Below we’ve highlighted some of the most significant black belt matches from Day 1 of the 2019 Abu Dhabi Grand Slam in London.
The ADGS in London is the penultimate event of the 2018-2019 season, with only the Abu Dhabi World Pro in April remaining.
At this stage in the year the rankings were nearly set with only a little room for maneuver. Still, with cash prizes of $2,500 for black belt men and $1,500 for brown-black belt women, there was still a lot on the line.
Let's take a look at six standout matches and see how they fit into the bigger picture.
1. Isaac Doederlein vs Tiago Bravo
As we saw in January when he competed in Portugal, Isaac Doederlein has got a savage straight ankle lock.
He used it again in this match with Bravo, a silver medalist at the World Pro, to earn his spot in the final.
The submission left Bravo's ankle in bad shape: he was forced to tape it up and hobbled back out onto the mat in the repechage matches. It also put a question mark over Bravo's participation in the King of Mats scheduled for the following day. Bravo and Doederlein are even placed in the same group for KOM.
2. Ffion Davies vs Bianca Basilio
Its no secret Ffion Davies is one of the breakout black belt stars to keep an eye on, but this win over Basilio in London solidifies her position as an elite competitor. Davies lost to Basilio in the final of the Abu Dhabi World Pro last year but left nothing to chance this time around, scoring a huge 8-0 over the Brazilian.
Davies has been on a tear in 2019 and shows no signs of slowing down with big events scheduled on a near-weekly basis. When we spoke to her shortly after she was crowned champ in London she explained how she has worked on her competition mindset – the results speak for themselves.
3. Pedro Ramalho vs Leo Lara
Portuguese black belt Pedro Ramalho is one of the best European black belts. His third place finish at the ADGS in London saw him take out two highly-touted competitors in Leo Lara and Diego Ramalho, going 4-0 and 6-0.
Ramalho's win over Lara stands out as his most impressive of the day as he took the Brazilian's back and secured a choke for the win. Ramalho broke onto the international scene as a brown belt and this is one of his most significant performances in a major tournament since getting his black belt.
4. Kaynan Duarte vs Adam Wardzsinki
Duarte has been near-unstoppable this last year, going 48-8 since getting his black belt in June of 2018. He last faced Adam Wardzinski of Poland in November at the ADGS in Rio, and they met once again here in London.
Leading 5-0, Duarte was look set too cruised to victory. Wardzinski knew he had to go all out and dived on a leg in the final 30 seconds of the match but in doing so left his own foot hanging out. Snatching onto a toehold Duarte got the submission win and the gold medal, his second ADGS win of the season following that in Rio.
5. Lucas Hulk Barbosa vs Charles Negromonte
Sometimes rankings and medals don't tell the full story. In this case, Negromonte won the King of Mats middleweight title in 2018 while "Hulk" most recently competed in the middleweight King of Mats in January but didn't make it into the finals.
Negromonte had scored a points win over Andre Galvao (Hulk's coach and team leader) in that event, so this match wasn't as simple as a battle for the ADGS London gold medal. Hulk's textbook performance over Negromonte- a beautiful takedown and a guard pass for a score of 5-0– showed that event though he didn't earn the right to challenge Negromonte for the KOM title, he could be a worthy challenger should rightful contender Gabriel Arges be unavailable.
6. Gabriel Sousa vs Cleber Sousa
The day couldn't have started off better for Gabriel Sousa. He went into the Grand Slam in London high in the rankings but with a difficult task ahead of him: win the stacked 62kg division. He would do just that and beat the likes of Joao Miyao and Hiago George, but it was his submission of Cleber Sousa in the opening match that was maybe his most impressive win of the day and certainly helped give him confidence as he entered the later rounds of the division.