We’re nearly there! This upcoming September 17, 2022, grappling fans will witness what promises to be the most significant submission grappling show ever produced, with the return of the ADCC World Championships – no-gi’s 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 99 kilograms (218.2 lbs) division past and present; historically the most interesting weight class in the event considering it’s had – thus far – 4 double gold medalists (Mario Sperry, Ricardo Arona, Roger Gracie, and Gordon Ryan), double what any other weight class has achieved. This division is also one of the busiest when addressing positional stats conquered (i.e. takedowns, sweeps, guard passes, etc). For a full report, the competitors, the champions, and the numbers, check below.
PERTTU TEPPONEN – 1st European Trial winner
A veteran of the European circuit, Finland’s Tepponen is a part-time athlete who still manages to compete at a good level when he sees so fit. Perttu is not a front-runner but a solid athlete all-around.
LUKE GRIFFITH – 2nd European Trial winner
We don’t know a whole lot about Griffith as he’s not the most active competitor on the pro-circuit, but from what we’ve seen from Luke, it is easy to see John Danaher’s influence in his game. Solid chest-to-chest guard passer, very good at finding spaces to wrestle up, and great understanding of heel hooks. Despite his very sound technical skills, the big question mark here is his lack of experience – or how it could affect his performance – and his wrestling game.
JOÃO COSTA – 1st South American Trial winner
Much like Tepponen, Costa has spent most of his grappling career operating on a part-time schedule, nevertheless, through his tenacious mindset he’s now on the roster of the biggest no-gi event in the world. The tenaciousness of Costa will be the hardest facet to overcome when facing the Florida-based Brazilian athlete, as will be his base. A hard man to take down.
HENRIQUE CARDOSO “CECONI” – 2nd South American Trial winner
One of the most fun athletes to watch in the scene right now is Cardoso, a very dynamic grappler who loves to push the pace and wrestle. Ceconi does have a few untested areas of his game as we’ve not seen him go against a “serious” leg-locker, nor have we seen him play guard, though, with his wrestling and scramble ability, it is hard to foresee his guard playing faculties being much of a problem.
PAUL ARDILA – 2nd North American Trial winner
Another part-time grappler in this division, although in Ardila’s case, we would argue he is a much bigger threat to the podium and somewhat of a Dark Horse of this race.
Although he works as a lawyer during the day, Ardila comes in with a solid wrestling pedigree having placed 4th at the National Collegiate Wrestling Association tournament, but he is much more than a wrestler. Paul has very solid leg-locking skills and a very aggressive guard to go with his takedown abilities, making him a serious contender for the podium.
RAFAEL LOVATO JR – Invited
One of the legends of the sport, Rafael Lovato made his career in the ADCC as an 88-kg challenger, currently holding the record for most submissions ever in that division (6) as well as most matches in that division (16).
Currently challenging in a weight class above the one where he reaped the most success, and being close to 40 years of age, are two factors to take into account when considering the American legend’s chances of taking a gold medal, nevertheless, expect Lovato Junior to be a real challenge to anyone in his path.
KAYNAN DUARTE – (+99 CHAMPION) drops to -99
The front runner in this race is Kaynan Duarte of Atos, the current +99 kilogram champ who is dropping down a weight class to challenge the under 99kg division. Duarte is as real as it gets, a well-rounded athlete, technically, physically, and tactically with just one hole in his game: The inside heel-hook defense. Although – on paper – Duarte is still the toughest guy here, this glaring kink in his armor could be explored by the more leg-lock savvy people on the roster, athletes like Craig Jones, Kyle Boehm, and Luke Griffith.
YURI SIMÕES – Invited
The stats don’t lie, Simões has proven time and time again to be the hardest worker in the game over the past 3 editions of the ADCC, showing the highest number of takedowns (6), the highest number of guard passes (12), and the second highest number of backtakes (6). A real dynamo of an athlete and one of the most fun competitors to follow.
Simões has won the tournament in both the 88 and the 99-kilogram divisions but has not competed in jiu-jitsu for over a year. Will the lack of activity help or hinder his performance?
