While much has been made of ADCC 2022’s -77kg bracket – and for good reason – the men’s -66kg division is a star-studded spectacle in its own right. Stacked with not only Trials winners, but famously entertaining – and dangerous – invitees, ADCC’s lightest men’s division is clearly in the business of putting on a show. Moreover, it’s a bracket with no returning champion due to the reported retirement of 2019 gold medalist Augusto “Tanquinho” Mendes from submission grappling – which means the crown is up for grabs. So who’s who among the contenders in our jiu-jitsu succession crisis?
THE TRIALS WINNERS
Let’s begin with the contenders who won their way into the division via the notoriously grueling ADCC Trials:
Ashley Williams, Wales
- IBJJF European Open No-Gi Champion (2016)
- European Trials Champion
Alongside women’s phenom Ffion Davies, Ash Williams is putting Welsh grappling on the map. One of the UK’s top black belts, Williams holds decision wins over bracket-mates Keith Krikorian and Ethan Crelinsten – as well as a loss to Geo Martinez – which makes the prospect of rematches among this group of contenders potentially interesting.
Sam McNally, Ireland
- IBJJF European Open Bronze Medalist (2022)
- Second European Trials Champion
Sam McNally of Ireland, a Darragh O’Conaill black belt, will be making his ADCC debut as a European Trials winner – no small feat. This ECJJ representative may be one of the lesser-known competitors in his division, but he’s been quietly racking up accomplishments since his color belt days, including a bronze medal at Pans as a brown belt, and may yet surprise some of the more famous favorites in the bracket.
Cole Abate, USA
- IBJJF Purple Belt World Champion (2022)
- North American Trials Champion
A true prodigy at sixteen years old, purple belt Cole Abate of AOJ is widely considered the favorite at -66kg. His reputation for an extremely well-rounded game at an early age, combined with a highly intelligent use of grappling rulesets, makes him a tough prospect to beat. Moreover, a victory over his bracket-mates here would propel Abate to even greater heights of fame, as the youngest ADCC champion in history.
Keith Krikorian, USA
- 3x Silver Medalist at ADCC Trials (2018, 2019, 2021)
- Second North American Trials Champion
10th Planet black belt Keith Krikorian famously placed second in his early attempts at the Trials, before finally securing a victory at West Coast Trials this year. His multiple Trials runs have taught some valuable lessons, which combined with an already dangerous leg entanglement game and solid wrestling chops, will likely make him a genuinely tricky foe to face.
Diogo Reis, Brazil
- Brazilian Nationals Champion (2022)
- IBJJF Pan Kids Champion (2017)
- South American Trials Champion
Diogo Reis, affectionately nicknamed “Baby Shark,” is a native of Amazanos, Brazil, and first burst on to the jiu-jitsu scene as a highly successful juvenile competitor. While at present, he may only be twenty years old, but he found the sport at age ten, putting about a decade of experience under his belt.
Fabricio Andrey, Brazil
- IBJJF World Champion (2021)
- Second South American Trials Champion
Perhaps better known as “Hokage,” Fabricio Andrey recently secured a world title at the 2021 Mundials, and with his victory at South American Trials, now looks to collect another major accolade at this year’s ADCC. As a more gi-focused competitor, he doesn’t appear to favor the leg entanglement game as much as a typical ADCC contender; instead, Andrey combines raw athleticism with an otherwise highly well-rounded grappling game, which may still allow him to threaten the more seasoned heel hookers in this bracket.
Jeremy Skinner, Australia
- IBJJF Pan-Pacific Purple Belt Champion (2018)
- Oceania & Asian Trials Champion
An Australian black belt under countryman and heel hooker extraordinaire Lachlan Giles, Jeremy Skinner is – to no one’s surprise, given his jiu-jitsu lineage – quite the leg entanglement artist. He has fewer major accolades in other promotions than most of his bracket-mates, but no doubt will be hungry to establish himself among the big names of the sport.
Impressive as the Trials winners are, we can’t discount the invitees who make up the remainder of the bracket:
Kennedy Maciel, Brazil
- ADCC Silver Medalist (2019)
- IBJJF World Champion, No-Gi (2018)
If the ADCCs were a courtly intrigue drama à la Game of Thrones, Kennedy Maciel – as the 2019 silver medalist – would no doubt play the role of crown prince and heir apparent to former king of this division, Tanquinho. The son and protégé of the legendary Rubens “Cobrinha” Charles, Maciel boasts a strong no-gi résumé, which in addition to a previous ADCC podium finish, includes IBJJF Worlds gold.
