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PJ Barch Will Be The First Competitor To Face Gordon & Nicky Ryan

PJ Barch Will Be The First Competitor To Face Gordon & Nicky Ryan

On Friday, April 30 at WNO, PJ Barch will become the first athlete to compete against Gordon and Nicky Ryan. We examine who else could do the same.

Apr 7, 2021 by Corey Stockton

More than five years after his match with Gordon Ryan, PJ Barch is now slated to face the younger Nicky Ryan at FloGrappling’s Who’s Number One: Craig Jones vs Tye Ruotolo later this month on April 30. 

Now 19 years old, Nicky Ryan will make his black belt debut against Barch. But this matchup against a veteran black belt is nothing new for Nicky, who has been competing against (and beating) black belts since before he was 16.

It is not uncommon for grappling’s most famous fraternal duos to face the same opponents. Gordon is six years older and 30lbs bigger, meaning their past opponents were several weight categories apart and from different jiu-jitsu generations. Until now they’ve never had a common opponent. 

It was inevitable that Nicky would cross paths with one of Gordon’s former opponents.

Nicky Ryan wins the ADCC Trials at 17 years old

Barch encountered the senior Ryan in 2016. Only 20 years old and 175lbs, Gordon was still making his name on the grappling scene. This was only one month into his black belt career.

It was a scrappy match from the start. Gordon attacked with leg locks and kimuras. Barch managed to pass Gordon’s guard once, and threatened him with a deep armbar. In the later moments of the bout, Gordon took control, securing Barch’s back then worked through a series of submission attempts before locking in a kneebar submission nearly 10 minutes into the match.

We’ve heard talk from within the Danaher Death Squad camp that Nicky Ryan is on course to become one of the best no-gi competitors in history. His upcoming match with Barch will help us compare his grappling pedigree against that of his brother; Barch is more experienced now than he was in 2016, and is a different competitor to the one Gordon faced five years ago. But if Nicky dominates Barch at WNO, he could verify what has often been rumoured: that Nicky is as good as — if not better than — Gordon.

Who could join the list of competitors who have faced both Ryan brothers?

Although Barch will be the first competitor to have matches against both Gordon and Nicky, it’s unlikely that he will be the last.

Gordon has a long list of past opponents who greatly outweigh his younger brother. It’s implausible, though not impossible, that Nicky Ryan will match up with athletes such as Lucas "Hulk" Barbosa, Yuri Simoes, Mahamed Aly, or Felipe Pena anytime soon. However, some of Gordon’s prior opponents from his younger and lighter days — competitors such as Enrico Coco and Nathan Orchard — could matchup nicely with Nicky Ryan.

The most exciting potential matchups for Nicky Ryan are athletes in the 185lb division. Nicky was scheduled to face the no.2-ranked middleweight, Roberto Jimenez, at WNO: Craig Jones vs Ronaldo Junior in February. When Nicky got injured, Gordon stepped in to face Roberto. The match between Nicky and Roberto is bound to be rescheduled soon (pending Jimenez’s MMA plans) meaning Roberto should eventually join Barch on the list of athletes who have faced both Ryan brothers.

What about the no.1-ranked middleweight, Vagner Rocha? He’s notoriously willing to take on any opponent, and might jump at the chance to face the younger Ryan. This match could offer another gauge of Nicky Ryan’s abilities. Gordon Ryan has faced Vagner on several occasions, with their first match in 2016. Vagner is heavier, more decorated, and a better grappler than he was in 2016. The first match between Gordon and Vagner went to a draw. Gordon has since submitted him twice, and his second victory was more definitive than the first. If Nicky were to put on an equally one-sided demonstration of jiu-jitsu, his legacy as a prodigy would come to fruition.

Nicky could also match up against one of Gordon’s ADCC absolute division opponents, Pedro Marinho, the no.7-ranked middleweight

From facing Nicky to challenging Gordon

If Gordon Ryan has a small list of previous opponents who would match up against his brother, Nicky Ryan has very few prior opponents who could — and would — face Gordon.  

One athlete on Nicky Ryan’s resume stands out. Tye Ruotolo is 1-1 against Nicky Ryan. He won the more recent of the two matches, and is now slated to face Danaher Death Squad member Craig Jones. Ruotolo, currently the no.3-ranked welterweight, has intimated his intentions to bulk up to 185lbs. That would bring him closer to Gordon’s division, but still place him at a disadvantage to the 215lber. 

With a win against Jones, or even a compelling display of jiu-jitsu, Ruotolo could qualify himself for a match with Gordon. The 18-year old is hungry to keep climbing the rankings and is not shy of a challenge. A match against Gordon Ryan is a different proposition, and it could be some time before this becomes a reality, but the youngster’s future is wide open and anything is possible.