I wish I could write the top 10 short guys in BJJ but I can’t. If you’re into Jiu Jitsu, being short is hard, so hard that the taller you are for your respective weight class – the greater your chance of winning. Sure, there are advantages to being shorter such as faster reaction times (shorter neural networks), greater strength to weight ratio, faster limb acceleration, greater endurance, and greater power to weight ratio. Nonetheless, the physics of Jiu Jitsu is about maximizing mechanical advantage and longer levers do just that – Especially when it’s multiplied using the gi.
This is why if you pour over the IBJJF rankings from purple belt to black in the adult divisions, you’re hard pressed to find successful short players. This brief list is the few that I could come up with in these divisions. It does not include nogi competitors as the most successful gi competitors still win the highest level nogi competitions like ADCC, etc. If you can think of someone else please let me know. This is a list of active competitors.
So what do we mean by “short?” Well, rather than compare metrics I simply used the holistic measurement of people that when you watch them compete you can’t help but say “Damn, that dude is way shorter!” Also, if you’re wondering if wrestlejitsu himself is short, of course.
(Picture credit – BJJE, BJJ Heroes, Graciemag)
The undeniably smooth king of flow is a five time world champ (though the last victory appeared a bit too political IMHO). Bruno is lightning fast (so much so that his movements are hard to analyze as the camera can barely keep up trying to stream those that backsteps in frames per second). His top game is relentless and exploits any opening possible often spinning to the back the second he clears the legs. His bottom game is nearly as good regularly hitting overhead sweeps (we’ll see this as a common move from open guard among short players) and a number of others from butterfly.
Jacob is a brown belt under Cobrinha and is an accomplished competitor having got 2nd at Pans in 2014. Insider information tells me he is regularly is competitive with Isaac Doederlein during training, though he is now pursuing a career in MMA. Coming from the Cobrinha camp he loves leg drags and the leg drag position and is extremely dynamic and explosive in his style. He even has a decent leg lock game in nogi.
Like many short players AJ has adapted his previous wrestling experience to Jiu Jitsu. He has had a notable career – mainly in his battles both on the mats and socially against Keenan Cornelius. His stack pass and lone victory over him will be forever remembered. He’s won a number of nogi titles and though he was competitive at the lower levels is still settling in as a new black belt. His recent fights with Oli Geddes (a dominating and mock-filled victory) at Polaris and Tanquinho at the Berkut Challenge solidifies his determination in working his way to the top. AJ’s top moves include leg pinning and when on bottom his use of the leg lasso into a single leg (as we’ve seen in a HL by wrestlejitsu) Also, budo Jake loves him.
A shorter player with a slick sit up guard, leg lasso, and omo game, Sousa has been competing at black belt since 2007. He’s a world champ and nearly won ADCC losing in a close match to Kron Gracie. Octavio is a consistently active competitor having just won NY Pro.
Though pursing a career in MMA at the moment, DJ is an accomplished grappler and still regularly swings into a tournament as a litmus test. This year he won nogi worlds at black belt but he’s won IBJJF Worlds in the gi before at the lower belts as well. DJ has an extremely simple game with his main objective to force half guard and knee cut often times with the lapel untucked and the crossface on. A previous wrestler, his standing game is rock solid as well. Despite his simple game he’s beaten big names such as Abmar Barbosa and Magid Hage while barely losing to the likes of Andre Galvao and Leandro Lo (on advantages).
Of course the one and only Andre Galvao.
Currently, the best pound for pound grappler in the world. Multiple time absolute ADCC and IBJJF world champ at Black belt. Recently, his game has prioritized takedowns in nogi and stack passing from top in the gi. On bottom he prefers deep half guard or reverse DLR. As a black belt since 2005, his understanding of the game is incomprehensible and thus many members of Atos are simply unstoppable.
Also, Alec Baulding
The Alliance black belt has been training since he was a little kid, has been a world champ, and still regularly gets on the podium at black belt. He has both beaten (Marcus Tinoco at the Dallas Open) and lost to (Dillion Danis at Pans) to Marcelo Garcia’s prodigies. Alec regularly pulls open guard during a match and thus serves as a serious inspiration for short players that often prioritize their top game. He also likes deep half guard and has a mean hip switch and knee cut pass. He’s trained with Cobrinha and has been called “Jacare’s prodigy.” This dude is just a monster. This clip in the absolute finals from when he was a purple belt pretty much sums up his personality and ability in one moment:
Roberto had a strong career at lower belts and continues to place consistently in the black belt division. With a strong top game and solid guard he’s beat a number of bigger names in absolute such as Manny Diaz and Gianni Grippo. From top he prefers to pin the legs to the floor and pass or fold and from bottom plays lasso and single leg with the lapel fed.