Lachlan Giles Joins ADCC Absolute Legends With Inspirational Submissions

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Score one for the lightweights. After suffering a first-round defeat to Lucas Lepri in the 77kg division, Lachlan Giles shocked the grappling world, proving the smaller guys can hang in the open weight.

Giles was heavily outweighed in each of his four absolute matches during his bronze medal run, squaring up against two men from the 99kg division and two from the +99kg division, including the newly-crowned champion of each.

In earning absolute hardware, Giles has achieved what few others have accomplished. He’s joined a list of one of just five men who have reached the absolute podium from the 77kg division. The others are Hayato Sakurai (1999), Jean Jacques Machado (2001), Marcelo Garcia (2005, 2007), and Andre Galvao (2007).

That’s quite the company to keep.

But Giles remained humble in being compared to these grappling icons. 

“I don’t really see myself in the same arena as those guys,” Giles said. “From my perspective, those guys have achieved a lot outside of the ADCC open weight result that I have not achieved myself. It’s amazing to be on that list but I don’t see myself at the same status.”

Many of the lightweights who have reached the podium of the absolute division are already cemented in history, but Giles is something of a latecomer to the list. It’s been 12 years since a 77kg competitor has medaled in open class. Nobody from the 66kg division has ever done it. And even among this list of legends, no lightweight has ever won the absolute division. But with a string of submission victories, Giles has set himself apart, even among some of the greatest.

Giles erupted onto the mats on day two of ADCC, racking up three heel hook victories in under four minutes each. His first came against +99 kg champ Kaynan Duarte. He then took the leg of 99 kg entrant Patrick Gaudio, and in the bronze medal match, he heel-hooked +99kg competitor Mahamed Aly. 

Giles rips on a heel hook versus Patrick Gaudio

In his prolific run, he lost only to 99kg and eventual Absolute champ Gordon Ryan.

Among the legendary lightweight medalists in the absolute division, Giles’ submission percentage is matched only by Marcelo Garcia, who earned three submissions in each of his absolute podium runs.

“I guess leg locks do work,” Giles said, joking about his high submission rate. “I might be wrong but I think maybe the days are gone where you’re going to have a 77-kilo competitor run through an open weight division by takedowns and back attacks.”

More than a decade ago, one of the most revered ADCC lightweights to medal in absolute did so using mostly armbars and chokes. In 2005, Garcia subbed Ricco Rodriguez (heel-hook), Diego Sanchez (armbar), and Alexandre Ribero (choke). That year he lost to Ronaldo “Jacare” Sousa in the semifinals. And in 2007 Garcia tapped Mario Miranda (choke), Rolles Gracie (armbar), and Alexandre Ferreira (choke) before losing to Robert Drysdale.

2007 also featured Galvao’s first appearance on the absolute podium. He also lost to Drysdale and took third, but did not collect any submission wins. In 2009, when he found absolute gold, he entered at 88kg.

Machado had two submissions during his try at absolute in 2001, and Sakurai won only one match by submission in his absolute bracket, defeating Ricco Rodriguez by heel hook.

The people's champ

Among the five, only Giles and Machado did not reach the podium in their weight category. Sakurai took bronze at 77kg in 1999 before placing second in absolute. Garcia won the division in 2005 before taking bronze, and he won again in 2007, taking silver in the absolute that year. Galvao double-bronzed in 2007.

By the numbers, about 15 percent of ADCC absolute medals have gone to 77kg division entrants. About 18 percent of the medals have gone to 88kg contestants, including three golds. Across 13 years of ADCC, the absolute division has, predictably, been dominated by the two largest weight classes; 31 percent of medals have gone to +99kg competitors. And 36 percent of the medals have been awarded to men from the 99kg division, including more than half of the golds.

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