Gordon Ryan and Dillon Danis are two of the most outspoken and controversial figures in the BJJ world, and they actually met on the mats all the way back at ADCC 2017. The two men have had drastically different experiences in the sport in the years since then, but for a very brief moment they actually stood across from one another on equal footing. Neither of them had reached the level of notoriety that they possess today, although they were both regarded as top prospects in the sport at the time. There were some glimpses of what the future might hold for them, as Ryan had already won multiple EBI tournaments and Danis had managed to win the IBJJF No Gi Pan Championship.
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Gordon Ryan vs Dillon Danis – ADCC 2017
The brackets for the 88kg division at ADCC 2017 were drawn and neither Gordon Ryan nor Dillon Danis had the pedigree to be given a top seed but neither of them were seeded low either. They were both in the middle of the pack and this meant that they ended up being pitted against one another in the opening round. There were several other entertaining matches booked for the opening round of the event, but naturally there was a lot of attention around two top prospects battling it out. Another storyline leading into the match was the fact that Danis had been beaten by Ryan’s teammate Garry Tonon twice before, with the most recent match coming earlier that same year at Polaris 5.
Gordon Ryan met Dillon Danis in the middle and after a few seconds of clinching, he leapt into a flying triangle choke. He slipped off though and Danis dropped into knee-slice passing after escaping, although he was forced to take up headquarters instead as Ryan defended. Danis felt the threat and started trying to pass from his knees instead, with Ryan attempting to work from half-butterfly guard. Danis returned to standing and Ryan chased him off the mats, with him dropping back to his knees to pass when they were reset in the center. Although Ryan was aggressive off his back, Danis was doing a good job of getting distance whenever he felt threatened.
Another reset in the center and Gordon Ryan tried to wrestle up quickly, but Dillon Danis latched onto the front-headlock and started to attack a choke. Ryan was able to stay safe and work his way back to half guard, but Danis stood to disengage again. Ryan followed him up and tried to take his back, but the pair went out of bounds and were reset again. Ryan sat back down and Danis dropped to his knees to handfight, but the brief threat of an armdrag forced him to stand up again. Ryan tried to follow him up but Danis kept up the pressure and dropped back down to try to pass once more.
Dillon Danis stood up again when he was under threat and this time Gordon Ryan managed to catch an ankle and transition to X guard. He hit a hard reap and got Danis down to the mat, but Danis immediately started to free his knee-line and turn away to escape. This allowed Ryan to come up on top, although Danis made excellent use of a guillotine grip to wrestle up himself and return to standing. Ryan sat back down and Danis resumed passing from the knees, but neither man was able to get an advantage in the handfighting battle. Ryan attempted to wrestle up and was met with another front-headlock, but he was much quicker to sit and free himself this time.
Danis dropped to his knees again and he was able to pass Ryan’s guard just as the points came into play, but Ryan was just able to hold on by putting his bottom knee in between them and denying the points. Ryan used Z guard for a little while but it wasn’t long before he transitioned back to half-butterfly guard instead. Danis was definitely picking up the pace in his passing attempts but he couldn’t find a way through Ryan’s guard. Dillon Danis was doing a brilliant job of switching between being heavy on his knees to avoid leg-attacks and standing to avoid upper-body attacks, all while still putting Gordon Ryan under pressure.
After a few minutes spent in butterfly guard variations, Ryan found himself in Z guard and was able to invert underneath Danis. This got him within reach of Danis’ legs for the first time in the match and Danis was forced to sit down to defend but he didn’t want to concede the points, so he immediately turned to turtle when tried to get on top. Danis started to wrestle up but Ryan leapt on to his back and secured a seatbelt grip in the process, he couldn’t maintain control for more than a second or two though as Danis shook him off and took up top position again.
Gordon Ryan and Dillon Danis were reset in the center with Ryan in Z guard and although he tried to invert again, he was shut down this time. Ryan tried to shoot for a double leg from a seated position and he got in on Danis’ hips, but Danis was able to sprawl heavily and defend. Ryan sat to butterfly guard again and started to work on a shoulder-crunch but he couldn’t sweep Danis, so he transitioned to single-leg X and then X guard. Ryan elevated Danis and hit a beautiful transition to the saddle, but the time ran out before he could do any more and the pair were going into overtime.
