Although it was a little over a month ago, the 2011 edition of the Abu Dhabi Combat Club (ADCC) must not go unspoken of as it truly was a historic showing in Nottingham, England, as the best submission grapplers in the world went head-to-head in the most demanding tournament around.

After two days of competition, the spectators in attendance and Jiu-Jitsu fanatics watching it online around the world were left wide-eyed by the amazing display they had just witnessed, and rightfully so; the competitors brought their A game to say the least.

As always, much of the attention was directed on Atos’ World champion and reigning ADCC champion Rafael Mendes, who fought in the always stacked under-66 kg (145 lbs.) category. Although Mendes was the clear favorite, that didn’t mean there wouldn’t be someone who could steal his second title away from him. Rafa would have his way through his first three rounds though, first beating teammate Bruno Frazzatto 6-0, then dismantling Justin Rader with a quick choke from behind and then passing the guard of legend and former World champion Robson Moura.

It would be the final that would be the young Atos competitor’s toughest test, as he would have to go through his rival, Rubens “Cobrinha” Charles, whom he met with in the 2009 ADCC final. Unlike ’09’s final though, the bout lacked great action and instead strategy was an evident factor throughout. After 20 minutes with the score deadlocked at 0-0, Rafa would claim his second title due to a penalty “Cobrinha” committed for pulling guard when the rules said it wasn’t allowed.

Palhares (L) attempts to submit Galvao (Daren Bartlett/Graciemag International)

In the under-77 kg (170 lbs.) weight class, it was truly “The Marcelo Garcia Show.” As Marcelo normally does, with his calm, subdued demeanor, he dominated his opponents. In the first day of competition, Garcia wasn’t on the mat for longer than two minutes total, finishing his first two opponents with lightning fast guillotines. The semifinal would be the three-time champion’s biggest test and yet he would still come out victorious, beating a game Kron Gracie 2-0. In the final, it was a battle of ADCC icons as Leo Vieira would be Marcelo’s opponent. In the clash of legends, Marcelo proved why he is probably the greatest ADCC competitor ever, submitting Vieira with a triangle in four minutes and becoming ADCC’s first four-time champion.

Although Andre Galvao would end up being the champion of the under-88kg (194 lbs.) category, there was no denying who left the biggest mark in the division. UFC star Rousimar “Toquinho” Palhares was a one-man wrecking machine as he layed waste to all of his opponents and put some on stretchers. Known for his vicious leg locks, “Toquinho” did not disappoint as he twisted Dan Schon’s ankle into submission, submitted David Avellan with a gruesome kneebar and nearly broke Rafael Lovato Jr.’s foot in the semifinal. In the final though, Galvao knew exactly what was coming and defended well. In what was considered as the best fight of the tournament, Galvao would claim his first ADCC title by upending Palhares by a 9-4 score, but that wouldn’t be the end of the day quite yet for the champion.

Dean Lister (Daren Bartlett/Graciemag International)

In the under-99 kg (218 lbs.) category, it would be the unexpected return of former champion Dean Lister that would be one of the big topics of discussion for the day. Lister made his presence especially known when he submitted reigning World champion Rodolfo Vieira with a heelhook that would force Rodolfo to sit out the third-place match and the absolute. In the final, Lister would be faced with another tough challenge in Joao Assis, who had just beaten two-time ADCC champion Alexandre “Xande” Ribeiro by points. In the final, the trend of dominating footlocks continued, as Lister caught yet another tough Brazilian in another submission and became ADCC champion for the first time since winning the absolute at the 2003 ADCC.

Werdum attempts to submit Magalhaes via armbar (Daren Bartlett/Graciemag International)

Fabricio Werdum was the defending two-time champion of the over-99 kg (+218 lbs.) division, and just by looking at the brackets, it didn’t look like there was going to be anyone to stop him from claiming his third title. But the often overlooked Vinicius Magalhaes had trained hard for this competition and was determined to put Werdum’s streak to an end. The two competitors would each advance through their first three bouts and square off in the finals against each other, and it turned out to be a classic.

With Magalhaes leading by two points after a sweep and with less than four minutes to go, Werdum went on the attack and landed a straight armlock that surely looked like it would spell the end for Vinny’s hopes at the title. But Magalhaes showed his grit (and flexibility) and held out from tapping for two long (painful) minutes until he was finally able to escape Fabricio’s hold. Soon after Vinny’s miraculous escape, time would expire and he would be awarded his first ADCC title, and amazingly with no ice-packs needed.

Even with the weight-class champions already defined, there was still the absolute category that had to be decided. Sixteen competitors were registered and that meant there were four more wins needed to become champion. In the semifinals, under-88 kg champion Andre Galvao would get past Murilo Santana while 2009’s under 77-kg champion, Pablo Popovitch, would squeeze past Alexandre Ribeiro by a judge’s decision.

Andre Galvao (Daren Bartlett/Graciemag International)

In the decider, Pablo was the first to attack, taking the fight to the ground and fighting on top as he usually does, but Galvao would answer by arm-dragging his opponent and taking Popovitch’s leg for the takedown, landing on top. Then, at the 3:15 mark, Galvao went for a toe-hold that would force Popovitch to tap to avoid damage to his foot, and thus it was final: Andre Galvao was the 2011 ADCC absolute champion.

In the main spectacle of the event, the super fight matchup would be between Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza and Braulio Estima to see who would fight Galvao in the super fight at the 2013 ADCC event. In a fight that would go on for 30 minutes, it was a display of Braulio’s super aggressive guard attacks. Constantly, Estima would go for the footlocks and sweeps from the 50/50 guard putting “Jacare” in a defensive mode nearly the entire fight. It wasn’t until five minutes into the overtime that Estima would finally score, taking Souza’s back and a 3-0 lead. When the overtime period expired, there was more of a sigh of relief than celebration for Braulio, who finally beat his rival “Jacare” for the first time in five tries. In the end, Braulio would go on to say, “I’d face Jacare again no problem. Now I know he can’t get past my guard.”

Top Photo: Andre Galvao applies a toe-hold on Pablo Popovitch to force a tap out and secure the 2011 ADCC absolute championship (Daren Bartlett/Graciemag International)