With ADCC 2011 held and finished this weekend in Nottingham, England, the legions of submission grappling fans have been given some of the finest submission grappling on the planet. SBNation is proud to bring you a summation of the event storylines and highlights of the tournament.
SBNation ADCC Highlights
There is perhaps no better highlight for ADCC 2011 than Andre Galvao's final match of the Absolute Division. As Patrick Tenney, intrepid grappler and SBNation live-blogger, puts it:
Popovitch on his back against Galvao in half guard. Pablo is able to roll Andre up into deep half guard now and Galvao stands up and places the knee across Popovitch's throat. Galvao steps over Popovitch and dives for a toe hold and holy crap it hits and Pablo taps immediately.
Andre Galvao is your ADCC 2011 Absolute World Champion.
That burst of magic gave Andre Galvao his second gold medal of the day and set up a terrific Superfight against Braulio Estima, the last double gold medal winner and current Superfight champion, to be held wherever the 2013 ADCC is located.
This 2011 tournament gave us some of the best matches we've seen in the divisional competition. A potential match of the tournament can be found in the Over 99 kg title match where Fabricio Werdum escaping from an omaplota and achieving a locked-on armbar on Vinny Magalhaes, only to have Vinny miraculously ride out the time to win a points victory and the Over 99 kg title.
For an unexpected and brilliant finishs, check out the tumultuous match between Jeff Glover and Robson Moura in the bronze medal match of the 66 kg division. Tenny's enthusiasm for this match is visible in his summation of the decisive moment:
Robson flips over the half guard and goes for the back but Jeff get's his back to the floor and Robson can't get the hooks in. Glover's legs working constantly and we're back to half guard. Jef with a slick arm in guillotine and WOW that was terrific, Jeff countered Robson's pass and when Robson went back the other way Jeff lifted and went around the head and it was in and over.
In the finals of the Women's 60 kg division, Kyra Gracie's dramatic win of her third ADCC title over Michelle Nicolini provided both an unusual finish in an omaplota/rear naked choke combination and another title for perhaps the most visible face in women's submission grappling.
In the last highlight selected for your attention, Marcelo Garcia faced a hint of trouble when he defended a threatening guillotine from Kron Gracie, but managed to work his way out and stand before time was called. His earlier pass into side control gave him the necessary points to defeat Kron, but the battle was closer this time than it was in 2009. This points decision may sound dull, but with the expectations and skill levels of the two grapplers, it should be a must-watch for submission grappling fans.
The matches of ADCC 2011 can be viewed online at BudoVideos in an on-demand format soon and the entire tournament, plus extras, will be released on DVD eventually. Previous ADCC tournaments are available on DVD and are stuffed with incredible matches and famous grapplers and mixed martial arts fighters.
The list has to start with Andre Galvao. In the lead-up to the tournament, many were considering him a favorite to win the 88 kg title and make a decent showing in the Absolute, if he entered it. Very few expected him to beat Pablo Popovitch twice and to dispatch skilled adversaries like Sergio Moraes, Gunnar Nelson, Rousimar Palhares and Murilo Santana all in one tournament. Like Braulio Estima before him in ADCC 2009, Andre's run to the double gold in ADCC 2011 is a legendary feat. Perhaps he can take that confidence and apply it to his stalled MMA career. Speculation about whether he would be best competing at his preferred welterweight or middleweight can now begin.
Dean Lister is the next big winner of ADCC 2011. It may be odd to count the 2003 ADCC Absolute champion and 2005 Superfight champion as an unexpected force in the tournament, but very few commentators and spectators expected Lister to make a serious challenge in 2011. We cited Lister's age (35), his lack of recent competitive success and the presence of Xande and Rodolfo as near-insurmountable barriers to his ascension. It looks like Lister didn't listen to us nay-sayers and his successful usage of leglocks won him the Under 99 kg title.
Braulio Estima, winner of the 2011 Superfight with Jacare de Souza, finally got the monkey off his back - by getting his hooks into Jacare's back. He had an 0-4 record going in against Jacare, but made such improvements that Jacare couldn't score a point on him this time. Braulio's back take set the stage for what will be a very cool 2013 Superfight with Andre Galvao, who managed to match Braulio's ADCC 2009 achievements.
