Who’s Number One 21: Ryan vs Barbosa is scheduled for November 30th, 2023 and we’ve put together a preview of every match on both the main and preliminary card. The event is headlined by an interesting heavyweight title-fight between Gordon Ryan and Lucas ‘Hulk’ Barbosa, but there’s also three other titles on the line as well. Before any of them take place, there’s the small matter of dominant gi competitor Tainan Dalpra making his black belt no gi debut. The event is stacked from top to bottom with some of the best grapplers on the planet, and even the preliminary card features elite competitors. The final preliminary card match is Owen Jones vs Dominic Mejia, an ADCC Trials winner vs a silver medalist.
Who’s Number One 21 Full Preview
Although Gordon Ryan and Lucas ‘Hulk’ Barbosa is undoubtedly the main attraction, the co-main event features another exciting title-fight in the light-heavyweight division. Pedro Marinho and Rafael Lovato Jr will finally meet in a delayed matchup, and even that will take place after two of the promotion’s newest champions attempt to defend their titles. Mica Galvao will be making his first middleweight title-defense, while Diogo Reis defends his featherweight title for the first time as well. In this preview of Who’s Number One 21, we’ll be breaking down the most likely outcome for each match and predict who will be leaving the event with the belts wrapped around their waist.
Gordon Ryan vs Lucas ‘Hulk’ Barbosa – Heavyweight Title
Lucas ‘Hulk’ Barbosa is obviously an elite grappler and he’s won both bronze and silver medals at ADCC, but Gordon Ryan is on a whole different level. Barbosa has come up just short at under 99kg and under 88kg, whereas Ryan has won both of those divisions along with the absolute and most recently the over 99kg division. The amount of times that Ryan has been under any pressure at all over the last few years are incredibly few and far between, and it’s hard to imagine Barbosa being able to threaten him with much at all. This should be another relatively comfortable submission win for Ryan and another trip home with the heavyweight title.
Pedro Marinho vs Rafael Lovato Jr – Light-heavyweight Title
Pedro Marinho is a fantastic grappler and was the double champion at the IBJJF No Gi World Championship back in 2021, but it’s undeniable that Rafael Lovato Jr has much more experience competing at this level. Obviously that experience brings some drawbacks too, as Lovato Jr is 40 years old compared to Marinho being just 27. While that would be well past retirement for most combat sports athletes, age hasn’t seemed to effect Lovato Jr much at all and he recently put in a fantastic performance at ADCC 2022. It certainly won’t be easy for him, but we’re picking Lovato Jr to leave as the light-heavyweight champion in our preview of Who’s Number One 21.
Mica Galvao vs Kody Steele – Middleweight Title
Mica Galvao is undeniably one of the most exciting competitors on the planet, and he’s only been submitted once in almost a hundred matches. Kody Steele is equally entertaining and the pace in this match is going to be incredibly high from start to finish, but Steele has been far more beatable in the past. It’s worth noting that he’s been focusing on his incredible MMA career lately too, meaning that he’s had to split his time between striking and grappling. This should be a very entertaining match but Galvao already beat two of the best middleweights on the planet to win the title at WNO 20, and he should be able to beat Steele just the same.
Diogo Reis vs Diego ‘Pato’ Oliveira – Featherweight Title
Much like his teammate Galvao, Diogo Reis has proven himself to be one of the best competitors on the planet at an incredibly young age. This isn’t the first time that he’s competed against Diego ‘Pato’ Oliveira either and although he has beaten him twice, Oliveira is also one of a handful of men to have beaten Reis. All three of those matches went right down to the wire and only the thinnest of margins have separated them in the past, so expect this match to go the same way. It really could go either way, but Reis has reached the top of the mountain in no gi competition before so we’re picking him to defend his title here.
Luke Griffith vs Roosevelt Sousa
New Wave Jiu-Jitsu brown belt Luke Griffith is still very early in his professional grappling career but he’s already been able to beat some top competitors and win ADCC Trials for the second time earlier this year. He’s generally only lost to the best grapplers out there and it usually takes a pretty solid performance in order to beat him. Roosevelt Sousa is definitely a top competitor and as a fellow ADCC veteran, he’s exactly the kind of tough test that is ideal for Griffith at this point in his career. Griffith may very well get the submission here, but the most likely outcome is that Sousa wears him down to a decision win.
Helena Crevar vs Julia Maele
Helena Crevar is one of the biggest prospects right now and this match will be one of her toughest tests to date. She’s proven over and over again that she’s years ahead of her actual peers in the juvenile and colored belt divisions, but it’s been tough for her to get matches against the best female competitors around. Julia Maele is an ADCC Trials winner and one of the best competitors in Europe, but she hasn’t been able to make it to that next level on the world-stage just yet. Both women are right on the edge of breaking through to the highest level, but Crevar is only getting better as time goes on and she should be able to get the win in a tough match here.
Tainan Dalpra vs Troy Russell
This will be the first time that Tainan Dalpra has competed in a no gi match since he was a juvenile competitor in 2016, and a lot of attention will be on this match as a result. He’s fresh off a superb performance at The Crown that saw him take home the middleweight title and although this is a new challenge, it’s hard to imagine him coming up short. Troy Russell is a game opponent and a WNO veteran who will punish any mistakes that Dalpra makes, but we’re predicting that Dalpra gets the submission win in this preview of Who’s Number One 21.
Dominic Mejia vs Owen Jones
The fact that this match between Dominic Mejia and Owen Jones is on the preliminary card is a true testament to just how stacked this event is. Mejia has been making waves over the past year or so on the ADCC Open circuit and he seemed poised to do great things once ADCC Trials came around. He got his chance at the North American East Coast Trials a little over a month ago and fell just short, coming out with a silver medal at 66kg. Jones on the other hand was a relative unknown outside of the UK who stormed to victory in the 66kg division of the European Trials shortly before that. This match will be a great way to measure how good Jones will do at ADCC 2024 and although this is a tough one to predict, he should be able to get the win.
Caleb Tackett vs Estevan Martinez
Caleb Tackett has been on the radar as a top prospect for quite some time now and he’s just recently getting bigger opportunities to take on more established competitors. That’s exactly what Estevan Martinez is, as he’s an IBJJF No Gi World Champion who is known for an incredibly entertaining style. Although Tackett is certainly one to watch for the future, an elite competitor like Martinez is a massive challenge for someone so young. Martinez is the favorite in this match, but the outcome could be much different if they meet again in just a year or two.
Mia Funegra vs Janice Russell
Janice Russell has had experience on a number of top promotions like Submission Hunter Pro and Fight 2 Win, but she’s not been able to reach the highest level of the sport just yet. On the other hand, Mia Funegra is one of the top talents coming out of Art of Jiu-Jitsu right now and is clearly leading the way for their next generation of female competitors. This is a huge opportunity for Funegra to make an impact and get her name out there a little more, and she should be able to do just that with a submission win.
Nick Mataya vs Ian Butler
Ian Butler was originally an MMA fighter but the Bellator veteran last fought in 2020 and has since decided to make a transition to professional grappling instead. He’s already been able to test himself against some great competitors too, and this is a good opportunity for him to get a big win by taking out Nick Mataya. Although Mataya isn’t quite as accomplished as some of Butler’s former opponents like Andy Varela, he’s still going to be very tough for him to beat. It’ll be interesting to see how far Butler can go in the sport over the next few years, but we’re picking Mataya to get the win here.
The full Who’s Number One 21: Ryan vs Barbosa live event, including all of the matches in the above preview, will be available to watch live on November 30th, 2023 on FloGrappling.