, this isn’t as much of an indicator of the medium-heavyweights lack of back-taking ambition as you could imagine. A mere 4 back takes separated the best back-taking weight class from the worst, dynamics that could change in one single event, or even in one single match.
To a big extent, much of the division’s back take count is owed to its 2015 champion, Mr. Yuri Simões. One of the busiest athletes in the ADCC tournament who conquered 4 back controls that year. The second highest back-taking count in a single year at the ADCC World Championships, behind Rodolfo Vieira (6) at 99 kg.
Original cover photo and all others used on this article were taken by Lisa Albon at the 2019 ADCC World Championships.