Leo Vieira, the ADCC 2005 and 2007 66 kg champion, showed that he was not too small for 77 kg in his grueling run to the finals. Other than the swift loss to Marcelo, Leo went the full distance in each of his matches and won on points. In a minor upset, he defeated Claudio Calasans, a pre-tournament favorite to battle Marcelo in the finals, with a last minute back-take. Leo already has perhaps the best BJJ highlight clip ever made for three years now, but it is time to update that clip with footage from this tourney - possibly his last ADCC, as he will be 37 in 2013.
The next two big winners competed for the bronze medal in the 66 kg division - Jeff Glover and Robson Moura.
Before the weigh-in debacle occurred, Rani Yahya was generally chalked in as a semi-finalist against Cobrinha and Glover was seen as a talented, but perhaps undersized competitor. Glover took the opportunity of an easier bracket and ran with it all the way to the bronze medal, while giving Cobrinha a valiant battle.
Robson Moura is perhaps the greatest competition featherweight to ever play Brazilian jiu-jitsu. However, his numerous titles are mostly in the gi and despite his age of 33, most saw him as someone whose time in competitive submission grappling had passed. In a battle most expected Ryan Hall to win, Robson pulled out the upset in a very entertaining match by passing Hall's guard. In the semi-final, Moura threatened the eventual champion, Rafael Mendes, with several leglocks and lost a points decision. Robson surprised us all and Jeff Glover surprised us even more by pulling out that amazing guillotine in the bronze medal match.
Romulo Barral came into the tournament with some clouds over his head regarding his competitive fire. Those clouds turned into outright storm thunderheads when he lost to relatively unheralded Kyle Griffin, brother of UFC featherweight Tyson Griffin, in the first round. Barral has decided to take an indefinite break from competition to return to his California home to recharge his competitive spirit and perhaps to fully recover from the knee surgeries he has gone through over the years.
Rodolfo Vieira's injured rib provided perhaps the biggest "Oh No" moment of the tournament. The dream match-up between the young conqueror and Xande Ribeiro was almost at hand - and only Dean Lister stood in the way of Rodolfo on the road to the finals. Unfortunately, during a roll intended to assist in escaping a heelhook, Vieira visibly grimaced and clutched his ribs. With the injury distracting Vieira, Lister finished the submission and secured his place in the finals against Joao Assis, who upset Xande to get there. To add to Vieira's bad day, the rib prevented him from competing in the bronze medal match and the later Absolute bracket. Hopefully, Rodolfo will still be in top form when the next ADCC rolls around and he can provide some more excitement then. Xande too probably bears some disappointment for his tournament, although Joao Assis and Murilo Santana are certainly no slouches. He should still be competitively grappling in 2013 and hopefully will give us more terrific moments against the elite of the Under 99 kg division.
Rani Yahya missed weight by 3 kg (9 pounds) on the eve of the tournament. There is essentially no excuse for a former ADCC champion to miss weight this badly. Yahya was swiftly shunted aside and an immediate replacement was found in Rafael Dos Santos, who lost a points battle to Marko Ramos in the first round. Had Yahya made weight, he could have found himself in contention for the title thanks to a favorable draw. Instead, the former champion watched as Mendes and Cobrinha played yet another controversial match in the finals.
Cat Zingano also did not make weight. The scramble to find a replacement led to Vanessa English, a blue belt who graciously agreed to enter and promptly got kneebarred by Luana Alzuguir, the ADCC 2009 60 kg champion.
They Were Who We Thought They Were
It is hard to accurately convey the phenomenal abilities of Marcelo Garcia to turn basic submission grappling into unstoppable technique that destroy his opponents. Perhaps looking at the numbers and titles will help. It took Marcelo roughly 18 minutes to win his fourth ADCC championship - and he came in second in a controversial decision in 2009. This year, Marcelo conceded zero points in his march to the 2011 Mundials middleweight championship. Other than Kron Gracie, the bronze medalist, Marcelo submitted every opponent he faced at ADCC 2011. The only down note in this recap of his performance is that he chose not to enter the Absolute division. We can only speculate how well he would have performed.
Gabrielle Garcia is the best woman submission grappler alive. This was the one title missing from her overstocked trophy cabinet and she won it in dominant fashion. Like Marcelo, her tear through the division had an air of inevitability and when she won, she dedicated it to her recently passed away brother in an emotional speech. Detractors may point out that Gabi's size and physical gifts grant her an immense advantage. However, it is becoming very apparent that her technique is becoming truly admirable and the combination of size, strength and technique make her probably the Queen of submission grappling for the foreseeable future.
