WNO’s first event of 2022 went down last weekend in Dallas, Texas, kicking the year off with some great no-gi matches featuring some of the sport’s top athletes. In the main event, Pedro Marinho was matched up with B-Team leader Craig Jones for the 205 lb. title. Other matchups included Tye Ruotolo vs. Levi Jones-Leary, Elder Cruz vs. Nick Rodriguez, and Mikey Musumeci vs. Estevan Martinez, among others.
In the main event, Pedro Marinho captured the 205 lb. belt by winning both the wrestling and ground exchanges against the always dangerous Craig Jones. In his post-fight interview, Pedro called out Gordon Ryan, who tapped him in the 2019 ADCC absolute division with a heel hook. Stomach issues kept Gordon from competing consistently in 2021, but we’ll definitely be seeing him compete at ADCC 2022 in September and likely in other matches leading up to ADCC. Another interesting matchup for Pedro is Lucas “Hulk” Barbosa. Hulk has been training and competing more without the gi recently as he prepares for MMA. He’s currently on a ten match winning streak, including an undefeated run at the 2021 IBJJF Worlds where he closed out the middle-heavyweight division with his teammate Gustavo Batista. Hulk and Pedro both have explosive takedown games, so we’d likely see a battle for top position in a high paced match.
Despite all of Craig’s misfortune in 2021, he still had an impressive year. His loss against Pedro came at 205 lbs., but he has hinted at potentially competing at lower weights in the future. He holds a win over current WNO 185 lb. champ Tye Ruotolo, so it may be worthwhile to drop weight. The Tye rematch is definitely one that we’ll see eventually, but WNO may be better served to have Tye compete against guys he hasn’t faced yet while he’s streaking. Ranked #3 at 185 lbs. is William Tackett, an opponent Craig hasn’t faced yet that offers a great stylistic matchup. William made it to the finals of the ADCC East Coast Trials where he lost a referee decision to Kade Ruotolo in one of the best matches of 2021. He’s well-rounded and has finished many matches with heel hooks, so a match with Craig would likely result in back and forth leg lock exchanges until one grappler finds a finish.
After defeating Levi Jone-Leary by heel hook, Tye Ruotolo was asked who he wanted next and if he’d be open to facing his brother Kade, the current 155 lb. WNO champ. Tye suggested that Kade first face off with Mica Galvao and then have the winner face him for the 170 lb. title. Tye had a match with Mica at the WNO Championships in September 2021, but the match was largely a stalemate. Mica used his flexibility and positioning to nullify Tye’s guard pass attempts for nearly the entire match. Another match that is very interesting for Tye would be Matheus Gabriel. Matheus won the 2021 No-Gi Pans and also the IBJJF Worlds. He’s competed most of his career as a featherweight but has recently been moving up to heavier divisions, so he’s likely around the same size as Tye. Matheus is known for having a very dangerous guard that he uses to attack triangles and arm bars, so this match is guaranteed to be filled with submission attempts and dynamic positional exchanges.
Elder Cruz came into his match with Nick Rodriguez as a heavy underdog. He was outsized and it was generally believed the match would play out on the feet, where ‘Nicky Rod’ had the supposed advantage. Elder proved everyone wrong and outwrestled Nicky for the majority of the match, winning by decision. The match took place at heavyweight, but Elder’s frame is better suited for 205 lbs. His success in both divisions gives him the unique ability to jump between weight classes. One athlete who has had a lot of success in the IBJJF no-gi circuit, but who has not yet competed at WNO is Devhonte Johnson. In 2021, Devhonte won World, Pan, and European no-gi gold medals, earning him the #1 ranking in the IBJJF no-gi super heavyweight division. He has a well-rounded game and takes risks in matches, so we’d likely see a match full of takedowns and guard passes.
At the 2021 IBJJF Worlds, Mikey Musumeci became a four time world champion in the gi. Prior to this past year, Mikey hadn’t competed in a no-gi match since 2016 when he won an IBJJF no-gi world title. He made his WNO debut in June of 2021 and has since devoted most of his competition time to no-gi, amassing a 6-1 record last year. Mikey’s latest win came by way of decision over No-Gi World champion Estevan Martinez at the last WNO. Because he’s already ranked #1 at 135 lbs. and has beaten most of the other top ranked bantamweights, it makes sense for Mikey to have his next match at 145 lbs. His options at featherweight are endless, but one that would be a unique style match up would be against Kennedy Maciel. Kennedy placed second at the 2019 ADCC and has also won the IBJJF No-Gi Worlds. He has a solid guard game based around the de la riva position and also has shown great wrestling technique. With recent no-gi wins over Josh Cisneros and Keith Krikorian, a match with Mikey would surely be both competitive and filled with non-stop action.