Tezos Who's Number One: Craig Jones vs Pedro Marinho

Grappling Bulletin: Jiu-Jitsu Fighters Poised To Take Over MMA in 2022

Grappling Bulletin: Jiu-Jitsu Fighters Poised To Take Over MMA in 2022

Following in the footsteps of the greats, a number of grapplers are looking to enter the ring in 2022 and they could make some waves.

Jan 17, 2022 by Hywel Teague
45. Are The Ruotolo Bros Eyeing MMA?

Jiu-jitsu has always played a vital role both in and out of the ring, providing athletes with a path to glory and financial reward, while reminding the world that the most sophisticated grappling art is an indispensable part of any fighter’s arsenal. 

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From the earliest incarnation of “no holds barred” events throughout the 20th Century to the modern era of professional mixed martial arts, jiu-jitsu has always produced plenty of high level fighters. 

For years, jiu-jitsu reigned supreme in style vs style challenge bouts. Later, as MMA developed and became a professional sport, jiu-jitsu’s value was recognized for both the talent pool of athletes and as an invaluable resource of effective fighting techniques. 

Just think about how many big names in MMA came from jiu-jitsu. From Royce Gracie to BJ Penn, Demian Maia to Fabricio Werdum, Mackenzie Dern to Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza, Rodolfo Vieira to Marcus 'Buchecha' Almeida and many, many more. 

And those were just the jiu-jitsu champions– many fighters started out in jiu-jitsu and rose to the highest ranks of MMA; Gilbert Burns, Rafael Lovato Jr. Charles Oliveira, Brian Ortega, Tony Ferguson, Kron Gracie, Ryan Hall, even Nick and Nate Diaz. 

It used to be that jiu-jitsu fighters had few options and were forced to transition to MMA in search of making money. In the late 90s and early 2000s, the ADCC divisions were a mix of MMA fighters and jiu-jitsu stylists, with a handful of other martial artists. Early ADCC champions, such as Mario Sperry, Renzo and Royler Gracie, and even Jeff Monson and Mark Kerr, would bounce back and forth between grappling and MMA. 

Not everybody was successful in. Many champion grapplers gave MMA a go and swiftly returned to their roots. Marcelo Garcia had one fight and decided to focus on grappling. Saulo and Xande Ribeiro dabbled but never pursued MMA to the same lengths as, say, Andre Galvao, who fought a total of seven times between 2008 and 2010. 

The Modern Day Multi-Sport Combat Athletes

In recent years less and less standout names from the world of jiu-jitsu have moved across to MMA: 

  • ADCC champions Mackenzie Dern and Rodolfo Vieira started fighting professionally in 2016 and 2017, respectively. Both now regularly fight for the UFC. 
  • Americans Garry Tonon and AJ Agazarm came up in the same generation and started their MMA careers a year apart, with Tonon making his debut in 2018 and Agazarm’s first fight in 2019. 
  • Marcus 'Buchecha' Almeida made his long-awaited MMA debut for ONE Championship in 2021 and is 2-0.

From Grappling to MMA in 2022– The Next Wave

Grappling has become a lucrative career for many competitors and there isn’t the financial incentive to switch to MMA like there used to be, but a hardcore few still want to test themselves in the ring. Here’s who we expect to fight in 2022: 

  • Garry Tonon (6-0) finally has his title shot. After a number of cancelations / postponements Tonon will face off with ONE Championship featherweight champ Thanh Le (12-2) on March 11. 
  • Kody Steele, 2-0 in amateur MMA, has his pro debut lined up for February 6 in San Antonio. Steele, a powerful wrestler with serious KO power in his hands, takes on Jessee Gengler (6-9-0). 
  • Felipe Pena has been seen training MMA and says he’s going to stop competing in the gi so he can focus his efforts on ADCC 2022 and a switch to MMA.

