Title: All You Need To Know About ADCC +99KG Division
We’re one week away! This upcoming September 17, 2022, grappling fans will witness what promises to be the biggest submission grappling show ever produced, with the return of the ADCC World Championships – the most prestigious tournament in the sport. 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 (above 218.2 lbs) division past and present; this year’s challengers/competitors, and the numbers regarding this division’s history.
+99-KILOGRAM 2022 CHALLENGERS / COMPETITOR LIST
HEIKKI JUSSILA – 1st European Trial winner
Any man that can benchpress 352 lbs is a very strong individual in our book. That was the weight shown on Jussila’s social media in preparation for the ADCC, so take our (his?) word for it, this is a powerful athlete. Despite being a part-time grappler with a Masters in science, Finland’s +99KG representative still made it to the biggest grappling event, a testament to this young man’s potential. Despite his success at the European Trials, the World Championship has a very different level of competition when compared to the qualifiers and Heikki will not be a front-runner in this stacked division.
DAN MANASOIU – 2nd European Trial winner
One of the most fun prospects in the sport is “Big Dan” Manasoiu, a Romanian-American athlete who made the best of his double nationality to compete in both ADCC the EU and USA Trials, booking his ticket for the big show in Europe.
Despite being a tremendous talent with a strong physical presence, Manasoiu is still very much a developing athlete and it is hard to ascertain his full potential given the level of competition he’s faced in recent history. His defense will be the make-or-break test in the ADCC, because when on the offense, Dan is surely one of the scariest men on this roster.
JOHN HANSEN – 1st North American Trial winner
Another tough competitor from the US, John Hansen is a 2x USA Trials champion and a 2019 ADCC veteran. Hansen has a well rounded game and is training with Heath Pedigo, a solid training camp for a battle-tested grappler that could prove to improve John’s chances at the ADCC World Championships.
ROOSEVELT SOUSA – 1st South American Trial winner
Sousa is one of the most fun ADCC rookies in this year’s race. A powerful athlete who loves to hunt for the finish, Roosevelt has improved tremendously over the last couple of years and has shown to have added plenty of technical quality to his skillset in his lattest competitive outings.
In the past, the Brazilian powerhouse’s Achilles heel would have been the stand-up game, but being around coach Roberto Abreu over the last few months should have helped Roosevelt improve this important facet of the game. One thing is certain, don’t blink when watching this young man, his submissions come in fast.
JOSH SAUNDERS – Oceania & Asian Trial winner
A former professional rugby player, Saunders made the ADCC with just about 2 years of grappling experience by winning Oceania’s Qualifier. We know barely anything of Saunders grappling-wise, but being a former pro rugby league player, expect this young man to be incredibly strong, have solid endurance, and a championship-quality mindset. Also expect him to be at the bottom of the seeding pool and likely to bump across Gordon Ryan, Nicky Rod, or Roberto Cyborg early on, which would be an inauspicious start to the tournament.
GORDON RYAN – (2019 CHAMPION -99) moves to +99
What can be said about this young man that hasn’t already been said? We’ve been in this sport since the late 1990s and covering it through BJJ Heroes for about 12 years and can honestly say Ryan is the most groundbreaking no-gi athlete of this era – and arguably of any era. Close-range passing, long-distance passing, takedowns, guard offense, guard defense, the full package, and the winning mindset to go with it. Is Gordon Ryan the favorite to win the division? Yes, he is, but don’t doubt this will be a serious challenge to the double gold medalist who will be challenging also for the open weight and the superfight with André Galvão, three goals never attempted before, simultaneously, in the history of the ADCC.
NICK RODRIGUEZ “NICKY ROD” – Invited
Far from his rookie status back in 2019, Nicky Rod is a seasoned veteran at this point. Rodriguez did not have an easy post-COVID return to the mats with a 3-3 record since the pandemic with his last win being against a relatively unknown grappler. Despite his lesser form, Nicky Rod shines brightest in the ADCC ruleset, given his wrestling-heavy style, so expect him to do well here as he should still be a particularly serious opponent for those who do not have an aggressive game off their backs.
FELIPE PENA “PREGUIÇA” – Moving up to +99 kg
Traditionally a 99-kg player in the ADCC, Felipe “Preguiça” decided to move up in weight to re-hash his most well-known rivalry with Gordon Ryan. Being a former open-weight champion (2017) it is unlikely that Pena will be seeded on the same side of the bracket as Gordon, therefore, we will have to wait for both to meet in a final for their rematch to happen.
