Much like the lighter divisions at -66kg and -77kg, the men’s -88kg division at ADCC 2022 is filled to the brim with talent, including the current reigning champion Matheus Diniz, who will be back to defend his 2019 title against both old faces and new. We’ll be seeing an age range between competitors that spans literal decades, plus a couple of former -99kg contenders who have dropped weight to vie for -88kg gold.
So, without further ado, let’s take a look at our champ, as well as this year’s challengers for the crown:
Matheus Diniz, Brazil
- ADCC World Champion (2019)
- IBJJF Pans Champion (2022)
As the current king of this division, Marcelo Garcia black belt Matheus Diniz returns to the ADCC mats as a powerful prospect. With devastating top pressure and passing power on his side, combined with the athleticism that earned him nicknames like “Gorilla” and “King Kong,” he’ll be a tough hurdle to any prospective challengers for his crown.
THE TRIALS WINNERS
Nevertheless, this year’s ADCC Trials winners include quite the who’s who list of crowd-pleasing athletes, from rookies on the professional jiu-jitsu scene to seasoned ADCC veterans:
Eoghan O’Flanagan, United Kingdom
- ADCC European Trials Champion
- Polaris 19 Winner (2022)
The UK’s Eoghan O’Flanagan is a dangerous heel hooker whose leg entanglement savvy rightfully earned him European Trials gold. While he may not be as seasoned in the wrestling side of the game as some of his bracket-mates, opponents will have to guard their knees carefully.
Santeri Lilius, Finland
- Second ADCC European Trials Champion
- IBJJF European Open Brown Belt Silver Medalist (2014)
Roger Gracie black belt Santeri Lilius of Finland is quite the well-rounded submission artist, known for a particularly dangerous estima lock. Though he’s a seasoned competitor overall, 2022 marks his ADCC debut.
Giancarlo Bodoni, USA
- ADCC North American Trials Champion
- IBJJF Pans Champion, no-gi (2021)
Alliance representative and Lucas Lepri black belt Giancarlo Bodoni is another ADCC rookie, but he’s done quite well in other high-level no-gi competition, including a gold medal finish at the 2021 Pans. BJJ Heroes stats indicate that he wins the majority of his matches by submission – and boasts quite a varied arsenal of finishes, to boot.
Jacob Rodriguez, USA
- Second ADCC North American Trials Champion
- FloGrappling “Who’s Next” Alumnus
A powerful wrestler with less than two years of formal jiu-jitsu experience, Jacob Rodriguez, frequently styled at “Jay Rod” or “Black Belt Slayer 2.0,” may look like a Nicky Rod mini-me at first glance – but he’s gone on record about the differences he sees between his grappling style, and that of his larger, heavier older brother. To his credit, he certainly turned heads when he buggy-choked his way through some stiff competition at North American Trials, so he may yet pull out some surprises on the ADCC mats.
Isaque Bahiense, Brazil
- ADCC South American Trials Champion
- IBJJF World Champion (2018)
Dream Art’s Isaque Bahiense has primarily made a name for himself in the gi – but that doesn’t mean he can’t hang in no-gi, as proven by his Trials performance. Moreover, as a very accomplished guard passer who’s historically comfortable playing from both top and bottom, he could easily make himself dangerous from almost any position.
Alexandre de Jesus, Brazil
- Second ADCC South American Trials Champion
- 2x IBJJF South American Champion (2018, 2019)
Alexandre de Jesus, representing Calasans and Atos Jiu-Jitsu, also previously appeared to be a gi specialist, but has demonstrated promise in no-gi, both at this year’s Trials, and with a bronze medal finish in no-gi at Mundials in 2021. He also has a mean armbar that opponents will have to stay wary of.
Roberto Dib Frias, Australia
- ADCC Oceania & Asian Trials Champion
- 3x IBJJF Pan-Pacific Champion (2016-2018)
The head coach and professor at One Purpose BJJ, Roberto Dib Frias is a veteran black belt out of Australia, who’s competed in both judo and jiu-jitsu, and holds some impressive wins to his name, including multiple IBJJF titles, and quite a bit of hardware from Australia’s in-country competition circuit. Those judo skills may help him out with the takedown game on the feet, though implementing them against some of the stronger wrestlers in this bracket may prove challenging.
Mason Fowler, USA
- ADCC East Coast Trials Champion
- ADCC West Coast Trials Champion (2019)
Speaking of strong wrestlers in this division, Mason Fowler combines a solid takedown game with a versatile and aggressive athleticism that’s previously won him the last ADCC Trials at -88kg. Technically, he qualified for this year’s ADCC by winning at -99kg, but has since moved down. Nevertheless, victories at Trials in two different weight classes speak to his sheer power on the mats.
