2022 has drawn to a close and we are on hand to announce the winners of our annual BJJ awards. It’s been a fantastic year for competition and there has been more money flooding into the sport than ever before. Elite grapplers are being paid on a level that competitors in the early 2000s and before could only dream of, and they are competing on stages in front of more fans than many would have thought possible. As the sport continues to grow and the level of competition continues to increase, there are a handful of men and women who stand out from the crowd as worthy of special recognition in the Jitsmagazine 2022 BJJ awards.
This year we are announcing more winners than ever before; as we have created an additional category to recognise the Gym of the Year, and have split Female Grappler of the Year between Gi and No Gi for the very first time. As always, the only condition we place on any nominees is that those competing for individual grappler of the year awards must have competed in at least five professional Jiu-Jitsu matches in the calendar year.
Collective BJJ Awards 2022
Promotion of the Year
In any other year, ONE Championship would have breezed through to win promotion of the year thanks to the fantastic work that they’ve done to bring Jiu-Jitsu to the masses by creating submission grappling divisions in a major MMA promotion. 2022 wasn’t any other year though, it marked the single-biggest event in submission grappling history and that is something that is definitely worth taking into account when deciding promotion of the year for the Jitsmagazine BJJ Awards. In fact, ONE Championship even lent a hand to ADCC for the 2022 world championships by becoming a major sponsor. While their efforts were enough to earn a clear second-place, it’s impossible to pick any other winner for promotion of the year than ADCC themselves and the promotion takes home the title for the second year in a row.
Fight Card of the Year
As discussed, ADCC 2022 was without a doubt the biggest submission grappling event in history. The production value of the event was something that the BJJ world has never seen before, and it felt and looked more like a UFC event in terms of quality. As always, ADCC managed to bring together almost a hundred of the world’s best grapplers in one place for the weekend. ADCC 2022 had everything from returning legends like Xande Ribeiro and Rafael Lovato Jr to the most exciting young talent like Cole Abate and Mica Galvao. Every competitor gave everything they had and regardless of who took medals home, the fans were the biggest winners in the end.
Match of the Year
Picking the best match of the year is always an impossible task for the Jitsmagazine BJJ awards, but 2022 was harder than ever before. There were dozens of exciting matches across the ADCC and IBJJF world championships, and an almost endless stream of elite-level superfights staggered throughout the year. Polaris 22 saw eight of the world’s best middleweights compete for the promotion’s title and $20,000 in a grand prix tournament, and one semifinal match stood out above the rest. The 2020 Breakout Grappler of the Year, Roberto Jimenez, had his toughest match of the night against Hunter Colvin in a match that saw both men display every single aspect of Jiu-Jitsu. Both men had opportunities to win in a frantic match but in the end, Jimenez caught Colvin in a triangle choke to secure the finish after just a little under eight minutes of action.
Brand of the Year
For the first time, Tatami has won the award for BJJ brand of the year. Previously this award was won by one of their chief competitors, Scramble, but this year Tatami have really outdone themselves. Not only do they regularly sponsor some of the biggest grappling events around, but the promotion has also moved into a brand new headquarters at the end of 2022, signalling a big expansion in customer-base. Tatami have not just focused on growing their brand, but they’ve also been giving back to the community in 2022 by teaming up with Reorg. Reorg is a charity focused on helping veterans, military, and emergency services personnel with their mental health and physical wellbeing through BJJ, and Tatami has been working alongside them this year to help raise funds.
Gym of the Year
For the Jitsmagazine BJJ Awards, we recognise that there is more to success than a single person and even the best champions of 2022 have had support behind them to achieve their goals. Gym of the year is awarded to the coaching staff, training facilities, and junior teammates who have worked tirelessly to produce this year’s champions. This year the award goes to New Wave Jiu-Jitsu, the team headed up by John Danaher and based in Austin, Texas that only began at the end of 2021. Not only has Gordon Ryan had incredible success in 2022, but Giancarlo Bodoni joined the team to become an ADCC world champion and Nicholas Meregali joined to prepare for his ADCC debut, where he came away with a silver and bronze medal. With all that Danaher and New Wave Jiu-Jitsu achieved in 2022, they earned one final win by adding teenage BJJ prodigy Helena Crevar to their ranks before the year was over.
Individual BJJ Awards 2022
Submission of the Year
There have been thousands of submission finishes taking place all throughout the year, but not all submissions are created equal. We factor in the rarity of the submission, the quality of its execution, and the quality of the opposition its performed against in order to come to a conclusion for this award. At ADCC 2022, Diego ‘Pato’ Oliveira came up against Kennedy Maciel in the quarterfinals of the 66kg division and Oliveira immediately got to work attacking the legs. He was relentless and eventually managed to hit a beautiful false reap into the saddle, collecting Maciel’s free leg and applying a Z-Lock to force him to tap.
MMA Submission of the Year
The same three criteria of the rarity of the submission, the quality of its execution, and the quality of the opposition its performed against is taken into account for the MMA submission of the year. There was very little on the line at UFC on ESPN+ 62, but Scottish MMA veteran Paul Craig was up against Nikita Krylov in his first fight since being promoted to BJJ black belt. Craig pulled guard after eating a heavy front-kick and took some strong shots on the ground that appeared to have dazed him for a moment, but he took advantage of the tiniest of opportunities and launched into a triangle choke attempt in the blink of an eye. Craig secured the finish and went from almost being knocked out to getting his hand raised faster than anyone else in 2022.
