Historically, each ADCC competition is fraught with intense drama and unrivalled excitement that exceeds the one before it. This year was no different and our Aussie grappling stars delivered.
The go-to "water cooler" story is by far that of Lachlan Giles, or Guiles if you're Kenny Florian...
In the opening round, Giles met the highly ranked former silver medalist i the -77kg division, Lucas Lepri. Lepri fought hard and smart to negate the game of Giles, eventually securing the back for 3 points and ending the match in a locked-in armbar with no tap.
A devastating end for the campaign of Giles.
Or was it?
Come day 2, Giles enters the absolute division to "get his money's worth", as you do when competing. I mean, I haven't trained and dieted this much for nothing, right? Giles was quoted as saying he only entered the Absolute division to sweeten the idea of getting an ADCC invite next time.
Giles puts his 77kg odd frame up against 2019 world heavyweight champion Kaynan Duarte. Duarte started trying to pass the tangled mess that is the offensive guard of Giles with his leg first inviting the De La Riva and Giles was all over it.
Giles shoots over the top to secure the 50/50 and taps Duarte to ruckus applause.
Giles now moves to 1-1 in competition for the weekend and met +99kg standout Patrick Gaudio with an almost identical set up to the match preceding it, heel hook finish and all. The only thing that prevented the feeling of Deja Vu was the clearly swelling audible crowd each time Giles defied common sense and forced the tap.
Giles now moves beyond 50% in competition and into the semi-finals of the Absolute at just a portion of the size of his peers and after a maiden match loss just a day prior.
The semi-finals bout was against the biggest shadow in the room at ADCC, Gordon Ryan. Ryan, no stranger to leg entanglements himself, dissected the De La Riva entry to 50/50 that gave Giles such success and refused to let the smaller man consolidate his vice-like thigh grip on either of his legs.
Ryan passed, attained the back and forced the choke on Giles who relinquished his chance at Gold in the division he entered as a lark. Only one match remained for Giles, the bout for 3rd place and a spot on the podium in the most prestigious division.
The last grapple Giles would have was the most cherished by the crowd.
Again, Giles was outgunned in the size department facing down Mahamed Aly, a stand out in the Absolute division who defeated fellow giants John Hansen by standing heel hook and Tim Spriggs by points.
History repeats itself and Giles attacks a leg that is essentially the size of his entire self before moving to 50/50 and Aly says uncle to a heel hook.
Giles turns around an 0-1 weight showing to a 3-1 in Absolute and podium spot.
"I can't believe this is real. Unbelievable. I'm so happy.
"... I was really disappointed in my weight division I couldn't get to the legs. I knew if I got there I had a high chance of finishing."
The truth is in the pudding with Lachlan shredding some legs to join some pretty esteemed company such as Marcus 'Buchecha' Almeida and 'The King' Gordon Ryan, both double medalists.
When asked how this would affect his life Giles responded candidly: "Hopefully I sell more instructionals!".
Classic Aussie banter.
"I hoped I could win a match or two. I feel like, especially with leg locks, you can go against anyone. It doesn't matter how big they are, it's you vs their leg. You can break a knee no matter how big they are."
The Aussie great natty hope, Craig Jones, had slug fest one after another on both days, even in submission victories. The opening round saw CJ and Ben Dyson meet in the middle under the Aussie's patented guard style. The two rumbled and rolled on & off the mat until Craig secured a leg and twisted for the tap.
Craig's entrance to the quarter-finals came at the expense of hard-headed 10th Planet product, Mason Fowler, in a rough and tumble burner until Jones forced the tap from a guillotine. Throughout the match, the physical exertion was evident from both parties who attempted at every turn to get the upper hand. Another slog for Craig to get the win.
Check the time in the image above.
Craig's semi-finals stint featured a bout with 10th Planet Jiu Jitsu's John Blank. Blank defeated tough Russian Rustam Chsiev via heel hook in his opener and a second major upset over #4 seeded Murilo Santana via ref decision before meeting Jones in the semis.
Jones fired off an arm-in guillotine attempt early that forced Blank to reconsider top position and concede mount to escape. Blank used a mount escape to attack the legs of Jones, but the savvy leg locker in Jones navigated the threat and snuck behind the back to cheekily sink in a RNC with 8:03 left on the clock.
The -88kg finals featured Craig and #1 seeded Matheus Diniz training under Marcelo Garcia. If you do not know Marcelo Garcia or aren't familiar with him in the context of ADCC, rectify that before continuing with this blog.
Diniz defeated Pedro Marinho, Gabriel Arges, and Josh Hinger to meet Craig Jones in the finals. Every Diniz match was a drawn-out battle every step of the way and the finals with Craig was no exception.
Diniz brought a solid and staunch game that clashed with the definitive wins of Craig who had gone 3 for 3 in submissions to reach the final.
Earlier this year, Diniz defeated Craig Jones and as the two met and exchanged grips on the feet it appeared Jones would not be able to play his cat and mouse game from the guard with Diniz.
When they hit the ground and Jones offered up his guard, Diniz had trouble finding openings to advance without playing into the leg entanglement game.
The unsuccessful outing for Jones against Diniz earlier this year boiled down to the wrestling aspect and this meeting was none too different. On the ground, Diniz made Jones work for everything and as they moved into overtime the physical tax was evident.
In overtime, Diniz scored two points off a knee on stomach while Craig played from his Z-Guard and in the closing moments Jones threw up a hail mary armbar however time elapsed and Diniz was declared the victor.
Craig lands himself a nice shiny silver and continues to be the tip of the spear when it comes to elite level grappling in Australia.
Ben Hodgkinson met the unanimous -99kg favourite in Gordon Ryan in the outset match and came out aggressively rising to the challenge. After a few pass attempts over Gordon's seated guard by Ben, the two locked into a battle for advantage before Gordon hit a well-timed back take and settled into position before forcing the RNC.
Although Ben didn't have the outing he would have preferred, to get this far as an Australian grappler and have the honour to face the greatest threat at the time with gusto is about as Australian as we get.
Australian based Livia Giles met eventual winner Bianca Basilia in the early goings with no success, as Basilia fought tru to her tenacious style taking the back and securing the rear-naked in just over 2 minutes.