PATRICK GAUDIO – Invited
After a very busy 2021 where Gaudio went 23-9-0, the Brazilian athlete is yet to compete this year. On paper, Gaudio is starting his ADCC run at the back of the line, currently holding a 2-2 record with the promotion at the World Championships. These numbers could be slightly off the mark as he is one of the toughest super-heavyweights in the world.
NICHOLAS MEREGALI – Invited
Although widely regarded as a gi specialist, Meregali is slowly gaining momentum in no-gi, currently running undefeated at the pro-level with a 3-0-0 record. Although with an impressive start, Nicholas is still a work in progress in the division, and his true worth as a gold medal contender is a question mark. So far, the Gaúcho athlete has played mostly from the top position in submission-grappling but will Meregali’s wrestling hold up against the likes of Yuri Simões, Paul Ardila, Kaynan Duarte, etc? Regardless of the end result, expect Meregali to be one of the most entertaining grapplers to follow on the roster.
ELDER CRUZ “EL MONSTRO” – Invited
After two close attempts at the ADCC Trials where Elder conquered 2nd and 4th places, Checkmat’s “Monster” makes it to the big show, just a couple of months removed from earning his black belt. Quite a year for the Honduran athlete. Elder brings aggressiveness, very solid takedowns, and solid passing.
VINICIUS FERREIRA “TRATOR” – Invited
An ADCC silver medalist in 2019, Trator was the right name to invite this year. Ferreira has a solid all-around game with a great base and a top level half-guard game that has seen him through very tough opponents such as Patrick Gaudio, Jackson Sousa, Keenan Cornelius, Paul Ardila, Vinny Magalhães, to name a few.
Although an excellent athlete, Trator’s post-pandemic form has been finicky. Addressing 2022 alone, Ferreira is arriving at the World Championships with a 5-8-0 record, which place a big question mark on his chances of mimicking his 2019 ADCC performance.
CRAIG JONES – Moving up to -99 kg
An interesting option by the Australian grappler who pushed to be moved up in weight after competing 3x in the 88-kilo division. Despite being at a slight frame disadvantage here, this might turn out to be a very solid decision for the B-Team leader who will find in the 99-kg weight class a less stacked bracket when compared to the names at 88.
Jones is best known for his leg-locks – and make no mistake, on paper, he is the best heel-hook specialist in the division – but has slowly but surely, also become a very solid guard-passer. One could say on par with the likes of Yuri Simões in aggressiveness and accuracy, making him a well-rounded and tough challenger to the 99 division.
DEVHONTE JOHNSON – Invited
Very few athletes can match Devhonte’s power on the mats, but his attributes reach further and wider than his physical prowess. The Unity Team representative is also tactically sound and has, more recently, added a solid submission game to boot his arsenal.
Johnson has been very active in his run-up to the ADCC World Championship this year with 17 matches (12 victories and 5 losses), though only two losses without the gi. Devhonte is a fun athlete to watch and a 2021 IBJJF World No-Gi Champion, so expect a real challenger here.
KYLE BOEHM – (+99 trial winner) dropping to -99
One of the top 10th Planet competitors and a very tough challenge for anyone on this roster, given his experience and his submission offense, which is outstanding, particularly in the heel hooking department. Despite Kyle’s undeniably strong submission offense, he does, however, lack guard retention and takedown ability, two important facets of the ADCC ruleset. Just how important, time will tell.
OWEN LIVESEY – Invited
A finalist in the second European Trials is Livesey, of England, a solid judo player who made his career off of throwing people around with high amplitude takedowns. From what we have seen, his groundwork has not been proven at a high level, but if he can keep it on the feet, he could be a fun competitor to follow.
In this segment of the ADCC 99-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.
XANDE RIBEIRO – MOST MATCHES IN ADCC 99KG HISTORY
The athlete with the most matches at 99-kg is 2x ADCC champ and living jiu-jitsu legend, Xande Ribeiro with 23 matches. Still, his overall mark is even more impressive with 42 clashes across a span of 6 events (14 submissions), which include his challenges in the 88, 99, and open weight divisions. Alexandre’s vast experience with the ADCC also saw him reach a bronze medal at 88 kilos back in 2017, but he was most at home at 99.
