At 19 years old, Brazilian jiu-jitsu prodigy and ONE Championship athlete Kade Ruotolo became the youngest ADCC champion by submitting Mica Galvao in the finals of the Men's 77kg category. Kade, one-half of the famed Ruotolo brothers, submitted all four of his opponents in his bracket - a rarity in ADCC.
Kade kicked off the 2-day tournament by submitting Jiujitsu legend and ADCC pioneer Lachlan Giles in a nail-biting clash of styles. Kade Ruotolo caught the Aussie veteran with a slick armbar out of nowhere, bringing the entire Thomas & Mack center into a frenzy:
Kade followed it up by making short work of Roberto Jimenez. The two started the bout at a rapid pace which led to a complex leg entanglement where Ruotolo saw an opening for a heel hook finish.
In the semi-finals match, Ruotolo fought PJ Barch in one of the most insane bouts in ADCC this year. The two exchanged near-takedowns and violent counter-attacks as they seemingly canceled each other out. Near the end of the bout, the two went on a ridiculous scramble where Ruotolo found an armbar with just a minute and thirty-six seconds left on the clock.
In the finals, Kade Ruotolo fought his brother's rival, Mica Galvao. Receiving pointers from his twin, Tye Ruotolo, Kade faced the Brazilian like a bat out of hell. Right away, Galvao put Ruotolo on the defensive, but the American prodigy showed impeccable defense.
The two exchanged submission attacks, with Galvao focusing more on leg locks and dropping to half-guard bottom to find his openings. Kade Ruotolo finished the bout by securing a heel hook in transition, catching Galvao off-guard and getting the tap. Aside from becoming the youngest ADCC champion in history, Kade Ruotolo also became the first man to submit Mica Galvao in competition.
Speaking to Kenny Florian in the post-match interview, Kade Ruotolo cited his brother's history with Galvao as one of the major factors that helped him win:
"It's massive. He [Tye Ruotolo] gave me so many pointers heading into this. He's fought Mica many times. This is our first match. I heard the Diaz Brothers say this, he goes, if he told me to say something specific, he would have told me, be he went ahead and told me, 'Go beat that motherf***r's ass! [laughs] ' But I'm so relived. I'm so pumped. I'm so stoked. Thank you."
Kade Ruotolo's brother, Tye Ruotolo, fell off his bracket early, comes back with a vengeance in the Absolutes
The other half of the Ruotolo brothers, Tye Ruotolo, didn't fare as well as his brother Kade. This doesn't mean, however, that he hasn't put on a strong showing in ADCC this year.
In the opening round of the Men's 88kg category, Tye Ruotolo faced his ATOS teammate Josh Hinger in an absolute war. Tye secured 2 points over Hinger in overtime, but Hinger battled back, securing Tye's back to score 3 points. Separated by just 1 point, Tye ferociously hunted for the finish, even securing his signature D'Arce choke which Hinger had to fend off 'til time expired.
Getting eliminated in his category may have lit a fire under Tye Ruotolo's backside as he fought like a man possessed in the Absolutes. Fighting men heavier than him, Tye fought his heart out and beat Pedro Marinho in the opening round via a rear-naked choke.
Next was perhaps the biggest feather in Tye Ruotolo's cap so far, a win over former ADCC Absolutes gold medalist Felipe Pena. Outweighed significantly by Pena, Ruotolo used his speed and aggression to narrowly beat the Brazilian legend by a negative point.
In the semi-finals, Ruotolo once again fought a man who outweighed him by more than 10kg, multi-time BJJ world champion, Nicholas Meregali. In a "David vs. Goliath" battle that saw no one score a single point in regulation or in overtime, the bout came down to a judges' decision. The judges awarded the bout to Meregali, despite much of the crowd giving it to Ruotolo.
Still, getting a bronze medal in the Absolutes was a huge achievement for Tye, who will surely come back stronger in the next ADCC World Championships.