BJJ Heroes returns with another end-of-year ranking of submission-wrestling & no-gi jiu-jitsu’s 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, 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 complete explanation of the BJJ Heroes ranking method, be sure to read below, otherwise, click on the desired weight class link.
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 of medalists, we gather the results from direct matches between top-ranked competitors*. This means that if two of these medaled athletes 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 ADCC = 6pts
– Competitor B won the No-Gi 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 no-gi event.
So without further ado, here are this year´s top performers according to our ranking.
MALE, UNDER 149.00 LB
Rooster, Light-Feather & Featherweight
A superb race that went down the wire between Junny Ocasio (Unity) and Diego Pato (AOJ), which was ultimately won by the American thanks to his consistency in 2023. Although Junny’s size has been too much of a handicap to overcome in the ADCC circuit, the lighter divisions of the IBJJF have proven to be the ideal setting for the savvy leg-locker to showcase his skills.
Ocasio’s 2023 campaign saw him win the three major no-gi events on the IBJJF schedule, the European, World, and Pan tournaments making this the best year in his career and him the #1 ranked athlete in the division.
#2 ranked Diego Oliveira also had the most impressive year of his career, making the #1 spot in the BJJ Heroes Gi Ranking (see here) and the second position in this no-gi list, losing to Junny Ocasio by merely 1 point while running undefeated in this ruleset in 2023.
MALE, UNDER 175.60 LB
Light & Middle-Weight
Arguably the breakthrough star of the year in the no-gi ruleset this year was B-Team’s Jozef Chen an incredible talent of just 19 years of age, who got to share the #1 rank with 2 other major stars of the sport, namely ADCC champion Kade Ruotolo and IBJJF World No-Gi Champion Tommy Langaker, thanks to his 1-to-1 challenges in the pro circuit.
Norway’s Langaker was one of the busiest athletes in the division, particularly in the second half of 2023, conquering an IBJJF World no-gi title, an IBJJF European no-gi title in a stacked division, and placed 3rd at the European ADCC Trials. A very positive year for the talented athlete who also participated in several Match Of The Year type clashes including an epic war against Oliver Taza at Polaris.
MALE UNDER 202.00 LB
Medium-Heavy & Heavyweight
The Natural and The Hilbilly Hammer are two generational leaders in no-gi grappling and their performances this year further cemented their status as such. Although very different in their approach to the game with Jimenez being more of a mobility-based athlete with some of the best back attacks in the sport and Jacob Couch a guard player & a leg-locker, the two share a similarity in the fact that they love to submit and do it often.
Roberto Jimenez had 30 wins in 2023 and only one of those didn’t come via submission. Jacob Couch had 19 wins and only 3 of those didn’t end with a tap. Numbers that are only capable of being accomplished by the elite.
Although not yet a black belt, Australia’s Izaak Michell proved his worth against the top of the grappling food chain this year with wins against both Jimenez and Couch in 2023, proving he is more than ready to challenge for a big title next year.
MALE OVER 202.00 LB
Gordon Ryan is nicknamed King Ryan for a reason. He is, undoubtedly the best no-gi grappler in the world and is very likely the best to ever do it. Even though the New Wave frontman didn’t compete as much this year for health-related reasons, the points conquered at the ADCC World Championships got him to the top in a very competitive division.
An interesting side-note on this ranking is the fact that 4 New Wave team representatives made it through to the top 5 and two of those athletes aren’t even black belts yet. A testament to the solid work being done with these heavyweights at the Roka training facility under coach John Danaher.
What a year for the Welsh phenom, Ffion Davies of Essential JJ. The dynamic grappler took home world titles in the gi and no-gi, the latter ruleset in her weight class and the absolute, 3 gold medals she added to her stacked trophy cabinet which already included a 2022 ADCC world title as well, leaving no question as to who is the most dominant female submission-wrestler of 2023.
Just behind Davies was Lyzz Mitrovic of Precision Jiu-Jitsu, who also looked outstanding in 2023 in both the gi and the no-gi ruleset. Lyzz is qualified to compete in the masters division and won an IBJJF Masters World Championship (gi) this year, but is still very much a force in the adult age division with a silver medal at the Euros & American Nationals, also with the gi. In the no-gi ruleset, where she conquered this BJJ Heroes #2 ranking, Mitrovic’s prowess shot through the roof with gold medals at the American Nationals, European Championship, Pan, and World Championship, all in the IBJJF circuit, being one tournament short from the Grand Slam.
#3 in this ranking was Australia’s Adele Fornarino who only just made it to black belt but has hit the ground running putting on incredible performances in the international circuit with and without the Gi. One of the interesting facets of this podium is that all 3 of its main figures are not fully dedicated to no-gi.
When tied in points, the female ranking was decided firstly by the number of gold medals, if still at a tie by the relevance of the gold medals on the international circuit (#1 ADCC World, #2 IBJJF World, #3 IBJJF Pan).