They started out clinched up on the feet and as soon as Danis got some space, he shot in for a single-leg takedown. He followed through and tried to switch to a double more than once, but he lost his balance and had to give it up. Gordon Ryan tried to hit a footsweep but Dillon Danis recovered his balance and immediately shot in again, only for Ryan to stuff the takedown easily. Another footsweep by Ryan failed and Danis couldn’t get in on another single-leg, but the pair continued to engage in a tough battle in the clinch. Danis got closer on a single-leg as overtime was approaching the halfway mark, but he couldn’t keep hold of Ryan’s leg this time.
Danis shot in once again and this time he got a good grip on Ryan’s leg, standing with it firmly in between his own. Ryan turned his knee away and reached back for Danis’ leg to set up a kani basami, but Danis took advantage by diving in for Ryan’s free leg. Gordon Ryan was able to keep that leg safe and he turned away from Dillon Danis, freeing his other leg and reaching behind Danis to take his back. Danis rolled to prevent the backtake and managed to work his arm into an underhook in the process, with Ryan securing a front-headlock when he turned to his knees.
Ryan went behind Danis and started to work on taking the back again, sitting on him in turtle and trying to work his hooks in. Danis started to pull Ryan’s head to bring him over the top of him but Ryan posted out, and Danis was able to work back to his feet as a result. After a little more time in the clinch, Danis shot in for a single-leg and picked it up once again. He tried to bully Ryan to the ground but couldn’t do so, and Ryan freed his leg in the process. One final shot by Danis was met with a heavy sprawl by Ryan and the last few seconds ran out with neither man able to score any points, so Ryan was declared the winner by decision.
This wasn’t the last that fans would see of Dillon Danis at ADCC 2017, despite his loss to Gordon Ryan in the opening round at 88kg. Danis returned on the second day to compete in the absolute division and although he submitted Yukiyasu Ozawa in the opening round there, he lost on penalties to Mahamed Aly in the quarter-final and promptly disappeared from grappling. He made the transition to professional MMA shortly after and even put together a respectable 2-0 run in Bellator, but that was short-lived as well. After time away from the sport due to issues with the law and injuries, he eventually made his professional boxing debut against Logan Paul.
Danis lost that boxing match by disqualification after a brawl erupted in the ring, and it’s been years since he was taken seriously as a contender in any combat sport. Although he’s undoubtedly made a rather large amount of money from his various ventures, his career hasn’t been a success from a competitive standpoint. In stark contrast to Dillon Danis, Gordon Ryan is pretty much universally regarded as the greatest no gi grappler on the planet. While there were signs that Ryan was going to be an incredible talent prior to his battle with Danis at ADCC 2017, this match actually marked the beginning of his time at the very top of the sport.
After beating Danis in the opening round at 88kg, Ryan submitted Romulo Barral in the quarter-final to make it to the second day of the event. He then beat Xande Ribeiro by decision and submitted Keenan Cornelius in the final to claim the division’s title. Ryan also returned in the absolute division, where he submitted all three of his first opponents: Roberto ‘Cyborg’ Abreu, Craig Jones, and Mahamed Aly. He lost on points to Felipe Pena in the final and although he wasn’t able to become the double champion in 2017, it wasn’t long before he achieved his goal.
Gordon Ryan came back at ADCC 2019 and moved up in weight to under 99kg, dominating the opposition and winning 7 out of his 8 matches by submission along the way to winning both his weight class and the absolute division. As if that wasn’t incredible enough, at ADCC 2022 he not only dethroned Andre Galvao as superfight champion but he also competed in the over 99kg division as well. He stormed to victory and won four out of his five matches by submission, winning yet another gold medal at over 99kg. This made Ryan the first person in history to win three different ADCC weight classes and he currently has the world at his feet while still being right in the middle of his athletic prime.