There is often a debate amongst jiu-jitsu practitioners about the best way to prepare for a tournament like ADCC. Should we be more concerned about fighting for points and takedowns, or can we have success in the wrestler-favored ruleset by constantly hunting for the submission? Now that the 2019 edition of the Olympics of Grappling has come to an end, what does the evidence suggest about how the trajectory of our sport is evolving? Wouldn’t it make sense that sub-only training makes your submission game stronger than the average point fighter?
Anyone who attended the ADCC West Coast Trials earlier this year need look no further than the influence of the Danaher Death Squad for understanding why the focus of many grapplers’ objectives involved attacking the lower body. The EBI brand of tournaments deserve credit with respect to giving the DDS a platform to make their mark and put themselves on the map. Garry Tonon, Craig Jones, and Gordon Ryan all put up monstrous performances at ADCC this year, Gordon winning double gold while Garry took bronze in his weight class and Craig taking silver in his. All three are seasoned EBI veterans. John Danaher has said himself that training for the EBI tournaments has made his team significantly stronger at back attacks. Gordon would in fact finish five of his ADCC fights by taking the back and applying a rear naked choke. Without the platform that EBI had given them, it’s hard to say that the indelible impact they’ve had on the sport would have taken place in the manner that it did.
What about beyond Danaher Death Squad? Look no further than Lachlan Giles, the 77kg fighter that took bronze in the absolute division with three submissions. Giles, an EBI veteran himself, succumbed only to the likes of Gordon Ryan via a rear naked choke. On his way to the podium, he gave up significant weight in tapping Patrick Gaudio, Mahamed Aly, and +99kg champion Kaynan Duarte with heel hooks. People may forget that he tapped Rani Yahya, a former ADCC 66kg gold medalist, with an armbar at EBI 5.
A great storyline of this tournament has been the meteoric rise of Jon Blank, a black belt under 10th Planet Bethlehem in Pennsylvania. Jon stood out by winning the EBI CJJ Welterweight title last year and taking second in this years CJJ Tournament, succumbing only to former ADCC champion Yuri Simoes in a thrilling back and forth submission exchange. He would go on to defeat Rustam Chsiev and Murillo Santana to claim fourth place in the 88kg division.
Ffion Davies is another EBI veteran that had a stellar performance at ADCC. She ended up breaking Bia Mesquita’s arm and taking second in her division. Vagner Rocha came in with extensive EBI and ADCC experience landing at 2nd place in the 77kg division. Josh Hinger became known to many after his strong performance at EBI 3, narrowly succumbing to Garry Tonon in overtime of the finals. He would go on to take 3rd at the 88kg division at this year’s ADCC. Aaron ‘Tex’ Johnson, Geo Martinez, and Richard Alarcon are all athletes as well at this year’s ADCC that have found strong results and exposure as a result of their EBI and CJJ performances.
As an aside, Eddie Bravo posted a picture from the tournament with Leo Vieira, the man responsible for defeating him in ADCC 2003 after Eddie famously tapped out Royler Gracie with a triangle choke. Leo replied with a classy response, ending it by saying, “You are a part of what happens today!”
There can be no debate that Eddie Bravo and the invitational that bears his name have had a tangible impact on the outcomes of ADCC 2019. The submission-only brand of tournaments are set to experience a resurgence in 2020 — perhaps this year’s ADCC results will motivate a greater proportion of high level jiu-jitsu fighters to expand their skill set and enter an EBI rules format tournament. It may very well end up working to their benefit at future ADCCs.