SEPTEMBER 26, 2021, AUSTIN, TX, and the wait is finally over. One of the most talked-about tournaments of the year, the Who’s Number One Championships has just ended, an event that offered a solid prize to each division (30k USD for the champ) and very solid production value for the viewers.
As it happens with many events, the line-up suffered quite a few last-minute changes due to training injuries and logistic hic-ups, nevertheless, the solid work undertaken by the event’s match-makers paid off as the majority of the clashes was indeed every bit as competitive and entertaining as the fans could have expected. An array of surprises took place throughout the tournament which included the talked-about first-round losses of grappling stars Gabi Garcia and Mikey Musumeci. These results may have overshadowed the outstanding work of a few of the event’s top performers, so be sure to read through our report on each of the tournament’s divisions (below).
155 lb – Kade Ruotolo (Atos)
185 lb – Tye Ruotolo (Atos)
205+ lb – Tim Spriggs (TLI)
115 lb – Mayssa Bastos (Unity / GFT)
145+ lb – Rafaela Guedes (Atos)
Lots of fun matches on offer, but it would be impossible not to highlight 16-year-old Cole Abate’s performance. Truly spectacular what this young man was able to do at this event, being “just a blue belt” in a sea of high-level black belts. Much credit to Cole’s instructors and teammates at the Art Of Jiu-Jitsu academy who prepared this young man thoroughly. Abate dominated an ADCC veteran in 10th Planet’s Geo Martinez at the very first round of the event, going to war in the semi-final against Gabriel Sousa of ZR Team. Although he did lose a close match to Sousa (via split decision), many saw the teenager as the victor of this duel, mainly for his relentless attacks and guard work and one could certainly understand if the result had gone the other way.
Overall this was a very even weight class with a mix of lightweights, rooster-weights, and light-featherweight competitors as well as a few gi specialists who came in for a taste of no-gi action. Three of those gi specialists did very well, namely the aforementioned Abate, as well as Diego Pato and Gabriel Sousa – two Brazilians who’ve made their careers competing in the IBJJF’s light-featherweight division (64,00 kg / 141.5 lbs).
Gabriel, in particular, had a great time at Who’s Number One, passing and submitting the unpassable guard of Mikey Musumeci in the first round of the tournament. A feat in itself. Going on to face the teenage sensation, Kade Ruotolo, after a superb back-and-forth clash with Cole.
For the final Gabriel Sousa had a major predicament, to face Ruotolo’s superior wrestling or play guard (which is, traditionally, not his A-game). Sousa went for the wrestling, but ended up being taken down. From there, Kade was relentless in seeking the choke, ending the match with his trademarked Darce. A very fast-paced and entertaining bout.
Equally entertaining was the lightest athlete of the men’s divisions, Diego “Pato” Oliveira of Cicero Costha. We mentioned previously that Pato is not traditionally seen as a no-gi-oriented athlete. In fact, he is primarily known for his lapel guard work when competing in the AJP and IBJJF circuits, nevertheless, the technical finesse of Pato’s no-gi game was on full display at WNO when he defeated John Danaher’s pupil, Demian Anderson, and 2020’s Pan American Champion Josh Cisneros on the run-up to 3rd place, after a loss to Kade Ruotolo in the opening round. A match he was winning, mind you, up until the crafty Atos talent managed to find his way to a Darce choke.
– Gabriel Sousa def. Mickey Musumeci via north-south choke
– Josh Cisneros def. Demian Anderson via armbar
– Cole Abate def. Geo Martinez via decision
– Kade Ruotolo def. Diego Pato via Darce choke
– Gabriel Sousa def. Cole Abate via decision
– Kade Ruotolo def. Josh Cisneros via injury
– Diego Pato def. Demian Anderson via decision
* Both Musumeci and Abate were unable to compete for the consolation rounds.
– Diego Pato def. Josh Cisneros via RNC
– Kade Ruotolo def. Gabriel Sousa via Darce choke
We had alluded to this being the most even division on the men’s roster and indeed it was. Another very fun weight class to follow thanks to the cleaver bracket making at WNO.
With tons of young blood on the mats, this weight class was mostly dominated by “real life” 170 lbs athletes, with two being particularly fruitful here. Namely, the teenage phenoms Mica Galvão and Tye Ruotolo who put on very dominant performances on their way to the final. That gold medal match was, arguably, the final everyone was hoping for here given the relevance both of these young men will likely have in the future of the sport for the next decade.
That said, Careful what you wish for, is what we took from the final between Mica and Tye. Both athletes have a ton of potential and showed it throughout the tournament. Sadly their gung-ho qualities were not on display in the final face-off. A lot of respect between the two competitors (who’ve met in the past during their juvenile careers) led to 30 minutes of inactivity standing and on the ground once Galvão opted to pull guard. Lots of hand fighting from the guard, neither athlete was able to mount any type of offense whatsoever. A frustrating clash for both competitors and for the fans.
– Tye Ruotolo def. Johnny Tama via Darce choke
– Dante Leon def. Jon Blank via decision
– Jacob Couch def. Roberto Jimenez inside heel hook
– Mica Galvao def. William Tackett via decision
– Mica Galvao def. Jacob Couch via armbar
– Tye Ruotolo def. Dante Leon via power guillotine
– Jon Blank def. Jacob Couch via reverse triangle
– William Tackett def. Dante Leon via calf-slicer
– Jacob Couch def. William Tackett via split decision
* Blank came out injured from his consolation match and was forced to concede the 3rd place match vacancy to “The Hillbilly Hammer”, Jacob Couch.
