BJJ Heroes returns with another end-of-year ranking of jiu-jitsu’s kimono season, our attempt to find the best and most consistent athletes in our sport, at the pro level, without resourcing to social media popularity or personal bias, using solely a point scoring ranking system based on the athletes’ performances throughout the year.
Having played with different ideas on how to dig up the fairest results since we started these studies back in 2011, we believe to have found the closest thing to an optimal ranking formula by combining tournament medals with head-to-head clashes to produce the fairest results.
This year we have returned to that same formula with a little update – for a more complete explanation of the BJJ Heroes ranking method, please read below, otherwise, click on the desired weight class link.
- Under 64KG / 141.60LB (male rooster & light feather)
- Under 76KG / 168.00 LB (male feather & light)
- Under 88KG / 195.00 LB (male middle & medium-heavy)
- Over 88KG / 195.00 LB (male heavy to ultra-heavy)
- Under 53.50KG / 117.94 LB (female rooster & light feather)
- Under 64KG / 141.60 LB (female feather & light)
- Under 74.2KG / 163.60 LB (female middle & medium-heavy)
- Over 74.2KG / 163.60 LB (female heavy to ultra-heavy)
THE BJJ HEROES RANKING METHOD
The BJJ Heroes method is simple, we gather data from the most respected tournaments on the BJJ calendar and add up all the podium placers to create an unbiased shortlist of the top BJJ competitors. The tournament ranking used by us collects points from the following events:
From this shortlist, we gather the results from direct matches between top-ranked competitors*. This means that if two of these ranked black belts meet at any tournament throughout the year, whoever wins the head-to-head clash will receive extra points. Those extra points work the following way: If the winner of the bout is lower ranked than the loser he will receive 3 points, if the opposite occurs 1 point will be attributed.
– Competitor A won the Mundial = 6pts
– Competitor B won the Pans = 4pts
#1 Competitor A 6pts
#2 Competitor B 4pts
If the two go against each other at any given 2023 event – Example 1 in case Competitor A beats Competitor B, we will add 1 point to A. Example 2 if Competitor B beats Competitor A, we will add 3 points for B as he was lower ranked.
Overall Ranking (Example 1)
#1 Competitor A 7pts
#2 Competitor B 4pts
Overall Ranking (Example 2)
#1 Competitor B 7pts
#2 Competitor A 6pts
This measure was idealized to prevent successful athletes who only compete once or twice per year from missing our standings. This year we added another rule to the points system where we will also deduct 1 point per loss in the athlete´s weight class (absolute doesn’t count) in any 2023 event.
So without further ado, here are this year’s top performers according to our ranking.
* This rule only applies to the male division.
ROOSTER & LIGHT-FEATHER (UNDER 64KG / 141.60LB)
This is one of the most competitive weight classes in the sport given how any of these athletes can – and often will – beat one another at any tournament throughout the year. Due to the competitivity of the division, favoritism over athlete’s styles often takes over when addressing the rankings and we believe this is exactly where our scoring system makes the most sense as it addresses who was the most consistent athlete in the sport.
And what an outstanding race this was. One that ultimately came down to those World Championship points, given how close Pato, Reis, and Maquine were throughout the year. Diego Oliveira was certainly the most consistent of the trio, being the only one who made it to the finals of the World (gold), Pan American (silver), and European Championship (silver) this year, while also being the only to hold wins over the other two in the gi. A tremendous year for the Manaus native both in the gi and in the no-gi ruleset (more on that shortly).
An adventurous year for AOJ’s Johnatha Alves who competed 12 times in the open-weight division while being very proficient in his category. To further cement his claim as the #1 lightweight in the world, during one of those absolute category incursions Alves reaped an epic 22-point lead victory over ADCC veteran and 2023 No-Gi World Champion Elder Cruz, who is 3 weight classes above Alves.
Sharing the first-place ranking with Johnatha is Samuel Nagai of Checkmat who competes in the featherweight division, another dead-even category in the sport. Sam started 2023 poorly by failing to medal at the Spyder Invitational & the IBJJF Pans but turned the tables with an epic rebound, making the most of the 1-on-1 clashes with the other ranked competitors in the division to capture the number one position.
Somewhat of a surprise here was Pedro Ramalho (Paquito) of Portugal who made it to the #5 ranking by winning the AJP World Pro. Paquito had a 3-year hiatus from the tournament scene before the AJPWP and only competed at this event this year in the pro-circuit winning 4 out of 5 matches with a straight ankle lock.
