Who’s Number One 20: Night Of Champions is scheduled to take place on October 1st, 2023 and we’ve put together a preview of what is set to be the best event in the promotion’s history. The main event will feature the return of Gordon Ryan as he puts his heavyweight title on the line, while the women’s heavyweight title is also up for grabs for the winner of Rafaela Guedes v Nathiely De Jesus. Along with a pair of 4-man tournaments to crown a lightweight and welterweight champion, Who’s Number One have also arranged for Brianna Ste-Marie and Elisabeth Clay to battle it out for the vacant featherweight title.
Who’s Number One 20: Night Of Champions Full Preview
Gordon Ryan v Patrick Gaudio
Gordon Ryan is making his return to professional grappling after nearly 10 months away from competition and it’ll be interesting to see what he looks like when he gets back on the mats. Although that’s a factor worth considering, Ryan has still been a dominant force in the no gi world and hasn’t lost a match in 5 years. He’s already beaten Patrick Gaudio back in 2018, although it was on advantages after both men scored 4 points. Gaudio is a tough opponent for anyone and it’ll be interesting to see how the match unfolds, but Ryan is still a pretty safe bet to win here and retain his heavyweight title.
Rafaela Guedes v Nathiely De Jesus
Rafaela Guedes is the reigning heavyweight champion and she’ll be putting her belt on the line against a very difficult opponent in Nathiely De Jesus. Guedes has only been a black belt since the end of 2020 but she’s put in some fantastic performances since then, including earning a silver medal at ADCC 2022. De Jesus on the other hand has had some time away from competition while she had her child, but made a big impact recently when she returned and won the IBJJF women’s heavyweight grand prix. This match could feasibly go either way but Guedes has been able to excel in no gi competition and she comes in as the slight favorite.
Brianna Ste-Marie v Elisabeth Clay
The women’s featherweight title is currently vacant, but someone will be leaving with it wrapped around their waist after WNO: Night of Champions. Brianna Ste-Marie had a breakthrough performance at ADCC 2022 where she won a silver medal in the under 60kg division, but Elisabeth Clay was competing in the other women’s bracket instead. Since ADCC 2022, they have actually competed in the same bracket when Clay stormed to victory in the 66kg grand prix at Polaris 23. While Ste-Marie is notoriously hard to finish, Clay is an incredible finisher and even if she can’t submit her she should be able to win the decision regardless.
Rafael Lovato Jr v Ricardo Evangelista
Rafael Lovato Jr was supposed to be competing in the co-main event in a title-fight against Pedro Marinho, but Marinho withdrew from the match on short notice. Lovato Jr has had a change of opponent which is always difficult, but Ricardo Evangelista should also be a little less of a challenge than Marinho was. Lovato Jr submitted Evangelista around a decade ago, but obviously a lot has happened in both men’s careers since then. Regardless, the most likely outcome here is that Lovato Jr is able to repeat that feat again.
The welterweight tournament at WNO 20: Night of Champions has some of the best competitors available in the division and we’ve put together a preview of each the four competitor’s chances.
Mica Galvao is the clear favorite to win this tournament and he’s only lost a tiny handful of matches over the last few years. He already holds a win over Andrew Tackett and it’s hard to imagine the other two potential opponents being able to stop him either. Barring a flawless performance by another man in the bracket or a devastating injury, Galvao should be the winner here.
PJ Barch probably has the best chances of stopping Galvao and claiming the title in his place, as he’s a fantastic wrestler and he’s been able to put on some excellent tactical performances in the past. Not only is his style probably the best-suited to counteract the fast-paced and relentless submission hunting of Galvao, but he would also be the favorite in a match against either of the other two men in the bracket too.
Andrew Tackett has the odds stacked against him here but he’s been known to overcome massive disadvantages in the past. He’s still very young as well so he’s at a stage in his career where he’s able to get rapid improvement as he continues to grow. He recently won the Combat Jiu-Jitsu welterweight world championship so it’s not crazy to think that Tackett might have reached a whole new level, but it’s still going to be hard for him to win this tournament.
Jacob Rodriguez is another exciting young grappler and he’s known for bringing a crazy pace and relentless top pressure to his matches. He’s incredibly difficult to submit, and his best chance to win is going to come later in the match when he’s potentially managed to wear his opponent down. The difficult part is going to be imposing his game on any of the other men in the bracket, and it’s not likely that he does this to two of them on the same night.
The featherweight tournament at WNO 20: Night of Champions has some of the best competitors available in the division and we’ve put together a preview of each the four competitor’s chances.
Diogo Reis is the reigning ADCC under 66kg champion and that almost automatically means that he’d be coming in as the favorite in this tournament. What also leans in his favor is the fact that he had to beat two of his potential opponents along the way to winning that title. Reis hasn’t lost a single match since then either, and he should be able to continue that run all the way to becoming the WNO lightweight champion.
Ashley Williams went out in the opening round of ADCC 2022, but losing on points to Reis is nothing to be ashamed of. He’s easily one of the best grapplers in the UK right now and he came close to booking another attempt at ADCC glory in the recent edition of the European Trials, but fell just short in the final rounds. This will be a tough bracket for Williams but depending how the draw goes, he could make it to the final at the very least.
Gabriel Sousa had to settle for a silver medal at ADCC 2022 thanks to Reis, so he’ll no doubt be eager to get some revenge at this event. He lost a decision to Keith Krikorian on the Who’s Number One stage last year too, so he actually has opportunities for redemption everywhere. Sousa is a fantastic competitor and he can beat anyone on the right day, so he likely has the best chance of stopping Reis in a rematch.
Keith Krikorian has had mixed results against his potential opponents, beating Sousa but losing to Williams after both matches went to decision. It’s hard to predict where he ends up once the dust settles and he sits in a similar position as Williams does in the bracket. If the draw goes in his favor then he could definitely make it to the final at least, but it’s hard to imagine him beating Reis.
There’s also a pair of matches on the preliminary card of WNO 20: Night of Champions and we’ve included both of these in this preview of the event as well.
Steffen Banta v Thomas Bracher
Steffen Banta has only recently been promoted to black belt but he’s been a great competitor at the colored belt levels until now. While Thomas Bracher hasn’t quite enjoyed the same level of success, he recently reached the podium of ADCC Trials and looks as though he might be hitting his stride. Regardless, Banta is the favorite to win this match and Bracher will have had to make significant improvements in order to beat him.
Tiffany Butler v Thaynara Victoria
Tiffany Butler and Thaynara Victoria are both up-and-coming brown belt competitors and this will no doubt be a fun match to open the event. There doesn’t appear to be a significant skill gap between them so it’s unlikely that either woman is able to take full control of the match. The more likely outcome is some back-and-forth action until one of them gets caught, or wins a close decision. This should be the closest match of the night, but the odds are ever so slightly in Victoria’s favor going into it.
The full Who’s Number One 20: Night of Champions live event, including every match in the above preview, will be available to watch live on October 1st, 2023 on FloGrappling.