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ADCC 2015 Profiles: Romulo Barral

T.P. Grant continues his profile of athletes competing in the 2015 ADCCs. This time we look at one of the most accomplished and yet not talked about grapplers of his generation, Romulo Barral.

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This August, the most prestigious no-gi submission grappling tournament will take place - the Abu Dhabi Combat Club (ADCC) Submission Wrestling World Championships. Known in shorthand has the "ADCCs," it is a professional grappling tournament held every two years that attracts the top grappling talent from all across the world. The rule set is extremely open in terms of submissions and positions allowed, the scoring system designed to increase aggressive takedowns and an attacking style on the ground. The event features a tournament and then one-off super fights between major ADCC champions.

Some of the athletes - specifically former ADCC champions, other major grappling champions, and well known MMA fighters, are invited to come compete at the ADCCs, while others go through regional qualifiers. This series will seek to profile some of the major players at the 2015 ADCCs.

Romulo Barral

Who is this guy?
One of the old guard of the BJJ world now, and a member of the generation that emerged in the midst of the legendary runs of Marcelo Garcia, Roger Gracie, and Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza. Romulo Barral came up under the legendary Vinicius "Draculino" Magalhaes of Gracie Barra, and in the mid-2000's together with the Estima brothers formed the core of Gracie Barra's team of the future.

In 2006 Barral announced his arrival to the black belt scene with a strong showing at his first Mundials and then choking Demian Maia out cold at the Brasileiros on his way to winning the 88kg division. The next year beat both the Ribeiro brothers on his way to winning the 88kg World Championships and a Silver in Absolutes, losing to Gracie Barra teammate Roger Gracie in the finals. Barral would go on to win four more world titles and own wins over almost every other great grappler near his weight of the last ten years. In 2013 he won his first ADCC title, firmly cementing himself as one of the very best, and most underappreciated, grapplers of his generation.

What is his game like?
Ask the average grappling fan what they think of when they hear the name Romulo Barral and the answer you'd be likely to hear is "spider guard". And yes, Barral was on the leading edge of the spider guard movement in the gi. However a spider guard game is very difficult, so Barral leans on another skill set he has long had with little fanfare - wrestling. Barral has long had a good top game and very effective set of takedowns, largely based around the single leg. In his 2013 ADCC run, Barral was extremely focused on the takedown. Romulo has a good shot, and also uses the front headlock to break opponents down and then attack the back. He has a strong passing game, largely played from the feet. From the bottom Barral still has a dangerous guard game, but in 2013 he sought to stand back up when taken down. He also has an array of sweeps, leg locks, and of course his famous triangle.

How is he likely to do?
Barral is in what is likely the most difficult bracket in the entire event, the 88-kg division. Barral is the returning champion but there are real threats to him in the bracket: Keenan Cornelius, Claudio Calasans, Pablo Popovitch, Rafael Lovato Jr., and Yuri Simoes all could foil Barral's hope to repeat as champion. Of the group, Barral seems one of the more likely to be upset before the medal rounds just because he is one of the older competitors at 32 years old in a division in the midst of a youth movement. Barral still has the skills and will to make a run, but in that division it will be very hard because it is just stacked with greats from several generations, no solid predictions will be able to be made until after the brackets come out.

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