After dealing with a semi hiatus in 2020 due to Covid, BJJ competitions were back in full swing for 2021. The best Jiu Jitsu competitors in the world are back on the mat doing what they do best.
To mark the return of grappling competitions, here is our revised list of the top 10 men’s BJJ competitors in the world.
Nicholas Meregali starts off our list at #10 on our list of the top men’s BJJ competitors. In 2019, Meregali was poised to become the best gi competitor in the world.
2019 was the best year of Meregali’s career as he won the Brasileiro along with his 2nd IBJJF world championship. Unfortunately, Meregali was sidelined in 2020 due to injury.
He came back in 2021 healed up and part of a new BJJ team called Dream Art. At the 2021 Worlds in December, Meregali looked the best he had ever looked.
Nicholas won all 5 of his matches at the tournament and looked poised to win double gold. Unfortunately he decided to give a spectator the finger while competing and was immediately disqualified from the competition.
He ended up going home empty handed due to this horrible lapse in judgement. If he had not given that random person the bird, he would’ve made history in Jiu Jitsu.
Meregali could’ve easily come in the top 3 of this list, but this year he’ll have to settle for tenth.
Coming in at #9 is the Alliance BJJ stand out Felipe Andrew. A 4x Pan Champion came into 2021 looking like he was going to make a run at this year’s world championship.
Andrew went more than half of the year unbeaten, winning double gold at this year’s Pan Championship and also won double gold at the American Nationals Championship.
Of his five losses this year, two of them came in finals and semifinals of the IBJJF Worlds with his loss in the finals of the super heavyweight division by just one advantage to Erich Munis.
Don’t be surprised to see Felipe Andrew become a world champion in the future and climb up our list.
#8 Leandro Lo
For the last decade Leandro Lo has continuously been one of the top BJJ players in the world. In his career, Lo has won 8 world titles and broke a record for most world titles in different weight classes.
He has been in countless wars on the mats and has 300 matches as a black belt under his belt. Unfortunately these wars have seemed to take a toll on Lo the last few years.
Many were questioning if his injuries were starting to catch up to him, but in 2020, he seemed to be healthier and won a few big matches.
At this year’s world, he came up just short of winning his 9th world title, losing in the semifinals and forcing him to settle for third this year.
After a decade of dominance, the new generation may be starting to get the better of him, but he’s still an elite grappler.
#7 Erich Munis
Coming in at #7 is a BJJ athlete from the new generation that made a statement at this year’s championships. Erich Munis has proven in his first year as a black belt that he is a force to reckon with for years to come.
The 24 year old black belt has earned an impressive 35-2 record so far in the black belt division. He was the dark horse in the super heavy division at this year’s Worlds, but came prepared.
In a stacked division, he beat division favorite Felipe Pena in the semifinals. Munis would then take out Felipe Andrew in the finals to win his first world championship at black belt.
It’s crazy to think two years ago, Erich was a purple belt and now he’s beating black belt world champions. Don’t be surprised to start hearing more about Munis as one of the world’s top grapplers.
#6 Victor Hugo
Victor Hugo is another young black belt who has been making waves at the elite level. The Ribeiro Jiu Jitsu product just got his black belt 2 years ago and has been really impressive in competition.
Just like Munis, Hugo won a world championship (no-gi) in his first year as a black belt in 2019. This year he took second at the no-gi championship and was looking to earn his first world title in the gi.
Hugo came up short, losing to Nicholas Meregali in the semifinals, but since Meregali got disqualified, Victor would advance. In the finals, he submitted Max Gimenis with a toe hold and won his first world title in the gi.
Even though that wasn’t how he wanted to win, Victor still became a 2x world champion. At just 24 years old, Hugo will definitely be in the mix for years to come.
The young monster from Atos BJJ, Kaynan Duarte makes it on our list at #5. The 23 year old from Pederneiras is well-rounded and only getting better.
Less than a year into his first year as a black belt, Duarte won the ADCC Championship. He would also win the IBJJF title that year, but a failed drug test got Durate suspended, and that title was stripped from him.
Looking for redemption, Duarte came back to this year’s championship ready to win. In the heavyweight division, Duarte had a dominant performance, submitting three of four opponents.
Coming back to win his first world championship after being suspended, as of now, he hasn’t failed another USADA test, so it looks like he’ll keep his title.
Now Duarte will look to the future and try to win a second title at the 2022 ADCC Championship.
One of Checkmat’s brightest stars Matheus Gabriel makes our list at #4. This year was by far Gabriel’s best year as a black belt.
After losing a match early on in the year, Matheus went unbeaten for the rest of 2021. In that time he would win the no-gi Pan Championship and the Brasileiro before Worlds.
Matheus dominated the featherweight division, beating all three of his opponents and closing out the division with teammate Renato Canuto and helping Checkmat win this year’s team championship.
Gabriel showed he’s one of the world’s best grapplers and will look to continue to improve his game.
#3 Felipe Pena
Felipe “Preguiça” Pena has been one of Gracie Barra’s best grapplers for the last decade. He is a 5x IBJJF world champion and a one time ADCC champion.
Pena had a great 2021 and came into the world championship tournament unbeaten this year. Starting the tournament off, he looked like vintage Preguiça.
Although he was upset in the super heavy division, Pena would bounce back, putting together one of his best performances in the absolute division.
Pena beat all three of his opponents in the absolute division, to win his 5th IBJJF championship. After his last match, Pena put his belt on the mat and announced his retirement from IBJJF competition.
He retires as one of the all time greats to ever compete in Jiu Jitsu.
If you’ve followed Mikey Musumeci’s career, you won’t be surprised to find him at #2 on our list. He is only 25 years old, but has already had a hall of fame career.
The elite guard player hasn’t lost a bout in a world title tournament since his first appearance in 2016. Since then, Musumeci has been on a legendary run.
Mikey became the first American to repeat as IBJJF world champion and then broke his own record. Actually, he has gone on to break his own record three more times after setting the first record!
This year Musumeci earned his fourth world title in the rooster weight division. He defeated his first two opponents by ankle lock and then knocked off all time great Bruno Malfacine.
Musumeci is an incredible BJJ practitioner and is only getting started in competition. He is going to add more world titles to his resume before he calls it a day competing.
#1 Gordon Ryan
Without a doubt the most dominating submission grappling athlete in the world is none other than “King” Gordon Ryan. At just 26 years old, Ryan is already considered by many as the greatest no-gi grappler of all time.
It has been over four years since Gordon Ryan has lost a pro grappling match. Since losing by points to Vinny Magalhaes by points, Ryan has won 43 matches including winning double gold at the 2019 ADCC Championship. What is remarkable is that Gordon had all of this success while dealing with a severe intestinal problem.
Making elite grapplers look like beginners while dealing with a potentially life threatening illness is truly remarkable.
This health problem actually made Gordon consider retirement in 2021 but with Andre Galvao coming out of retirement, Ryan would postpone retirement to take Galvao on at the 2022 ADCC Championship.
If he beats Galvao at that event, it’ll be hard not to crown Ryan as the best grappler ever.