Introduction: Unveiling the Phenomenon
Gordon Ryan, the grappling sensation of this generation, has become the talk of the town in the jiu-jitsu world. With the sport gaining mainstream recognition, it is safe to say that Ryan is arguably the most famous jiu-jitsu player of all time. While his adept use of social media played a part in his rise to stardom, it is his exceptional skills that truly set him apart. In this article, we will delve into Ryan’s skill set and examine his versatility, which has propelled him to great heights.
The Evolution: From Heel-Hooks to Well-Rounded Grappling
As a member of the renowned Danaher Death Squad, a group of highly skilled grapplers trained by John Danaher at the Renzo Gracie Academy, Ryan initially made a name for himself as a heel-hook specialist with a dangerous kimura-trap. However, he quickly outgrew this phase and developed into a well-rounded grappler.
His ability to seamlessly adapt to different rulesets is a testament to his versatility. He has successfully transitioned from the submission-only format of EBI to points-oriented tournaments, achieving a level of success never before seen by a specialist. Let’s now compare his performances in the top three formats he has competed in: EBI, IBJJF, and ADCC.
Unveiling the Numbers: Ryan’s Submission Ratio
To gain a deeper understanding of Ryan’s versatility, we analyzed his matches in three prestigious organizations: EBI (6, 8, 11, 14), ADCC 2017, and IBJJF World NoGi and Pans NoGi. With a total of 35 matches, Ryan boasts an impressive record of only one loss, with 23 of his wins coming by way of submission. Here is his submission ratio across all platforms:
- EBI: 67%
- IBJJF: 66%
- ADCC: 62%
These consistent submission ratios are quite remarkable, especially considering that both the IBJJF and ADCC typically have much lower submission rates on average. Let’s explore the flow of Ryan’s submissions and how he has adapted his game for each ruleset.
Please note that no EBI Overtime submissions were considered in this analysis.
Positional Offense Output: Decoding Ryan’s Strategy
When we refer to positional offense output, we are delving into the preferred offensive game plan that Ryan employs to control his opponents and secure victories. By understanding his strategies in each ruleset, we can gain valuable insights. We have categorized his offensive output into takedowns, sweeps, guard passes, back control, and mount.
Two noteworthy observations stand out from the graph below: the absence of takedowns under the IBJJF ruleset and the relatively low number of mount controls in EBI.
Here, we begin to witness Ryan’s genius as he tactically adjusts his approach for each ruleset.
Guard-Pulling: Ryan mentioned a neck injury following the IBJJF World Championship, which may explain his reduced emphasis on takedowns. Despite engaging with several competitors and being taken down during the No-Gi Worlds, Ryan recognized the caliber of the stand-up game he faced. Starting from the bottom proved to be a stronger strategy and ultimately led to his quadruple gold at the World and Pan NoGi Championships.
At the ADCC, Ryan competed in a lower weight class under a ruleset that discourages guard pulling. In this scenario, Ryan’s wrestling game and passing techniques shone through, enabling him to overcome renowned guard players like Romulo Barral and the formidable Craig Jones.
Mount Control: In the absence of point systems (EBI), there is less incentive to regain guard after giving up the mount. Against a respected opponent like Ryan, the safer option is to bide time and wait for overtime. Points-based systems do not offer this luxury, which likely influenced Ryan’s greater emphasis on mount control in the ADCC and IBJJF rulesets.
Unleashing the Floating Style: Ryan’s Guard-Passing Mastery
Despite his undeniable success from the bottom position, one aspect of Ryan’s game that often goes unnoticed is his passing ability, particularly his unique floating style.
During his early days as a black belt in EBI, Ryan showcased a highly effective floating pass, which accounted for 100% of his passes and a significant portion of his back-takes.
However, in recent times, due to opponents becoming more familiar with his game or the higher-level competition he faces, the floating pass has become less effective. Instead, Ryan has developed a pressure-oriented passing style as a result of these floating exchanges.
This adaptation has not only opened doors for half guard passing but has also contributed to over half of his 18 recorded back-takes.
Ryan’s Sweeping Mastery
The butterfly guard seems to be Ryan’s go-to position in all rule-sets when he finds himself on the bottom. From this position, he employs various techniques, including arm-drags, hook-sweeps, head control/arm-in guillotine, and ankle picks. However, his entries into the saddle position are his most notable attacks.
In EBI, the saddle position was primarily used for controlling the inside heel-hook submission. However, under the IBJJF ruleset, Ryan utilized this control to execute sweeps on five occasions (including a bear-trap), with the only other sweep coming from a reverse half-guard. This impressive success rate of 5 out of 6 sweeps from the saddle position showcases Ryan’s skills.
Conclusion: The Perfect Storm of Versatility
In summary, Gordon Ryan’s success stems from his wide range of technical systems, coupled with a solid understanding of grappling fundamentals. His mastery of both offensive and defensive techniques, combined with his natural talent and physicality, has propelled him to become one of the most accomplished nogi competitors in today’s jiu-jitsu scene.
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