Gabriel Sousa, Brazil
- IBJJF European Open Champion, No-Gi (2019)
- 2x IBJJF Worlds Silver Medalist, No-Gi (2019, 2021)
Although BJJ Heroes stats indicate that Sousa wins most of his matches by points, rather than submission, he’s nonetheless well-known for an aggressive, dynamic style that includes a powerful passing game – which has previously earned him a submission win over the legendary Mikey Musumeci.
Ethan Crelinsten, Canada
- ADCC East Coast Trials Champion (2018)
- ADCC West Coast Trials Champion (2017)
B-Team’s Ethan Crelinsten of Canada has twice previously punched his ticket to ADCC via Trials in 2017 and 2018, though injury issues have previously forced him to withdraw from the show. This year, returning after some lengthy recovery time, he looks to make up for lost opportunities – which given his impressive competition record, may well bear fruit.
Geo Martinez, USA
- 2x EBI Invitational Champion (2014)
- ADCC US Trials Champion (2014)
In his mid-thirties, 10th Planet ace Geo “Freakazoid” Martinez may be one of the older athletes in this bracket, but shouldn’t be underestimated. This isn’t Freakazoid’s first rodeo at the ADCC, and his tricky, flexible guard game has proven to be a thorn in the side of many a top competitor.
Diego Pato, Brazil
- 2x IBJJF World Champion, gi & no-gi (2021)
- 2x IBJJF Pans Champion, gi & no-gi (2021)
Ciecero Costha black belt Diego “Pato” Oliveira boasts a very well-rounded grappling résumé, with gold medal finishes in both gi and no-gi at IBJJF Worlds, Pans, and other major tournaments. Moreover, he doesn’t appear to over-specialize in either top or guard game, instead looking comfortable from almost any position, which could make him an interesting prospect against both stronger wrestlers and tricky guard players.
Ruan Alvarenga, Brazil
- IBJJF South American Champion, No-Gi (2020)
- ADCC South American Trials Champion (2019)
A black belt under his father, Iran Brasileiro, Ruan Alvarenga originally turned heads in the grappling world as a brown belt, when he won ADCC South American Trials in 2019. He’s something of a no-gi specialist, earning nearly all of his IBJJF titles under no-gi rulesets, which should allow him to fit right in at this year’s ADCC.
AJ Agazarm, USA
- ADCC Silver Medalist (2017)
- IBJJF World Champion, No-Gi (2014)
An ADCC veteran and former wrestler who’s racked up major accolades in both gi and no-gi competition, AJ Agazarm previously won a silver medal at ADCC 2017, and is no doubt hungry for a chance to claim gold this year. That level of experience will make him a challenge for his bracket-mates, particularly those making their ADCC debuts.
Josh Cisneros, USA
- IBJJF Pans Champion (2020)
- IBJJF American Nationals Champion (2020)
Ares BJJ representative Josh Cisneros narrowly missed qualifying for ADCC at North American Trials this year – but came awfully close, according to rival and bracket-mate Keith Krikorian, who’s gone on record hoping for Cisneros to earn an invite. An aggressive wrestler and impressively adaptive competitor, Cisneros will no doubt look to put on a show – especially if rematched against Krikorian.
Garry Tonon, USA
- ADCC Bronze Medalist (2019)
- IBJJF Pans Champion, No-Gi (2015)
Ah, Garry Tonon. He may only be thirty, but sometimes, it feels like the “Lion Killer” has been on the submission grappling scene forever – from his famous war with Kron Gracie on the ADCC mats all the way back in 2013, to his more recent scraps in ONE Championship. While his myriad accomplishments – and fame – speak for themselves, he has yet to win ADCC gold. While dropping a weight class to compete at 66kg poses interesting questions about how he’ll fare in a lighter division, it also promises the possibility of some interesting matchups we might not otherwise get to see.
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 the 66kg Division
FloGrappling: ADCC Path to Glory | 66 kg Preview
The Grappling Conjecture: Men’s -66kg ADCC Preview