On Thursday, July 14, Kyle Chambers will look to become the first-ever “Who’s Next” champion when he takes on recent ADCC Trials winner Izaak Michell in a no-time limit, submission-only match. More than just bragging rights, a win would also earn Chambers a $10,000 cash prize and a three-match contract with Who’s Number One.
The match is the culmination of FloGrappling’s competition reality show “Who’s Next.” To secure his spot in the final, Chambers defeated Max Hanson, Mike Rakshan, and Andrew Tackett on the show over the course of two weeks.
With a win over Michell, Chambers will have launched himself from the ranks of “up-and-comer” and into an established elite competitor.
“I feel like the show came out pretty well because I get a lot of positive feedback from a lot of people,” Chambers told Grappling Insider.
Overall, Chambers enjoyed his experience on “Who’s Next,” which occasionally looked and felt more like a summer camp than a competition. Because although the competitors were on different teams, the entire house bonded as a unit.
“Every night everybody would hang out,” Chambers said. “Everybody would have dinner together, hang out in the shed, have pool time, do some cold plunges. Yeah, it was two separate teams, but it was definitely like one house, for the most part.”
A 10th Planet black belt, Chambers was able to expand his game and learn new techniques while on the show, taking advantage of the access to different training partners and new coaches.
“There’s a lot of positive things you get from other people… Adam Bradley, for instance, he has a lot of things from [Andre] Galvao. I don’t train with Galvao, so it’s cool to see some of the Atos things. Same thing with Jansen [Gomes]. He has the more traditional Checkmat background. You see some of that. With Tim Spriggs, he’s showing me wrestling stuff that I don’t usually get at a high level. It’s cool you get little things from everybody just cross training, little things that you maybe don’t get if you just stay with your own team.”
Mixed in with high level training and high-stakes no-time limit matches were team challenges – the reality show element of “Who’s Next.” In the show’s most memorable challenge, competitors attempted to wrestle a bull to the ground. Shortly before that challenge, Chambers and teammate Gomes rolled for 45 minutes straight.
Chambers came up short (only the diminutive Andrew Tackett succeeded in taking down the bull), but ultimately enjoyed the experience.
“We just took a shower,” Chambers remembered. “We go there, we see the bulls, and I’m like ‘this would be the day that I’m wrestling the bull that’s something like 800 pounds,’ but I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything. That’s something I would do multiple times in the future as well.”
Outside of the training room, Chambers’ cardio was tested in a grueling 90-minute semifinal match against Andrew Tackett in what was arguably the best contest of the season.
“It kinda sucked because we were both not getting tired,” Chambers said about the match. “I was like, ‘I don’t know how long this is gonna take.’ Because mentally, we were both like, ‘Okay, we’re gonna tire each other out.’ But after 30, 40 minutes, an hour… this might last forever just because both of our cardio is so good, so it comes down to technique. Luckily I train with a lot of, like Geo [Martinez], a lot of people that are small that also have a high gas tank, so that prepared me for somebody like Tackett.”
Indeed, conventional wisdom might say that the smaller, younger Tackett would have the endurance advantage over Chambers. But Chambers credits the 10th Planet system and his longtime coach Geo Martinez for helping him develop a “small guy” game that allowed him to be dangerous well after an hour of grappling.
According to Chambers, his game is tailor-made for no-time limit matches.
“I feel like 10th Planet style is really beneficial to no-time limit because now we don’t have to worry about the guard pass as much. We’re really based off sub-only anyways. We’re not just trying to get the points and just hold and hope the time runs out. We’re trained to go for the kill… So me, having a small guy game that has flexibility, good cardio, that adds to that, just because I can go all day if I need to. I’m also technical enough to get the finish. I feel like any 10th Planet guy has the benefit in no-time limit, but also having a smaller guy game gives me the advantage as well.”
Perhaps more than anything else, the Chambers’ win over Tackett strengthened his mental fortitude.
“I feel like it just developed me more mentally,” he said. “It allowed me to understand what I’m really capable of. So many times in that match you want to quit or give up on yourself, but then you realize how much effort and work you put in, how much you want this. You get so much more strong, mentally… You break your limit and you reach a new level. I felt like I got so much more strong physically and mentally, and overall a better competitor just because of that match.”
Chambers will rely on that mental strength when he takes on Michell. A longtime training partner of Craig Jones and an ADCC Trials champion, Michell was the opposing team’s top pick on “Who’s Next.” Like Chambers, Michell is known for his leg locks. But according to Chambers, the two grapplers tend to attack the legs in different ways.
“I feel like my entries, a lot of them come from a different angle, more inverted, versus from a smash position. A lot of time [Michell] smashes down and then goes into a leg lock position, but mine is more from an open guard…”
Chambers is right; he tends to do his best work from open guard where he can use his unique and explosive entries to leg attacks. Chambers believes it will be those unique entries coupled with his finishing ability that will carry him to victory against Michell.
“I don’t think he’s fought anybody like me before,” Chambers said. “I feel like my entries are different. I respect his game. He’s strong, really technical. I know neither of us can afford to make a mistake. I feel like I can be tricky and I feel like my game is one of those things that, if I can get you deep in anything, you’re in danger. That’s my advantage. I just need that little window, that half an inch ahead of him and I can get that kill. It’s that last 10 percent of submissions, those last finishing aspects of the flow. I feel like that’s my advantage. I’m really good at finishing once I get there.”
Chambers versus Michell will the be the last match of the night – after Gordon Ryan and Pedro Marinho battle for the heavyweight title – and like all other matches on “Who’s Next,” it will be a no-time limit match.
While Chambers is confident that he’ll win, he’s less sure of how long that could take.
“If you were to ask me that before the show, I would have told you maybe like 19 seconds or something crazy because I have finishes like that,” Chambers said when asked how long he expects his match against Michell to last. “But after Tackett, doing 90 minutes, my mind is so expanded. I want a quick match but I’m ready to go to hell and back. I’m ready for those four-hour matches, a five-hour match. I respect him, we might have a bit of a feeling out process before we go full bore. It might be a banger right from the beginning so I want to say under 30 [minutes], but you never know.”
How to watch: Who’s Number One takes place on Thursday, July 14 and will air live on FloGrappling (subscription required).