Hannette Staack continued her stretch of excellent grappling, but with an opponent like Gabi Garcia across from you, titles are hard to come by. Staack is already a three time ADCC champion, multiple world title winner and all around fantastic grappler. However, with Gabi vacuuming up every competition, Staack is now basically stuck in the role of Jon Fitch, the perennial runner-up to Georges St. Pierre. It remains to be seen how Staack will develop counters to Gabi or if she will continue competing on this level. Penny Thomas is another elite contender that has been roadblocked by Gabi many times. The shadow of Gabi seems to loom over the entire division like that of Aleksandr Karelin, who towered over Olympic Greco-Roman wrestling for a decade plus.
Kyra Gracie and Michelle Nicolini are super-talented women who have been at the top of their division for a while now. Their games are fluid, intricate and fun to watch and emulate. They will probably trade titles back and for a while yet, until some new faces emerge from the promising crop of purple and brown belts.
Rousimar Palhares continued his streak of combining brilliant submission grappling with bizarre behavior that pushed the boundaries of what was fair play. His silver medal in the 88 kg division came with a lucky break at the beginning, as he initially missed weight and was graciously allowed to weigh in again after some time. Palhares took that lucky break and then turned it into three straight leglocks - two of which left his opponents visibly injured. Much like his premature celebration against Dan MIller, there was a moment when Palhares celebrated a victory over David Avellan slightly early. There was no moment of sudden reversal and Palhares finished the match immediately upon the reset. Nobody wins an ADCC medal without having a strong overall game and Palhares showcased such a game in the finals of his division. When he was done grappling Andre Galvao, perhaps the entire tournament was wary of just how much this man hates legs and speculation about whether he would enter the Absolute was beginning to build. Fortunately for general knee health in Nottingham, Palhares was content with the silver medal and looks to return to his MMA career full-time.
Kron Gracie lost to Marcelo. He lost to Marcelo in 2009 too - but this time, the match was closer. Perhaps Kron is narrowing the gap and although Marcelo is still young and the reigning king, Kron could keep improving. He still has much work to do in terms of keeping Marcelo from playing the top game each time, but since he regularly beats almost everyone else out there (Gilbert Burns is another monolith in the field of competitors) and has terrific resources available to him, it is possible that we see a stronger and better Kron in 2013.
Pablo Popovitch came away from Nottingham with a bronze medal from the 88 kg division and a silver medal from the Absolute. His sheer talent was known beforehand, but his success in the Absolute merits even more respect than he already enjoyed. Coming up short against Andre Galvao twice is not necessarily a bad thing, especially after Galvao's transcendent tournament. In 2013, Popovitch should be yet again another force in both divisions and out to prove that he won't continually finish second like he did against Marcelo for so many years at 77 kg.
Vinny Magalhaes deposed Fabricio Werdum, the Over 99 kg title-holder, in a spectacular match and lost a referee's decision in the quarterfinals of the Absolute bracket. His double bronze medals in the same divisions in ADCC 2009 show a consistent record of truly elite submission grappling. With his spectacular finish of Viktor Nemkov at M-1 Challenge XXV back in April, Vinny has considerable momentum going in both the grappling and mixed martial arts world. He can go anywhere at this point.
Ze Mario Sperry fended off Renzo Gracie for their rather slippery match and used his superior size and strength to pass Renzo's guard. My own prediction for the second Superfight ended up being wildly off, but it was a good showcase for the continued ability of older legends to grapple on a high level. Perhaps we will see other older grapplers in 2013 Superfights, or even now-retired MMA fighters.
Questions We're Left With
Why didn't Marcelo Garcia compete in the Absolute division? Will the IBJJF consider changing the rules on negative points, after Cobrinha and Murilo Santana were decisively stung by them? Will more skilled competitors come soon in the women's brackets? Why does Rousimar Palhares do anything he does?
And above all, who will we see in ADCC 2013? Absent, but familiar faces like Roger Gracie, Hilary Williams and Caio Terra? Who will retire from the scene? Who will turn to MMA? Who will be the new faces we see on submission grappling's greatest stage in 2013?
We at SBNation hope to be here to bring you those answers. Thank you all for reading, participating and supporting some of the best sporting events on the planet.