Fighters waiting to return to the ring include: 

  • Talita Alencar, who made her MMA debut in July of 2021, in signed to Titan FC. 
  • Yuri Simoes last fought in November of 2020 and has expressed displeasure that ONE Championship have left him in limbo.

The Atos Team: From Jiu-Jitsu to MMA

We visited the San Diego jiu-jitsu powerhouse Atos team last week, and while there we got to watch the Ruotolo brothers train MMA alongside their coach Andre Galvao


Tye Ruotolo and Kade Ruotolo have both said they want to fight MMA, and they’re not the only ones. Galvao, who last fought MMA in 2010, signed a deal with ONE Championship in late 2020 and we could see him back in the ring very soon, potentially before his ADCC superfight with Gordon Ryan in September. 

Atos teammates Kaynan Duarte, Lucas "Hulk" Barbosa and Rafaela Guedes (among others) have all hinted at MMA plans for 2022. The Ruotolos, who just got their black belts in December, have been clear about their desire to compete in both gi and no-gi events in 2022, leading to the question of whether their plans are realistic of the result of youthful exuberance.  

Tye Ruotolo may be sparring MMA but he’s got a high-level grappling match coming up this weekend when he takes on Levi Jones-Leary on WNO: Craig Jones vs Pedro Marinho. Watch it on January 21. 

Grappling News round-up

Read on for a quick breakdown of the major stories from around the world of jiu-jitsu and grappling. 

Crypto Coin Adds Extra $50k for ADCC Superfight Prize

  • The 2022 ADCC superfight between Andre Galvao and Gordon Ryan just got a big boost and is set to be one of the biggest paydays in grappling history. 
  • Metaverse Dog, a crypto currency sponsor of the 2022 ADCC World Championships, has contributed a further $50,000 to the prize fund. 
  • The ADCC federation is putting up $50,000, as is the 2022 ADCC World Championships promoter Mo Jassim (along with his team). 
  • The winner of the superfight will take home $100,000, and the runner-up will earn $50,000. It ranks among the biggest single cash prizes in jiu-jitsu history.

Musumeci To Make First WNO Title Defense

  • WNO 135lb champion Mikey Musumeci will defend his title for the first time on January 21, taking on the highly-regarded Estevan Martinez
  • Musumeci added his name to the event just over 10 days out. He replaces the hurt Jon Calestine, who suffered a wrist injury in training. 
  • Martinez is an IBJJF World No-Gi champion in the 122.6lb division. He competed on WNO in a 145lb match and is looking to earn his first win on the promotion. 
  • Musumeci last competed in December at the IBJJF World Championships in the gi. He went 11-1 in 2021, winning 8 out of 10 matches by submission.

Mica Galvao in for ADCC Brazil Trials

  • 18-year-old black belt Micael Galvao will be among the competitors at the ADCC Trials in Brazil next month. 
  • Registrations are currently open for the ADCC South American Trials, to take place in February. 
  • The list of competitors has not yet been released, but we received confirmation of a group of ADCC hopefuls who are being sponsored by Mo Jassim. 
  • Among them is Galvao, who has never competed under ADCC rules but enjoyed significant no-gi success in 2021, going 8-2 in no-gi matches. 
  • For the full list of sponsored athletes who will compete at the ADCC South American Trials, click here.

Quick Hits: 

Nicky Rod Doing Nicky Rod Things


Episode 3 of our WNO vlog is here and features Nicky Rod at B-Team doing Nicky Rod things. 

The King of Porrada

Pedro Marinho: Porrada Highlight

One half of the main event of January 21's WNO, Pedro Marinho is all about the porrada. Watch the above video and see for yourself. 

Technique Breakdown: No-Gi Half Guard Underhook Sweep


How did a simple, classic half guard come back to become a valuable tool for no-gi grapplers? Lachlan Giles explains

Wiltse's Tips For Crushing Shoulder Pressure


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If you want the kind of punishing shoulder pressure that makes your training partners cry for mercy then check out these details from Andre Wiltse.