In the wake of Leandro Lo’s tragic murder in Brazil this past weekend, yesterday’s WNO event headlined by Gordon Ryan and Felipe Pena took on a somber tone. Many of the athletes on the main card had personal connections and rivalries with the grappling legend, and post fight interviews, like those of Nicholas Meregali and Rafael Lovato Jr., filled with expressions of sadness, remembering his life and decrying the horror of his death. That said, the card out of Austin, Texas delivered memorable matches that culminated in a somewhat bizarre main event finish.
Ryan defeated Pena after a 44-minute nogi brawl. The third in their series of matches over the years, it marks Ryan’s first victory over Pena and Pena’s first loss of 2022. More shocking than the result to many, however, was Pena’s decision to verbally give up before a more conventional finish could be reached.
Both men started making grips on the feet, attempting snap downs and underhooks with little success. Ryan maintained a slight control of the mat’s center, often forcing Pena to the perimeter before disengaging. Pena focused more on foot sweep attempts, finding Ryan to be heavy with his hand fighting. Closing in on the 10-minute mark, a comment from the crowd elicited a brief smile and reply from Pena, breaking up the tense atmosphere of the match to everyone’s relief.
Ryan sat to guard, and Pena dropped down into his half guard looking to pass. Rolling through deep half, Ryan nearly took the back as he swept Pena who then turned belly down. Pena turned looking to regain guard, but Ryan responded by passing to three-quarter guard as he isolated Pena’s arms. Pena hip escaped into half guard, and Ryan disengaged back to the feet. Pena kicked Ryan in the stomach as he made his frames, and Ryan moved to pass once again. From the bottom, Pena forced Ryan into 50/50 and isolated his left leg. Unconcerned, Ryan calmly freed his knee as Pena looked to set up his bear trap.
Ryan stood to free himself, and Pena nearly held onto a single on the way up. The Jersey native once again sat to guard, inviting Pena to try passing again. Pena spent many minutes held at bay inside half guard, darting to different angles before alternating from the feet to his knees. Gordon briefly looked to stand, but Pena quickly lifted the lead leg and forced him back to the ground. But Ruan soon shot under Pena’s arm to grab the hip, scooting towards the edge of the mat as he escaped. Pena forced him down, but Ryan swept him after a brief scramble. But Pena didn’t stay on his back for long, as a single leg attempt brought both men back to their feet.
The back and forth would continue, with Ryan pulling guard and frustrating Pena with his legs. Pena would remain trying to pass, eventually forcing Ryan to stand and try wrestling. Ryan began employing a footsweep/collar tie combination to try grounding Pena, but Found little success against the Gracie Barra black belt. 30-minutes passed, and Gordon launched his first throw attempt by turning and hooking Pena’s inner leg. Pena countered, extending said leg and pushing Ryan to the floor. Both stood quickly, neither capitalizing on the exchange.
But Pena’s momentum was halted with a beautiful snap down into a back take from Ryan. The Danaher disciple lifted the Brazilian and tossed him to the floor, forcing Pena to invert and immediately attack the left leg. Once again utilizing the bear trap, Pena moved to the right leg before attempting to stand and sweep Ryan. Ryan moved through several defensive steps in quick succession, bending and freeing his leg from danger and shoving the rising Pena out of bounds. The reff halted the action, resetting the two to center.
Pena briefly refused to restart the match on the floor, eliciting a chorus of boos from the audience. Finally complying, Pena locked in single leg x-guard as Ryan moved to pass. Ryan escaped the guard and set a frenetic pace in his attempts to isolate Pena. Turning after inverting, Pena moved to stand facing away from Ryan. The 27-year-old jumped forward to take the back, grabbing his waist and sweeping Pena’s left foot.
After denying Ryan the pass once again, Pena threw his legs up to lock Ryan in 50/50 again. But Ryan stayed heavy on top, and defended his leg from a leglock attempt. As Ryan freed his leg, both stood to be recentered again. Once again seemingly refusing to start, Pena had a brief exchange with FloGrappling Senior Editor Hywel Teauge at matside before allowing the fight to resume.
“I couldn’t understand what Felipe Pena was trying to communicate to me,” Teauge said during the broadcast. “I asked him if he was done, and he didn’t respond.”
Returning to collar ties, Ryan landed a rough takedown just past the 43-minute mark. Keeping Pena pinned and defending his passing attempts, Ryan also had to stuff some leg attacks from his old rival before both stood again. Ryan landed a huge footsweep, bringing the now clearly exhausted Pena down once more. Pena defended again but, just past the 44:40 mark, the referee called a stop to the fight. Pena, almost undetectable to the microphones, uttered a verbal submission and delivered Ryan his long-sought victory.
Pena later fully addressed his decision to retire in a post to Instagram:
“I wasn’t mentally stable to do this fight and I shouldn’t have done! I looked for the organizers and said I didn’t want to fight so they offered to set a time limit of [one] hour and be the first fight of the event so I could leave right after but Gordon [Ryan] didn’t accept. Anyway, in the end it was my decision and I accepted as long as I has a rematch already agreed. Sorry to everyone who was cheering.”
With a rematch seemingly possible in the near future, Pena and the rest of the grappling world have time to heal from their loss before stepping on the mat again.
Full Event Results:
Gordon Ryan def Felipe Pena: verbal tap
Nicholas Meregali def Rafael Lovato Jr: unanimous decision
Mica Galvao def Alan Sanchez: RNC
Bia Mesquita def Elisabeth Clay: unanimous decision
Jacob Couch def Jay Rodriguez: unanimous decision
Fabricio Andrey def Fabaian Ramirez: unanimous decision
Diogo Reis def Estevan Martinez: unanimous decision