Will Nicky Ryan Beat Dante Leon?

On Saturday, July 17th, Dante Leon takes on Nicky Ryan.

This will be the first confrontation between the

two stalwarts.

Both Leon and Ryan are widely recognized as two of the most talented athletes of their generation— this is a match-up you don’t want to miss.  

Nicky Ryan is fresh off his two wins against EBI veteran PJ Barch and one of Check Mat’s stalwart, Gabriel Almeida.  

Dante Leon is shaking off two losses against Manuel Ribamar and Roberto Jimenez. 

On July 17th, at FloGrappling’s Road To ADCC, the Canadian will face the American. 

Let’s dive deeper to see how this match plays out.

Dante Leon

Record: 77-44-0

  • Height: 5’8” | Weight: 77kg | Age: 26 
  • Wins:  48 SUB, 3 decisions, 20 points, 6 advantages 
  • Losses: 7 SUB, 14 points, 9 Decision, 4 advantages
  • Noticeable Wins: Lucas Lepre, Renato Canuto, Tye Ruotolo, Johnny Tama
  • Noticeable Losses: Roberto Rimenez, Garry Tonon, Kyle Boehm, Vagner Rocha 
  • Current Ranking: #2 WelterWeight | Last match: Manuel Ribamar

Fighter’s Weaknesses: 

We all know Dante Leon lacks significant

weaknesses: he is well-rounded.

That said, Leon’s heel hook defense is inferior to his other defensive capabilities.

In Dante Leon’s 2019 ADCC semifinal match against Garry Tonon, he was submitted in six minutes via heel hook.

Leon was able to thwart Tonon’s first few attacks but ultimately was caught once his strength and stamina started to wane. 

One year later, in their second match, things went differently.

Leon still lost via referee’s decision, but he was able to nullify Tonon’s attacks and did not get submitted.

Ergo, this evidences that Leon’s game and heel hook defense have improved. 

But keep in mind, Tonon has been predominately training for MMA the last three years— his focus is not submission grappling. 

How will Dante Leon fare against a world-class leg locker like Nicky Ryan, a specialist in No-gi grappling?  

Fighter’s Strengths:

This year, Dante Leon is one of the most exciting grapplers to watch.

At first, Dante Leon’s game focused on using his open guard to enter reverse de la riva, and then initiate a berimbolo into a crab ride.  

The crab ride is a dominant position it allows you to momentarily rest on your laurels, while you decide how you attack your opponent.

You can use this guard to sweep, invert into a back take, or wrestle up and come up to a passing position, etc.… Essentially, it allows you to put your adversaries at risk while decreasing their chances of escaping.  

Then as Dante Leon progressed, he began focusing on wrestling and top pressure, specifically becoming proficient at a hefty and technical knee cut pass.

In 2021, you can say Leon is well-rounded: he can play bottom, top, wrestle, and even attack lower body submissions. 

That said, his top game seems to be what he favors most right now— emphasis on right now. 

Although Dante Leon lost his last two fights against Manuel Ribamar and Roberto Jimenez, you can see his top game is his A-game. 

Leon is big on taking his opponent down and making them play bottom guard (half guard specifically) and then initiating a strong knee cut with immense pressure until he completely passes his adversary’s guard. 

This is precisely what Dante Leon did to secure two victories against an athletic, Kody Steele, and the young prodigy, Tye Ruotolo. It’s his bread and butter.

This style may pose a significant threat against Nicky Ryan’s game. 

Nick Ryan

Record: 21-5-0

  • Height: 5’8” | Weight: 77kg | Age: 20
  • Wins: 16 SUB, 3 decisions, 1 points, 
  • Losses: 3 points, 1 Decision, 
  • Noticeable Wins: PJ Barch, Imanari, Geo Martinez, Tony Ramos, Uriah Faber, Gabriel Almeida
  • Noticeable Losses: Tye Ruotolo, Paulo Miyao, Aj Agazarm
  • Current Ranking:   | Last match: Gabriel Almeida

Fighter’s Weaknesses: 

Nicky Ryan’s main two weaknesses in this match are his top passing skills/wrestling and weight.

For the past several years, Ryan fought at 66kg, but now that he’s 20-year-old, he’s started to mature into an adult.

In other words, he’s put on a lot of muscle and is now fighting at 77kg. 

Ryan’s lost some athleticism and speed but gained strength in return. This is a tradeoff that will take some time for his body to get used to. 

Ryan needs more matches at 77kg for his body to adjust to this weight class. 

Moreover, since he’s in a new weight class and has a chip on his shoulder, he wants to showcase his new top pressure.

Ryan’s last two matches showed his top game has rapidly improved, unfortunately, but it is still not peaking like the rest of his game.  

When you boil these two factors down to their core, you realize he needs time…. but the problem is time is against him as faces Dante Leon in one week. 

Fighter’s Strengths:

We’ve all been watching Nicky Ryan since he was a 14-year-old tween submitting black belts twice his age.

Given Ryan’s training partners and his submission rate, we know his bread and butter are heel hooks. 

Heel hooks make up the majority of his submissions.

However, Ryan’s proficiency and familiarity with lower body submission do not mean he is not well-rounded.

At least 30% of Ryan’s submission rate, comes via rear-naked strangulation. This means he understands how to get to his opponent’s backs, control them, and then finish. 

Regarding Ryan’s guard game, it’s evident against higher-level competitors that he strictly plays the bottom position.

His primary strategy used to be sliding into guard and then focusing on entering legs by maintaining inside position. 

But as of his last two matches, we see the evolution of Nicky’s game. 

During Ryan’s matches against PJ Barch and Gabriel Almeida, we witnessed a Nicky Ryan who wrestles and plays the top position, favoring a body lock pass. 

Although these movements are still a work in progress, it’s evident Ryan is becoming a complete grappler. 

Perhaps, we will get to witness his full potential against Dante Leon.


This is a hard match to call, but I forecast Nicky Ryan will get the victory via a referees’ decision.

If Ryan plays top, I don’t think he will pass Leon’s guard.

If Dante Leon plays top, I don’t think he will pass Nicky Ryan’s guard.

That said, I think as the clock starts ticking down, Nicky will elect to play bottom and ferociously barrage Leon with leglocks.

Dante Leon will escape all of them, but he will always be defensive, which gives Nicky Ryan brownie points in the judge’s eyes for staying in an offensive cycle.  

Ultimately, this gains him the victory. 

… But I could be wrong; this is a combat art where anything can happen.

That’s my prediction, what’s yours?


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here