The man behind one of the biggest upsets of the year, Jansen Gomes (Nenego) of Checkmat is the #1 athlete of 2023 with the gi in the 168-195 lb division of the BJJ Heroes ranking. Nenego gained worldwide recognition this year after he beat grappling super-stars Tye Ruotolo and Tainan Dalpra at the Mundial, ending Dalpra’s 50-match unbeaten run. All this while setting an incredible pace with 29 matches overall, one of the busiest athletes in the sport.
#2 Dalpra had another incredible season, competing in every major gi event of the IBJJF circuit, including wins at the Euros, Pan, Brazilian Nationals, and The Crown while taking 15 wins via submission in his 20 victories in 2023.
HEAVY, SUPER-HEAVY & ULTRA-HEAVYWEIGHTS (OVER 88KG / 195.00 LB)
Another division decided by razor-thin margins. On one side was Fellipe Andrew, the busiest athlete at the pro level of this adult black belt division this year with 52 matches and 22 submissions.
Sharing the podium with Andrew with the same number of points is Nicholas Meregali who had 10 matches this year with the Gi, less than 20% of Fellipe’s. Meregali may have not competed very often this year but when he did, he made it count. Unbeaten in 2023, Nicholas made the majority of his points from head-to-head clashes against high-ranking athletes. An interesting side-note in Nicholas’ record this year is that 9 of his 10 wins in the Gi in 2023 were over IBJJF adult black belt World and/or Pan medalists.
The #1 athlete in this division this year was none other than the Big Man Flow himself, Victor Hugo of team Six Blades. Hugo had 20 victories in 2023, winning the Brazilian Nationals in the weight and absolute as well as the World Championships, also in his weight and absolute, with just two losses in a year.
ROOSTER & LIGHT-FEATHER (UNDER 53.50KG / 117.94 LB)
The most dominant female roosterweight in the history of jiu-jitsu as a sport, Mayssa Bastos (AOJ) continues to rule this weight class with an iron fist, leaving no room for a serious challenger to her reign. Bastos conquered the Jiu-Jitsu Grand Slam in 2023 with wins in all 5 major GI tournaments of the season (IBJJF World, IBJJF Pan, IBJJF Euros, CBJJ Brasileiro, AJP World Pro). That’s 22 matches without tasting defeat, her best year since reaching the black belt level.
An interesting side note of this ranking is the inclusion of the Aquino sisters, Jhenifer and Thamires, two athletes who represent different teams but share a bond far stronger than any flag. Both competitors are at the forefront of the sport in their respective divisions.
FEATHER & LIGHTWEIGHT (UNDER 64KG / 141.60 LB)
The most balanced division in the sport with Luiza Monteiro (Atos) at the top of the lightweight division and Anna Rodrigues (Dream Art) as the queen of the featherweights. Interestingly, neither of the #1 athletes here conquered the IBJJF World Championship title this year (the highest-scoring tournament in the ranking), but relied on their consistency and year-round accomplishments to take this challenging weight class.
MEDIUM & MEDIUM HEAVYWEIGHTS (UNDER 74.2KG / 163.60 LB)
Thata Silva of Fratres was one of the busiest athletes in the female division with 36 matches. Thalyta made it to the finals of all the major tournaments of the IBJJF circuit this year, only missing out on the AJP World Pro, a consistency that earned her a spot in the #1 ranking with a razor-thin margin over Poland’s Maria Malyjasiak.
HEAVY, SUPER-HEAVY & ULTRA-HEAVYWEIGHTS (OVER 74.2KG / 163.60 LB)
Historically speaking, jiu-jitsu’s most impressive competitive record is often said to be 400-0 by Rickson Gracie, though the veracity of this claim has mostly been challenged. Gabrieli Pessanha’s record, however, is as real as it gets and if she keeps going at this pace, Gracie’s record might have to settle for second-best.
Currently, Gabrieli is on a path to becoming the most dominant athlete that has ever graced this sport. To have a clearer picture of her achievements, Gabrieli Pessanha won every single major gi tournament this year in her weight and the open weight class. Pessanha’s 2023 competitive record was 48-0 and she is currently running on a 108-match unbeaten streak. Yes, you read that right!
TOP 5 RANKED
#1 Gabrieli Pessanha – 37 pts
#2 Larissa Dias – 8 pts
#3 Melissa Cueto & Mayara Custodio – 7 pts
#4 Amanda Magda, Ingridd Alves, & Tamiris Silva – 6 pts
#5 Thaynara Aparecida & Roberta Ribeiro – 3 pts