DEAN LISTER – MOST SUBS IN ADCC 99KG HISTORY
One of the pioneers of the submission-grappling’s leglock game is the American grappling legend Dean Lister, a man before his time, Lister’s game is now earning the appreciation it deserved after a somewhat tepid reception in his early days of the sport. Dean, who conquered 2 ADCC World titles, is also one of a very select group of athletes who won the most prestigious no-gi event in the sport without much of a wrestling game or a top/passing game as most of his wins derived from his very dangerous guard.
Dean had 14 matches at 99kg with 10 wins, 7 of which were submissions (5 heel-hooks). Truly impressive numbers. This also means that Lister, singlehandedly, accounted for 11% of all submissions that took place in this division, counting all events (1998-2019), incredible stats.
TOTAL SUBMISSIONS AT 99KG
POSITIONAL STATS, please note that the stats here presented were taken from a deep study performed by BJJ Heroes over the 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 for 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.
One of the most interesting divisions in the organization is the 99-kg, a weight class that is always packed with solid talent and regularly delivers solid entertainment and fast-paced matches. In the takedown department, the super-heavyweights have been well sorted through wrestling heavy champions over the past 3 editions with Rodolfo Vieira, Yuri Simões, and Gordon Ryan. All athletes with very dynamic games who play particularly well in the wrestling department.
YURI SIMOES & RODOLFO VIEIRA
The solid numbers of takedowns displayed by the 99-kg division are greatly owed to two of the weight class’s aforementioned champions, Yuri Simões (2017) and Rodolfo Vieira (2015) who were the promotion’s most successful athletes in the wrestling portion of the stats with 4 takedowns each, on the year they won. Another champion who showed very solid wrestling at 99-kg was Gordon Ryan who conquered 2 when he won the division back in 2019, and 4 more in the 88-kg weight class back in 2017.
IS THE GUARD SOLELY A LIGHTWEIGHT GAME? THE STATS SAY OTHERWISE
We tend to associate sweeps with lighter weights as the bottom game appears to be a more appealing style of play to the featherweights, but the big boys can play guard too. As we referenced previously, the 99-kg weight class is one of the richest talent pools in our sport, with many ranges of stylists, as proven by these stats. A total of 20 sweeps were conquered by these superheavyweights, ranking it as the #2 in this category over the past 3 ADCC events.
One of the top sweeping artists of the 99-kilo division was Gordon Ryan who has since moved to ultra-heavy (+99), his place as the top sweeper on the roster is now up for grabs, but one man is coming in, in the pole position on this race. That man is Craig Jones, who displayed a masterful sweeping game back in 2019 with 4 successful reversals at 88kg, making him the second-best sweeper that year only behind Paulo Miyao (6).
MASTERFUL GUARD PASSERS LIVE HERE
We keep researching and the super-heavyweights keep delivering. Not only did the 99-kg athletes prove to be highly versed in the takedown and the sweeping game, but they were also avid passers over the past 3 editions of the ADCC, showing the highest count of established passes in the World Championship tournament with 28 passes, 10 instances over the #2 weight class of the tournament.
#1 GUARD PASSER IN ADCC – YURI SIMÕES
One of the most active athletes on the ADCC roster over the past 3 editions, Simões’ work rate has been unrivaled in the promotion, he who placed #1 in numbers of takedowns completed during this period, #2 in back takes (see below) and #1 in guard passes with 12 throughout 2015, 2017, and 2019. Truly outstanding metrics by the Caio Terra Association representative. It is worth referencing that Simões has competed across three weight classes (88, 99, and +99 kilos) over the span of these past three editions of the event, so not all his guard passes were accomplished in this weight class, nevertheless, the praise is warranted here.
CHAMPIONSHIP BACK TAKES
Very even across the board in terms of back takes as only 4 instances of back control separate the top back taking division from the bottom one, a peculiar circumstance, nevertheless, what is more interesting here is that an athlete’s back taking potential appears to be directly correlated with his chances of winning a 99-kg ADCC title.
All 3 of the division’s champions over the past three editions of the ADCC, namely Gordon Ryan, Rodolfo Vieira, and Yuri Simões placed 2nd in the number of overall back takes, only just behind Rubens Charles “Cobrinha” – the featherweight gold medalist – by 1 instance.
The original cover photo in this article was taken by Lisa Albon, other photos were taken by Albon and Grapple TV at the 2019 ADCC World Championships.