WNO Championships Preview: Will Mikey Musumeci’s Dominance Continue at Lightweight?

The Who’s Number One (WNO) Championships on September 25-26 will feature five eight-person brackets with many of the best grapplers in the world competing in 15-minute submission-only matches. In the days leading up to this event, Grappling Insider will be previewing each of the five divisions.

One of the biggest stories in jiu-jitsu this year has been the emergence of four-time IBJJF world champion Mikey Musumeci as a force in the no-gi and submission-only scene. Although Musumeci won his first black belt world championship in no-gi, he had since competed exclusively in the gi, where his technical, berimbolo-heavy style dominated for years. In 2021, though, Musumeci began competing in no-gi racking up three WNO wins and an ADCC-rules win over Geo Martinez.

Given his dominance, Musumeci is widely considered to be the favorite to win the division. However, that’s anything but a sure bet, as he’ll be not only one of the division’s smallest competitors, but he’ll be facing elite, experienced submission-only grapplers at every turn.

Perhaps the biggest threat to Musumeci is 18-year old Atos representative Kade Ruotolo. The antithesis of Musumeci in terms of jiu-jitsu style, Ruotolo is a ball of unorthodox aggression that uses his relentless pace and physicality to force his opponents into mistakes, creating openings for his trademark d’arce choke. Ruotolo owns a pair of submission wins in WNO competition this year, including one over fellow Ethan Crelinsten.

Both Musumeci and Ruotolo should also expect stiff competition from 10th Planet standout Geo Martinez. After Musumeci defeated Martinez at The Road to ADCC, Musumeci went on a post-match tirade about Martinez, even going so far as to say he should no longer be a black belt. Musumeci has since dialed back those comments, but the rivalry remains strong. Martinez might be the most experienced submission-only competitor in the bracket, and while he was soundly defeated by Musumeci on points, he did not look out of his element in any way, and his submission-heavy approach lends itself well to the WNO ruleset.

Another competitor to keep an eye on is 16-year old prodigy Cole Abate. An Art of Jiu-Jitsu blue belt, Abate is short on experience but long on physicality and technical acumen. He is coming off a submission win over brown belt Bird Wiltse at WNO, and has generally looked dominant against anything less than truly elite competition. Abate will be jumping into the deep end here, but he could make a statement if he’s able to make it deep into the tournament.

Finally, Diego “Pato” Oliveira should be considered a dark horse. One of the sport’s more active competitors, Oliveira freqently competes in IBJJF tournaments, but also has experience in submission-only formats. A 2021 gi and no-gi Pans champion, he holds wins over fellow competitors Gabriel Sousa and Josh Cisneros.

View the full WNO Championships 155-pound division below. Brackets will be release the day prior to the competition.

  • Mikey Musumeci
  • Kade Ruotolo
  • Geo Martinez
  • Cole Abate
  • Diego Oliveira
  • Gabriel Sousa
  • Damine Anderson
  • Josh Cisneros

How to watch: The WNO Championships take place on September 25-26 and will air live on FloGrappling (subscription required).

Ben Coate

Ben has been involved with grappling, whether through wrestling or Brazilian jiu-jitsu, essentially his entire life. After wrestling throughout his childhood, Ben found Brazilian jiu-jitsu as a young adult and quickly fell in love. He has been training for over ten years and currently holds the rank of brown belt, and remains involved in both the MMA and BJJ scene. Ben has been writing about combat sports since 2017. He has interviewed and profiled some of MMA's biggest stars, including multiple UFC champions.

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