Male Breakout Grappler of the Year
Giancarlo Bodoni was awarded his BJJ black belt at the end of 2020, and has been steadily improving his no gi game since then. Although he won his first major in 2021 with a gold at IBJJF no gi pans, 2022 has been the year that Bodoni truly announced his arrival to the highest level of competition. He moved to New Wave Jiu-Jitsu to train under John Danaher and the signs looked good leading up to ADCC 2022 when he won the Sapateiro Invitational and put in some great performances at Subversiv 7, only losing a tight decision to Lucas ‘Hulk’ Barbosa. ADCC 2022 was where he truly excelled though, submitting the reigning 88kg champion Matheus Diniz with a triangle choke and avenging that loss to Lucas ‘Hulk’ Barbosa by locking up a rear-naked choke. Bodoni was also due to face Pedro Marinho for the WNO Light-Heavyweight title but was unfortunately injured during his opening round victory at EBI 20: The Absolutes and could not finish his year on the high note he had planned. Regardless, Bodoni had already done enough to secure his place as the Male Breakout Grappler of the Year at the Jitsmagazine 2022 BJJ Awards.
Female Breakout Grappler of the Year
After being promoted to black belt at the top of the brown belt podium at the 2021 IBJJF world championships, Amy Campo was poised to have a strong year. What she ended up with was much more than that however, as Campo quickly established herself as one of the top female grapplers on the planet. She started out by winning the ADCC North American trials, defeating Maggie Grindatti and Elisabeth Clay to book her place at ADCC 2022. Then she competed at the IBJJF world championships and although Ana Vieira submitted her at 74kg, she avenged that loss in the absolute division and took home a silver medal. Next up for Campo was her ADCC debut where she stormed to victory in the over 60kg division and shocked the world by defeating Gabi Garcia along the way. Along with several gold medals in smaller IBJJF tournaments, Campo finished the year strongly by winning her weightclass and coming second in the absolute division at the IBJJF no gi world championships.
BJJ Personality of the Year
Jake Luigi of Less Impressed More Involved BJJ
There are a ton of figures involved in the sport outside of the athletes who step on the mats to compete and the coaches who take them there. There are thousands of promoters, commentators, journalists, and analysts along with other men and women who work tirelessly to help keep the sport going. This award is about honouring those unsung heroes who are often overlooked, but would be sorely missed if they disappeared. This year, we’ve awarded Jake Luigi, the owner of Less Impressed, More Involved BJJ with BJJ personality of the year. It is a relatively new YouTube channel that is dedicated to putting out high quality content analysing athlete performances and trends in matches. The channel was created at the end of 2020 and by the end of 2021, had a little over a thousand subscribers. Now Luigi finds himself with almost 40,000 subscribers on YouTube and a wealth of content for hobbyists to learn from.
Male Grappler of the Year (No Gi)
There really is nobody who could have won this award. He started out strong by submitting Jacob Couch first, followed by winning the WNO Heavyweight title by submitting Pedro Marinho. Then came what must have been one of the most satisfying moments of his already-illustrious career, when he finally avenged his loss to Felipe Pena and submitted him in a no time-limit match. Despite his incredible performances leading up to ADCC 2022, there were still doubters who thought he’d bitten off more than he could chew by entering the over 99kg division along with the superfight. He silenced every single one of them by putting on a performance for the ages, dominating Andre Galvao in the superfight and winning his division by submitting three out of four opponents. Ryan even registered the fastest submission of ADCC 2022, before finishing out the year with one more win against Nicky Rodriguez in EBI overtime at UFC FightPass Invitational 3. With three new titles and several flawless performances against elite opposition, Ryan once again confirmed that he is the greatest no gi grappler on the planet.
Male Grappler of the Year (Gi)
After a perfect year in 2022, there is nobody else who could win Male Grappler of the Year in the gi than Tainan Dalpra. Not only did he win the IBJJF European Open, the IBJJF Pans, and the IBJJF World Championships; but he managed to do so without conceding a single point. Out of a grand total of eighteen gi matches this year, Dalpra submitted an astonishing fourteen opponents and won the remaining four matches by clear points margins. Dalpra won this same award in 2021 after losing only a single match over the year, and his record in black belt competition currently stands at 54-1 with 39 submissions. Dalpra is very clearly one of the best gi grapplers on the planet and his flawless performance in 2022 has gone a long way towards making that undeniable.
Female Grappler of the Year (No Gi)
Ffion Davies put in an epic performance at Subversiv 7 when she beat Rafaela Guedes, Paige Ivette, and Jessica Flowers all by decision. It was at ADCC 2022 that Davies made history though by becoming the first British and first Welsh champion, and the first European female champion. She was also the only European to reach the podium in the 2022 edition, and she did so without conceding a single point at the event. Davies submitted Asia and Oceania trials winner Adele Fornarino, beat former ADCC world champion Bia Mesquita 6-0 on points, and dominated North American trials winner Brianna Ste-Marie in the final to win 10-0 on points. Davies has come a long way since she first won Grappler of the Year in 2020 and she still has years of high-level competition left in what is shaping up to be a legendary career.
Female Grappler of the Year (Gi)
Gabrieli Pessanha has been utterly unstoppable in 2022 and has registered more than 50 wins in gi competition without losing a single match. She won quite literally everything there is to win throughout 2022. Starting with two gold medals at the IBJJF European Open, quickly followed by another two gold medals at the IBJJF Pans, and finishing off with yet another pair of gold medals at the IBJJF world championships. Along the way she has defeated elite grapplers like Nathalie Ribeiro, Rafaela Guedes, Amy Campo, and Yara Soares. Pessanha already won Female Grappler of the Year at the Jitsmagazine 2021 BJJ Awards last year, and she’s more than earned her second title in a row with an even better performance in 2022.