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ADCC Classics: how Mark Kerr became the most accomplished American in history

Mark Kerr vs. Leo Vieira at the 2000 ADCC
Mark Kerr vs. Leo Vieira at the 2000 ADCC

summer promoFirst of all, Mark Kerr is still the most accomplished American athlete in ADCC history.

From 1999 to 2001, he won three gold medals and one superfight.

First he won the +99kg division in 1999, then won double gold in 2000 at the +99kg and the open class.

In 2001, he defeated José Mario Sperry in the superfight.

Kerr’s best appearance was in 2000, at the third edition of the ADCC, still in Abu Dhabi.

First he swept the +99kg division with finishes over Josh Barnett, Anthony Netzler and Rigan Machado in the semifinal.

The final match was against countryman Rico Rodriguez, Kerr’s training partner.

In a kind of a training session, Kerr kept the top position to score his points and celebrate the title before moving on to the open class division.

In the absolute, the American had no easy path.

In four matches, he had to overcome Leo Vieira, Mike Van Arsdale, Ricardo Almeida and Sean Alvarez.

The first match was a David and Goliath kind of thing as Leo Vieira weighed 165lb while Kerr had 249lb.

Those who expected a massacre soon saw that no such thing was going to happen.

Vieira kept moving about and escaping the tough spots to avoid giving out any points.

The match went into overtime and Kerr could only score a few advantages to advance on the bracket.

Leozinho was able to get to Kerr’s head, as he told GRACIEMAG at that time: “He was very angry. I guess if he could get a hold of me, he wold have hurt me seriously.”

In the end, both got $1,350 for the prize of the best match of the event.

Watch the match here.

Kerr went on to win that open class division, but first he had to face Ricardo Almeida.

A surprise flying armlock almost put an end on Kerr’s run, but the American pressed on and eventually escaped to win by advantages.

The final match was against Sean Alvarez and Kerr was able to take his opponent to the ground and get close to a guard pass to win by advantages.

One year later, Kerr was back to face José Mário Sperry in the superfight.

Sperry had won two superfights in a row, against Enson Inoue (1999) and Roberto Traven (2000).

Known for playing on top, Sperry pulled guard and almost got Kerr to tap to a leg lock.

“I had that lock planned, but I couldn’t believe that I actually had it so early in the match. I didn’t know what to do for a second so I let the opportunity pass,” said Zé Mário after the match was over.

Mark Kerr vs. Zé Mario Sperry at the 2001 ADCC
Mark Kerr vs. Zé Mario Sperry at the 2001 ADCC

Already on overtime, Kerr got a guillotine in place and Sperry was fearless to defend it, but could not prevent an advantage from being scored in favor of Kerr.

The superfight had a new champion and Kerr added yet another medal to his ADCC collection.

Dean Lister, with three division wins in the ADCC (2003 – Open class, 2005 – Superfight, 2011 – -99kg) and registered for the 2015 edition, can tie things up with Kerr if he wins the +99kg division in São Paulo.

The 2015 ADCC is scheduled August 29-30, in Brazil.

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