Often dismissed by the mainstream of jiu-jitsu, the submission-only aspect of the sport has gained plenty of traction in the United States, where the ruleset is alive and well, producing paid professional events on a weekly basis, from which a legion of athletes has been harvested.
So far, only two schools/systems have consistently provided a constant stream of high-end talent in this genre of grappling: The Renzo Gracie Academy as well as the 10th Planet Academy. These schools have held the torch and the standard of submission-only, high, proving consistency in results and in delivery of top talent. Today we bring you 5 emerging athletes whom we see as potential stars on a global level. Competitors who may deliver to this segment of grappling the recognition it deserves.
KEITH KRIKORIAN (10th Planet)
One of 10th Planet’s most interesting athletes to watch, Krikorian is an offensive machine. Always on the attack. This style gave us one of the most interesting matches of 2019, namely that of Keith vs Tex Johnson at the BJJ Fanatics Grand Prix.
This offense driven competing style, both from the top and bottom positions, has opened a few doors for Keith along the way, including an invitation to the ADCC World Championship in 2019, after Krikorian’s silver medal performance at the 2018 & 2019 trials.
During 2019 the former freestyle wrestler and brown belt under Casey Halstead and Richie Martinez conquered an array of events, including high profile superfights such as a submission win over the highly-rated Mathias Luna.
AMANDA LEVE (Leve BJJ)
A true powerhouse in the making is Leve (whose last name, contradictory to her grinding style, means “light” in Portuguese). Amanda competed at the ADCC last year after winning the West Coast trials, taking out one of the big players of the division, Maggie Grindatti.
At 22 years old, Amanda Leve is splitting her time between competing in MMA and grappling while running her own gym (Leve BJJ) in Philadelphia. Her most recent achievements include a superfight co-main event win at JitzKings and Finishers tournament, both under submission-only professional rules.
Amanda is one of the few athletes on this list who is not training on a day-to-day basis in a room of professional athletes, which may stifle her growth in the sport, however, the potential is certainly there to make a big star of this young woman.
ALAN SANCHEZ (10th Planet)
We first saw Sanchez in 2017, competing at the IBJJF British Nationals in the purple belt, no-gi division, and he immediately caught our eye as a true talent. We kept following his progress since, and the young athlete has only improved on what we saw back then.
Sanchez has made “Trial By Fire” his motto and competes in nearly every ruleset that doesn’t involve the gi. Sub-only, Grappling Industries, IBJJF, ADCC, Combat EBI, etc, he is always game and always exciting to watch.
In 2019 Alan defended his F2W belt, won the Finishers Only Invitational and an IBJJF World No-Gi title as a brown belt and earned his black belt from Adam Sachnoff (10th Planet San Mateo school). What a year! Keep your eyes on him in 2020.
GRACE GUNDRUM (10th Planet)
An unbelievable talent of tremendous potential is Gundrum, arguably the biggest prospect in submission-only today. Last year, as a 16-year-old, Grace went toe-to-toe against one of the top female rooster weights in the world, 4x IBJJF black belt world champ Rikako Yuasa, who weighed nearly 5 kg (11 lbs) more than the young phenom. Their match was one of the best showdowns in the Quintet promotion that year and ended in a draw.
Throughout the past 3 years Grace has grown a lot, with fantastic performances at the highest level of competition, be it in Quintet, Finishers Only, Kasai Pro, Onnit Invitational and more. Unfortunately for Gundrum, there is no 45-kilogram (100 lbs) weight class in the ADCC, if it were, she would almost certainly be standing on that podium.
NICKY RYAN (Renzo Gracie)
Another incredible talent is Ryan, who, much like the aforementioned Grace Gundrum, has been in the spotlight of the sport since his early teens. Currently, 18 years of age, Ryan’s career has been nothing short of impressive thanks to his wins over huge names such as Geo Martinez as well as his crushing performance at the ADCC American Trials.
When challenged at the highest level of grappling, the ADCC World Championship, Ryan responded by beating a former IBJJF World Champion and losing by a very tight margin against one of the best competitors in the world today. All signs of a brilliant future ahead.
Ryan is part of the Danaher Death Squad at the Renzo Gracie Academy in New York, a dojo that has been making history in the submission-only platform and in submission grappling in general. Given his training environment and the talent embodied in Nicky, the sky is the limit for the young New Jersey native.