Izaak Michell, Australia
- ADCC Oceania & Asian Trials Champion
- FloGrappling “Who’s Next” Champion
Like Mason Fowler, Izaak Michell originally qualified for this year’s ADCC in a heavier weight class at -99kg, before deciding to drop down to -88kg to compete, trading places with B-Team teammate and countryman Craig Jones. Another ADCC debutant, and still a relative rookie compared to some of the names in this bracket, Michell nonetheless made a name for himself as a contender on FloGrappling’s “Who’s Next” reality series, where he submitted Kyle Chambers to win the championship after a grueling two hours of no time limit, submission-only rules.
The Trials winners in this division may be fearsome, but they’re certain to have their work cut out for them with the caliber of the 2022 invitees. Let’s take a look at this roster of fan favorite athletes:
Xande Ribeiro, Brazil
- 2x ADCC World Champion (2007, 2009)
- 6x IBJJF World Champion, gi & no-gi (2004-2006, 2008, 2012, 2015)
Two-time ADCC champ and overall six-time IBJJF black belt world champ Xande Ribeiro has a lot to offer this division. At age 41, he may be old for the division, but given the sheer strength and breadth of his resume, he also shouldn’t be underestimated, and could prove an interesting matchup for the young up-and-coming rookies in this bracket.
Josh Hinger, USA
- ADCC Bronze Medalist (2019)
- 3x IBJJF World Champion, no-gi (2016-2018)
Looking to redeem himself after a bronze medal finish at ADCC 2019 – still no small feat – Atos black belt Josh Hinger brings a wealth of experience to this year’s ADCC. He’s also equipped with a nasty guillotine finish, as well as an arsenal of less conventional submissions, including a very successful gogoplata.
Tye Ruotolo, USA
- 2x IBJJF World Champion, colored belts (2019, 2021)
- WNO Champion (2021)
Atos phenom Tye Ruotolo – not even 21 years old yet – is the youngest member of this bracket, but his youth makes him no less dangerous. Moving up to 88kg while twin brother Kade Ruotolo looks to conquer 77kg, Tye weaponizes a highly dynamic guard-passing style, and seemingly endless cardio. Tye’s myriad accomplishments include winning two IBJJF world titles at the color belt ranks, and submitting the legendary Garry Tonon in less than two minutes at the Ruotolo twins’ ONE Championship debut.
Vagner Rocha, Brazil
- ADCC Silver Medalist (2019)
- ADCC Bronze Medalist (2017)
- 3x ADCC US Trials Champion (2010, 2015, 2017)
Vagner Rocha is another veteran ADCC podium finisher still hunting for that elusive gold medal. Given that he took bronze in 2017, and silver in 2019, perhaps he’s hoping that the third time will be the charm, as he does seem to improve his placement with every subsequent ADCC season. Reputedly an excellent strategist, Rocha’s greatest asset may be his sheer depth of experience with the ADCC ruleset and pressure.
Lucas Barbosa, Brazil
- ADCC Bronze Medalist (2019)
- 5x IBJJF World Champion, gi & no-gi (2015-2018, 2021)
Lucas “Hulk” Barbosa was the bronze medalist at -99kg back in 2019 – and whether dropping a weight class will improve his performance even further this time around remains seen. “Hulk” certainly has the physical attributes to shake up the bracket, given the famous raw strength that earned him his nickname. While BJJ Heroes stats indicate that he may not have the same deadly finish rate as some of his bracket-mates, his devastating guard passes and top game are something to watch out for.
Pedro Marinho, Brazil
- IBJJF Double Gold World Champion, no-gi (2021)
- IBJJF American Nationals Champion (2021)
Originally an invitee to the -99kg division, Pedro Marinho – like fellow former-and-current bracket-mates Mason Fowler and Izaak Michell – promises to put on a show in a lighter weight class. The Gracie Barra representative showed off his no-gi chops by winning a no-gi world title at Mundials in 2021 at both weight and absolute, and appears to favor guillotine submissions.
Hungry for more content on these athletes? Here’s more to read (and watch!) on this division:
BJJ Heroes: All You Need To Know About ADCC 88kg Division
The Grappling Conjecture: Men’s -88kg ADCC 2022 Preview
FloGrappling: ADCC Path to Glory | 88kg Preview
FloGrappling: Tye Ruotolo Previews The 88kg Division