– Tye Ruotolo def. Mica Galva via split decision
Plenty of turmoil in the heavyweight division at the start of the tournament with injuries and disqualifications, but in the end, the best prevailed. As predicted in our preview, Atos’ 22-year-old representative, Kaynan Duarte flew by the opposition with flair and dominance on his way to the final where he met the dark horse of the race, Tim Spriggs. A native of Maryland, Spriggs proved to be a huge disruptor this weekend taking out three top players on his way to the championship, submitting two of them, including Kaynan. Truly impressive run by the TLI athlete who was flying under the radar, semi-retired from competition until earlier this year.
One of the special performances of the tournament was also that of Mason Fowler. The Caio Terra brown belt suffered from a severe eye poke in the first round of the tournament which compromised his vision but the tough Californian kept going. Competing with one eye completely shut down for nearly the entirety of the match, Mason was still able to put on a dominant performance over Giancarlo Bodoni. Sadly, the injury proved to be serious and he was not able to return to the mats for the semi-finals.
– Kaynan Duarte def. Kyle Boehm via decision
– Mason Fowler def. Giancarlo Bodoni via decision
– Tex Johnson def. Orlando Sanchez via DQ
– Tim Spriggs def. Rida Haisam via inside heel-hook
– Tim Spriggs def. Tex Johnson via decision
– Kaynan Duarte def. Giancarlo Bodoni via decision
– Rida Haisam def. Orlando Sanchez via short choke
* Injured Tex Johnson could not compete in repechage, Kyle Boehm also absent, giving way for Bodoni to play for 3rd place.
– Rida Haisam def. Giancarlo Bodoni via decision
– Tim Spriggs def. Kaynan Duarte via inside heel hook
What a fun line-up this was to follow. Even though the two front-runners reached the final, every match was a war, and nearly every clash was competitive.
One of the surprises of the tournament (if we can say that about a world-class veteran) was Tammi Musumeci. The technical grappler has been away from the competitive arena since 2019 to focus on her professional career outside of jiu-jitsu, but that absence did not seem to have an adverse effect on the veteran and former IBJJF World Champion’s technical prowess as she came out “guns blazing”, taking a few highly entertaining matches on her way to a third-place position.
Although still very young, Mayssa Bastos and Grace Gundrum showed world-class composure on their way to the final, albeit, Mayssa with a more conservative game and Gundrum with the aggressive style she has accustomed grappling fans over the years. During the final, Gundrum opted to challenge Mayssa Bastos’ guard, but the Berimbolo Queen was well up for the task, nearly taking full-back control very early in the clash, from the crab-ride position. Although Bastos had a good start, the match’s initial fire quickly simmered as both competitors were unable to break each other’s defenses for an extended period of time. With three minutes to the end, Mayssa showed she was saving a few gears for the grand finale, sweeping, passing, and mounting Gundrum, going on to find her way to a tight katagatame from the mount position – which Grace miraculously survived after dealing the choke for over 1 minute. Very professional performance by Mayssa.
– Mayssa Bastos def. Alex Nguyen via decision
– Tammi Musumeci def. Amanda Alequin via decision
– Grace Gundrum def. Danielle Kelly via decision
– Jessa Khan def. Jessica Crane via inside heel hook
– Mayssa Bastos def. Tammi Musumeci via decision
– Grace Gundrum def. Jessa Khan via twister
– Amanda Alequin def. Alex Nguyen via kneebar
– Danielle Kelly def. Jessica Crane via inside heel hook
– Amanda Alequin def. Jessa Khan via toe hold
– Tammi Musumeci def. Danielle Kelly via armlock
– Tammi Musumeci def. Amanda Alequin via decision
– Mayssa Bastos def. Grace Gundrum via decision
A rollercoaster of emotion was the female heavyweight division starting off with the upset of the year, a stupendous performance by Amanda Leve over the most dominant athlete of the past decade, Gabi Garcia. Making her black belt debut, Leve was able to dominate Garcia (who likely outweighed her by 50 lbs) from post to post. Sweeps, guard passes, back control, and submission attempt by submission attempt, Amanda Leve chipped at Gabrielle and was able to completely dominate the match, taking the win via unanimous decision.
Sadly for Leve, she was not able to maintain her focus and her momentum. In a very balanced division, she would eventually take a loss in the semi-final to Rafaela Guedes and later to Erin Harpe in the consolation rounds.
The final saw the two most impressive heavyweights of the weekend meet for a very fun, back-and-forth match. Reusing used her ability to wrestle to shut down Guedes’ “wrestle-up” sweeps early on in the match, forcing Rafaela to stand with the former Simon Fraser alumni. The Atos athlete did, eventually, take the top position but relinquished it quickly to attack a tight guillotine. Although that first try at the choke did not work, but it appeared to be her path for the gold medal. Guedes kept at it and a second try at the guillotine proved successful.
Although unable to make it all the way to the finals, a special mention should be made for Erin Harpe and Elisabeth Clay. Both looked fantastic on their way to the 3rd place consolation prize. Forward moving jiu-jitsu, looking for the submission with a very solid positional game.
– Amanda Leve def. Gabrielle Garcia via decision
– Rafaela Guedes def. Elisabeth Clay via decision
– Ana Vieira def. Amanda Lowen via katagatame
– Kendall Reusing def. Erin Harpe via decision
– Kendall Reusing def. Ana Vieira via decision
– Rafaela Guedes def. Amanda Leve via decision
– Erin Harpe def. Amanda Loewen via kimura
– Erin Harpe def. Amanda Leve via decision
* Gabrielle Garcia & Ana Carolina Vieira did not compete in the repechage giving way for Elisabeth Clay.
– Elisabeth Clay def. Erin Harpe via decision
– Rafaela Guedes def. Kendall Reusing via guillotine