Preguiça has decent wrestling but does his best work from the guard with an intricate “leg-spaghetti” style game revolving around 50-50, outside-ashi, X, and single-X guard, an unconventional style – particularly in this weight class – that could very well see Felipe through the tournament.
JOÃO GABRIEL ROCHA – Invited
A former silver medalist in the ADCC, João Gabriel has been semi-retired from competition with his last showing at the professional level taking place in the AJP Abu Dhabi World Pro over a year ago. For his last no-gi tournament, we need to go back 5 years in time, to the IBJJF World Championships (2017). Given these numbers, it is hard to ascertain just how far the veteran can go in the event, but whatever his chances, he is still a formidable challenge for those in the division given his experience, and his mobility for a man of his size.
VICTOR HUGO – Invited
Very much the Dark Horse of the ADCC ultra-heavyweight division, Hugo will likely be one of the most fun athletes to watch in this bracket. Big, flexible, very technical, and experienced, Victor has all the ingredients to have a good run here and we believe a match between Victor and Gordon Ryan would be a solid candidate for a “Best Match Of The Tournament” type award.
Despite his many attributes, Hugo is not known for his takedown ability, an important facet of the ADCC that could cost him dearly, if he hasn’t worked diligently on this in preparation for the tournament.
HAISAM RIDA – Invited
Arguably the most unusual pick of the ADCC this year is Haisam Rida. Despite being a very fun athlete to watch compete, Haisam has competed for most of his career in the under 94KG weight class and does not have experience with the ADCC ruleset, nor has he conquered an IBJJF World No-Gi Championship title or medal at this level.
Accolades and weight issues aside, Rida is coming into this year’s event with the second-highest submission ratio on the roster (74%). He is very fast, aggressive with the subs, and should be a fun athlete to watch compete. If he pulls this off, this will be a real Rocky Balboa type storyline, one to go in the ADCC history books.
ORLANDO SANCHEZ – Invited
A former ADCC champion (2015), Orlando Sanchez is a hard man to beat given his short and stocky stature. Sometimes outweighing his opponents by as much as 100 lbs has forced a few of his past challengers to approach Sanchez cautiously, a tempo to which Orlando is akin to dwell on as well. This set of circumstances has made for some less than exciting matches in previous outings, but make no mistake, Sanchez is a gamer and aggressive when he needs to be.
Despite having unique physical attributes that set him apart from any other competitor in this race, Orlando does not compete that often, being 13-8-0 in his nearly 10-year history as a black belt. He is also 1-4 in his past 5 matches, which should place him midway through the seeding placement, despite being a former champ.
ROBERTO “CYBORG” ABREU – Invited
At 41 years old, Roberto Abreu still shows the drive to compete at the highest level, doing so regularly in both the gi and no-gi. Cyborg is a former ADCC champion, a current IBJJF No-Gi World champion, and a current Pans champ with the gi, truly impressive numbers for the grappling veteran who is 11-1 in the past year at the adult, black belt level, that one loss coming via decision.
VINNY MAGALHÃES – Moving up to +99 kg
A historic figure in the ADCC, being a former champion (2011) and one of the most active athletes on the promotion with 27 matches at the world championships and a solid record of 19-8, Magalhães is still hanging strong at the tender age of 38. Vinny is a solid leg-locker who can wrestle and play the strategy game as well, making him a threat to anyone who stands in his path.
MAX GIMENIS – Invited
An ADCC veteran, Gimenis is a very active competitor across a range of combat sports and rulesets, from IBJJF (Gi and No-Gi) to Submission-Only, MMA, and the aforementioned ADCC. Gimenis moves very well for a man of his size and has very slick technical abilities though his conditioning can be an issue at times. If he has improved on this latter facet of his game he will be a very fun athlete to follow and one that can go further than he did in his past showing back in 2019.
DAMON RAMOS – Invited
Alongside Australia’s Josh Saunders, Ramos is the least known competitor on this roster. Damon had some solid wins in America’s ADCC Qualifiers, showing a fun skillset, particularly from the clinch where his grip work looked phenomenal. We don’t know a whole lot about Damon, but he comes from a Renzo Gracie Academy affiliate and should have a solid understanding of grappling fundamentals, considering the lineage. Time will tell how far this young man can go.
