ADCC Barcelona 2009: Analysis & Predictions
Spain will act as a backdrop this year for the worlds greatest biennial grappling competition. The no-gi invitational Abu Dhabi Combat Club has long been considered the world’s greatest test of grappling prowess and features a showcase of many of the worlds top Brazilian Jiu-Jistu, wrestling and MMA practitioners stepping onto the mat to test their skills in pure-grappling. While many of the biggest names in grappling are set to appear, there are a few warriors who names will be more familiar to fans of the Ultimate Fighting Championship and MMA in general, as well as unknown warriors, legends and rising stars in the worlds of both full contact fighting and pure position-then-submission combat.
09.23.09 Update: With the top no-gi grappling invitational coming up in a week, there have been some additions and subtractions from the brackets, and so its worth taking a look at the impact that these will have on the divisions. All of the information has now been updated to reflect the changes to the ADCC roster.
Men’s -65.9kg Division
The little man’s division has seen the additions of a few big names, including former WEC champion Urijah Faber, but the real force that’s been added in terms of jiu-jitsu will probably be Canadian Jeff Curran. That said, I don’t think that returning champion and fellow WEC veteran Rani Yahya will be too worried about Faber and Curran. His biggest threats are still Rubens Charles Maciel (aka Cobrinha), Leo Viera and Rafael Mendes.
Probable Podium: 1st Rani Yahya 2nd Leo Viera 3rd Cobrinha/Rafael Mendes
Men’s -76.9kg Division
This weightclass really hasn’t gotten any easier, though it seems that UFC welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre has been dropped from the bracket. The addition of Leo Santos, who submitted St. Pierre with a flying armbar in 2005, will be a nice addition to the weightclass, and the addition of two-time NCAA champion wrestler “Funky” Ben Askren should be interesting, though Ben will almost certainly be outclassed by top grapplers like Marcelo Garcia, Pablo Popovitch and the American Bill Cooper. Another Gracie has been added to the bracket, though, and two-time world champion Gregor Gracie will be stepping in and adding additional name value to the bracket.
Probable Podium: 1st Marcelo Garcia 2nd Pablo Popovitch 3rd Bill Cooper/Gregor Gracie
Men’s -87.9kg Division
This division has seen the most change, recently with the forced withdrawl of Demian Maia after Maia’s devastating knockout loss in his recent MMA fight. Nate Marquardt, who was also set to compete, has also dropped out of the competition. Still, many of the marquee guys in this division remain, as former world champions Andre Galvao, Rafael Lovato Jr. and Braulio Estima will step on the mat, as well as big names in pure grappling like Tarsis Humphreys and Bruno Bastos. This may end up an all-Brazilian podium, with the one major American contender being Lovato.
Probably Podium: 1st Braulio Estima 2nd Andre Galvao 3rd Rafael Lovato Jr./Tarsis Humphreys
Men’s -98.9kg Division
This weightclass has been largely unchanged recently, but has definitely added some solid contenders since my initial write-up of the event. Major favorite Alexandre Ribeiro and returning ADCC legend Ricardo Arona are still the top threats in the division, but the bracket has gotten a lot tougher with the addition of former ADCC champion Marcio “Pe De Pano” Cruz and Gracie Barra warrior Renato “Babalu” Sobral, who only lost by two points the last time he faced Arona at ADCC. Former ADCC champion Dean Lister, Australian blackbelt Anthony Perosh and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu world champion Vinicius Magalhes continue to fill out the weightclass in what should be an incredibly exciting division.
Probable Podium: 1st Alexandre Ribeiro 2nd Ricardo Arona 3rd Dean Lister/Marcio Cruz
Men’s +99kg Division
ADCC has recently announced the additions of some of the top grapplers in the world to the largest division. Former ADCC champion Jeff Monson will be returning to compete in the weightclass and may very well have taken over Saulo Ribeiro’s spot as favorite, especially given that Ribeiro was one of the opponents he beat when he won the grappling tournament back in 1999. Former UFC heavyweight champion Ricco Rodriguez has been entered in the weightclass as well, but will probably have little impact. Two-time World Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu champion Gabriel “Napao” Gonzaga will also enter in the weight class, and will definitely be a force in the weightclass.
Probable Podium: 1st Jeff Monson 2nd Saulo Ribeiro 3rd Fabricio Werdum/Gabriel Gonzaga
Women’s -60kg Division
Despite a tough showing at worlds, Kyra Gracie is still the favorite in the lighter of the two women’s divisions in many minds, having won the division every time since its inception in 2005. Megumi Fujii will continue to be one of the toughest contenders for the title, as will Ana Michelle Tavares and world champion Lauren Cousin. However, the addition of Luanna Alzuguir will add a little more to this weightclass, given that Luanna beat Gracie at world’s this year. Luanna’s presence in the division, as well as some tough grapplers and, perhaps, some mental blocks, may threaten Gracie’s ability to retain the title.
Probable Podium: 1st Kyra Gracie 2nd Luanna Alzuguir 3rd Megumi Fujii/Lauren Cousin
Women’s +60kg Division
One of the biggest names in women’s MMa has been added to an already very competitive weightclass, but don’t expect Cris “Cyborg” Santos to take home the gold, as her muay thai game will have to be removed from the equation in pure grappling. Lana Stefanac (who outweighs Cyborg by fifty to sixty pounds) is still the favorite in the division as the +200 pound Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu world champion makes her second big showing. Former ADCC winner Hannette Quadros Staack will be jumping up to an unlimited weightclass this year, as the -67kg weightclass she won back in 2007 no longer exists. Still, she won Absolute that year, but as a much smaller competitor, may have a hard time threatening Stefanac. Penny Thomas, who won the heaviest division last time may still be a threat to take the weightclass, but Staack seems like the most significant threat. Absolute division runner up Rosangela Conceicao may be a threat as well, given her proficiency in both wrestling and jiu-jitsu.
Probable Podium: 1st Lana Stefanac 2nd Hannette Quadros Staack 3rd Penny Thomas/Rosangela Conceicao
Coming off of arguably the greatest performance in the history of the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu world championships, six time world champion Roger Gracie is set to take on 2007 ADCC absolute division winner Robert Drysdale. After submitting his way to victory in the -97kg and absolute divisions of the world championships earlier this year, Roger is, and should be, a heavy favorite in every match grappling matchup. While Gracie won all of his matches using the gi to apply chokes to his opponent, even without the gi, Gracie’s ability to pass the guard is going to be a real problem for Drysdale.
Probable Winner: Roger Gracie
As the premier no-gi submission grappling competition in the world, the Abu Dhabi Combat Club will be well watched by fans of submission grappling, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and other grappling systems. It is truly a venue for the best in the world, and this year, like all others, there are dozens of incredible potential matchups in the brackets of the weight class tournament and the absolute men’s and women’s division. With big names and bigger talent, the best pure grappling invitational on earth will be worth keeping tabs on, for those of us who can’t afford the ticket to Barcelona.