The under 66kg category of the ADCC was owned by the same guy since 1999. Without false modesty, shortly after taking his third, in 2001, Royler Gracie remarked: “Few have had the pleasure of being Jiu-Jitsu world champion four times in a row, as I have, and now three times in Abu Dhabi. This is unprecedented and unlikely to be matched,” said the Gracie after beating Hawaiian Barret Yoshida for his third.
So, when the ADCC disembarked in the Ibirapuera park, in Sao Paulo, on the 17th and 18th of May, 2003, the general expectation was that the three-time champion would at least make it to the semifinal of the under 66kg. From the way the brackets were set up, there Royler would face the rising star of Leo Vieira, then leader of Master, who would go on to win his first title in the final against Barret Yoshida.
But on the path there was an underdog from California. Who had heard of Eddie Bravo? The American trials winner was losing the match when he managed to replace guard and sink a triangle on the distracted Gracie (photo above): “I don’t know how to explain it. It was really quick, as though I’d disconnected from the match for three seconds. When I came to, I was in a triangle,” Royler tried to explain after having tapped out for the first time in his weight category, with or without the gi. In the follow up, Leo didn’t give Bravo a chance in the semifinal.
Royler still went on to fight again and with an 8 to 0 score over Alexandre “Soca” Carneiro secured third place and his fourth time on the winners’ stand in a row for the Gracie Humaita leader. Eddie Bravo didn’t compete for third, alleging injury, and never again appeared in the ADCC.
The ADCC has seen other underdogs, not quite as unlikely, but underdogs nevertheless.
That very event, in the under 99kg category, Norwegian Jon Olav Einemo is to this day responsible for Roger Gracie’s lone loss in the ADCC (photo below). Then 21 years old, the current two-time absolute world champion was sincere in explaining his defeat: “Truth is, I underestimated the guy. I went in slow, to let him exert force and push the pace, but, when I realized what was going on, he was on my back.
Going back in time, in 1999, in Abu Dhabi, the underdog had his way in the under 88kg of the second installment of the ADCC. In the division considered the most evenly matched, a pair of Russians managed to made it through to the final in the presence of Renzo Gracie, Ricardo Libório, Fábio Gurgel and Amaury Bitetti. Kareem Barchlov (in the photo below throwing Liborio) and Alexander Savko decided the title, with Kareem, who curiously had Savko in his corner throughout the competition, taking gold.
In another leap in time, we arrive at 2007, when the ADCC touched down in New Jersey. Last event, it was Saulo Ribeiro who was surprised by an underdog (photo below on the right). Right in his second match in the under 77kg category, the two-time champion (2000 and 2003) was submitted by Mike Fowler, who earlier beat Renzo Gracie (photo below on left), another two-time champion (1998 and 2000). The Lloyd Irvin student, famous for his leopard spotted hair, took fourth after losing to Marcelo Garcia and Andre Galvao, in the third-place decider.
Rounding out the list of underdogs, we return to 2003. In Ibirapuera Park, only the absolute dispute remains. Signed up are Marcio “Pe de Pano” Cruz, Saulo Ribeiro, Marcelo Garcia (who had just run rampant in the under 77kg) and Jeff Monson, just to name the most famous. A little while on, we are at the final and untrue to expectations, the finalists are Alexandre Cacareco and Dean Lister, with the latter a true underdog. Firstly, Lister wasn’t even going to participate and only entered because Jon Olav dropped out. On his way to the final, the American went past Nathan Marquardt and ran into Saulo Ribeiro (photo below). Lister ended up beating the two-time champion with a kneebar in overtime.
The opponent in the semifinal was over-99kg champion Pe de Pano, a firm favorite. Lister held out against a choke from his back for five minutes to win in overtime. On Pe de Pano’s choke hold, Dean was nonchalant: “I’ve spent over 100 hours in triangles.” In the final, a quick ankle lock on Cacareco guaranteed him first place..
Can you think of any other ADCC underdogs? If so, please comment.