ADCC’S +99-KILOGRAM DIVISION BY THE NUMBERS
The athlete with the most matches in the Over 99kg division is the 2013 ADCC open-weight champ, Roberto “Cyborg” Abreu. Despite having never conquered a gold medal in this division, Abreu has made the semi-finals of this weight class in 2009, 2011, 2013, 2017, and 2019 – every time he’s competed in the tournament.
Maybe the more interesting facet of Cyborg’s career is how he reinvented himself in his late 30s, going from the flexible inverted-guard / half-guard player when he was at the start of his pro career, to the wrestling-heavy, top-pressure athlete he is today, a shift that happened without Roberto going through much of an adaptation period.
UNUSUAL SUSPECT, MOST SUBMISSIONS RICCO RODRIGUEZ
Arguably one of the unsung heroes of the ADCC +99 kilogram division, former UFC heavyweight champ Ricco Rodriguez‘s first steps into martial arts stardom were taken at the 1998 ADCC World Championship, the first ever tournament organized by the promotion which Ricco won as an American purple belt, then becoming the first non-Brazilian ADCC gold medalist in the history of the tournament.
Ricco had 24 matches at the event (15 wins / 9 losses), 11 of which were in the +99KG division and the rest in the open-weight. Out of his 11 wins in the ultra-heavyweight division, Rodriguez hit 7 submissions making him the most successful submission hunter of all time in this weight class.
Despite Ricco Rodriguez’s efforts, the ultra-heavyweight division of the ADCC has the lowest submission count in the event, by a fair amount. 52 submissions are all the 99-KG division has amassed over the 13 editions of the event.
The second lowest submission count on the event was that of the 88-KG weight class, with 10 finishes above the +99. Despite the somewhat disappointing numbers of the past, this year’s roster promises to deliver very different stats with the likes of Gordon Ryan, Haisam Rida, Roosevelt Sousa, Victor Hugo, and Dan Manasoiu. Time will tell if these young men deliver for the fans.
THE DYNAMICS OF THE ADCC, MACROS AT +99-KILOGRAMS
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.
BIG BOY TAKEDOWNS
In most sports being the larger athlete does not often equate to a higher work rate, but in the wrestling department, the ultra-heavyweight division has maintained itself in the mix as one of the top weight classes in numbers of takedowns with 18 throws secured, only 1 instance short of being the #2 takedown division of the ADCC.
Also interesting is that there was no particular standout in the takedown department of the Over 218 lbs class as the numbers were fair across the board. Nevertheless, Marcus Almeida stood out from the crowd, ever so slightly, with 3 instances of secured takedowns.
SWEEPING, THE LEAST USED TOOL
The guard is most definitely not the big man’s game as shown per these clear-cut stats, historically speaking. It was the least used scoring position among ultra-heavyweights, ranking last among all other divisions in their successful use of the position.
Another interesting stat here is that when amassing all stats from all the last 3 ultra-heavyweight champs, we see only one (1) sweep, and that came from Marcus Almeida in 2017. There was also Kaynan Duarte‘s ADCC winning back take against Nicky Rod back in 2019, which came from a sweeping attempt, though it did not count as a sweep in our records.
ULTRA-HEAVY GUARD PASSING
Numbers can be deceiving. Despite this being a reasonable number of overall guard passes (16), 6 of those passes were accomplished by one single individual in one single match. The man was Yuri Simões who put on a passing clinic in his first round of the +99-kilogram division back in 2019. Simões has since moved down to the weight class below, a division he won in 2017.
Interestingly, no ultra-heavyweight athletes rank on the top 5 guard passers in the ADCC’s past three editions, that could very well change this year with the presence of Gordon Ryan and Felipe Pena on the division’s roster, two of the top guard passers in the sport.
In the back-taking department, numbers aren’t as dire as in other instances. Despite being still at the tail end of the back-taking prowess, the numbers are very even across all other divisions.
Once again, expect these numbers to be very different this year, given the back-taking specialists present this year, as there are a few.
Once seen as a division of slightly overweight or “big boned” competitors, the 99-KG weight class has captivated some real athletes over the years and will have a few of those on the mats this year in men like Nick Rodriguez, Haisam Rida, Roosevelt Sousa, Gordon Ryan, Victor Hugo, to name a few.