FEBRUARY 10, 2024, was the date set for the 22nd edition of FloGrappling’s Who’s Number One (WNO), and what a show it was. Dare we say, the best match-making produced by the WNO promotion. Every single one of the matches was exciting and worth revisiting by jiu-jitsu & grappling fans.
We had referenced in our coverage of the IBJJF European Open (here) how Brazilians were on a massive rise in 2024 when compared to the last few years when other countries started catching up. If WNO was a barometer of each country’s health, we can clearly say Brazil’s hegemony was maintained at WNO22 with a 100% win rate and 3 subs out of 5 matches, a remarkable score for the Brazilians. Also worthy of note was how the vast majority of athletes who compete in the gi beat the no-gi specialists at this event. That was the case in 8 out of 10 matches (one being even as both athletes compete with the Gi). Jacob Couch was the only no-gi athlete who beat a hybrid competitor (Sebastian Rodriguez).
This was also a phenomenal day for team Art Of Jiu-Jitsu (AOJ), a squad that has traditionally been one of the pinnacles of the sport with the kimono. More recently AOJ started putting more effort into no-gi, seeking a more profitable circuit of submission-wrestling for its athletes and this transition has brought them plenty of success from the get-go. Diego Pato and Cole Abate were the first big hits from the team in this ruleset, but the no-gi squad is getting bigger and bigger with the additions of Tainan Dalpra and the Funegra Sisters who made waves at WNO 22.
Below is a report of each match:
– DORY AOUN (Checkmat) def. KYLE CHAMBERS (10th Planet) via decision
Chambers started from the bottom, working from his half-guard to get underneath Aoun and attempt to attack legs without success. Midway through the match Kyle changed his strategy to upper body attacks through the rubber guard but ended up getting his guard passed and his back taken by Dory (although without the traditional two hooks) who put on a couple of submission attacks of his own, first the RNC from the back & a toe hold near the end.
The match was very even and the decision came down to how the judges assessed the athletes’ jiu-jitsu. Chambers attempted more submissions but never tried to advance the match positionally, Aoun did the opposite but also managed to get close to a submission on a couple of instances.
– ASHLEE FUNEGERA (AOJ) def. MARILYN CRUZ (Baret Yoshida) via decision
In the last edition of WNO we saw Mia Funegra dominate her opponent, this time it was time for the other part of the Funegra Sisters, 17yo Ashlee to do the same. Dominant from the get-go, Funegra beat Cruz in every aspect of the match from a top stance, passing and mounting Marilyn on several occasions for a well-deserved decision win.
– DANIEL SATHLER (Atos) def. MAX HANSON (Pedigo SF) via flying armbar
This was a short match, Max tried to come up on a knee from his guard to collar tie with Daniel and possibly bring him to his guard, a mistake that cost him dearly against the athletic and skilled Sathler who jumped on his arm and did not let go.
– ELIJAH DORSEY (Lloyd Irvin) def. IVAN HERRERA (Baret Yoshida) via shoulder lock from the back
A quick match where the well-roundedness of Dorsey shined through once again. The 2024 IBJJF European Championship gold medalist ran a flawless performance starting with a solid takedown, beautiful posture when passing, and forcing the turtle from his opponent to secure the back take and get a shoulder lock. A very fun performance.
Another very fast submission, this time by submission machine, Jacob Couch. Rodriguez appeared a bit dismissive of Couch’s submission game, diving right into it and payed the price for it.
The night of submissions continued with Adele Fornarino. A beautiful entry to the foot via Curu-Curu guard for a quick finish within 30 seconds.
Dapra bulked up a bit for this match, weighing in at the limit of the division with 84kg (185 lbs) versus Taza’s 80 (177 lbs). The size difference was visible in the wrestling portion of the clash where Tainan’s ferocious collar ties appeared to be a real problem for Taza.
Tainan was able to take Oliver down with two nice single legs and proceeded to dictate the pace from the top, finding his way to side control via chest-to-chest passing on 5 occasions. A dominant win for the IBJJF gi World Champion who was competing for the second time in no-gi in his black belt career against an ADCC veteran of the highest level such as Taza.
On paper, this was the match we were most excited about. Lightweight WNO champ (Leon) vs Featherweight WNO champ (Oliveira) and two of the most fun grapplers to follow in the jiu-jitsu world.
As expected, Pato pulled guard from the start, working on his deadly leg-lock game from the bottom while never relinquishing the positional game, combining the two to perfection and using that mindset to sweep the Canadian grappler.
Pato never rested, continuously looking for kinks in the defense of his opponent and Leon was never able to find a position from the top (or bottom) where his legs weren’t exposed. The avalanche of attacks from Diego eventually bore fruit around the 9th minute of the match.
Kenta surprised a few people by taking Galvao down (via knee-tap and later a single leg) early in the match, but the problem with that was that Galvao is just as hard to handle from his back as he is from the top. Every time Iwamoto succeeded in taking the Brazilian athlete to the mat, he found himself immediately in survival mode from a submission attack by Mica.
Kenta was an excellent dancing partner for Galvao’s relentless submission game, given how the Japanese player never stopped fighting to win physically and mentally. Despite this excellent back and forth, Mica was in the driver’s seat the whole time and eventually got to the match-winning RNC, 13 minutes into the bout.
As expected a quick guard pull by Hugo at the start. Nicky tried his best to find angles, inside Hugo’s guard but was unable to find any outside passing or chest connections.
Hugo was able to keep Nicky Rod away from his stronger game (body lock) by resisting the wrestle up (sitting up) and working mostly elevations and off-balancing with his back on the mat.
With 5 minutes left on the clock, Hugo risked a bit more and started imposing a more aggressive game, which allowed Rodriguez to find more space and eventually the guard pass (albeit, possibly for not long enough to score points in a BJJ match).
With 30 seconds left in the match, Hugo was able to sweep, pass, and mount Rod (again, for not long enough to score points if it were a BJJ match), a maneuver that, likely, led to his hand being raised. This was an even match, both athletes had strong moments, though Hugo’s strong moments did appear to be a lot stronger than Nicky’s ones. A solid decision by the judges and by the players who put on a valiant effort.