WNO 22: Rodriguez vs. Hugo

The Biggest Question Heading Into Every WNO 22 Match

The Biggest Question Heading Into Every WNO 22 Match

What should fans be looking forward to in each match at WNO 22: Rodriguez vs Hugo? We narrowed each bout down to just one big question.

Feb 5, 2024 by Joe Gilpin
The Biggest Question Heading Into Every WNO 22 Match

WNO week is here again, and this time it will be WNO 22: Rodriguez vs Hugo coming to you live from The Hanger in Costa Mesa, CA. There's going to be ten major super-fights going down in one night, including two WNO championship matches, with everything going down exclusively on FloGrappling.

Get your tickets here for WNO 22 in Costa Mesa, CA on Feb.9

Every match on the card has a lot to get excited about, with wild styles and personalities set to clash. For every match on the main card, here is one big, burning question that fans should keep in mind leading up to the action.

Nick Rodriguez vs Victor Hugo

The question - Who is the most agile heavyweight in the game today?

This match brings a really interesting dynamic - both men walk in used to being the much more mobile and agile athlete when they face off with heavyweights. Victor is usually the guard player, flowing from submission attempt to submission attempt, and Nicky is the more typical wrestler/guard passer, relying on his body lock system to most often hunt the back.

So what happens when they face off? How will they both adjust to having to face a higher caliber of athlete than they are used to? The answer to that question will likely determine the nature & pace of the match.

One detail to watch early is how quickly Nick is able to get on top and get to some kind of chest to chest position, where he can pin Victor down and much more safely manage submission threats. Victor's ability to prevent that kind of connection will be very important to his pathway to victory.

Mica Galvao vs Kenta Iwamoto

The question - Is 2024 the Year of Mica?

The bar is set about as high as possible for Mica Galvao in 2024 - and he is the one who set it himself. He wants to take aim at the Super Grand Slam, which includes all 4 IBJJF Grand Slam events and the ADCC Worlds, a feat only ever accomplished by Cobrinha in 2017. In Mica's words, he wants his 2024 to be one people talk about in 100 years.

So, with that expectation now brings pressure. While WNO isn't on any of those Super Grand Slam events, a loss of any kind would be crippling to that goal. Many are expecting Mica to roll through this match, and he is the biggest betting favorite on the card, but Kenta shouldn't be overlooked like that coming in. He's a 3-time ADCC veteran, world ranked, and has beaten tons of top guys.

If Kenta is able to pull off the upset, it won't just mean a new champion. It will mean the 2024 that Mica is planning is gone, which gives this title defense higher stakes than normal.

Dante Leon vs Diego "Pato"

The question - How much will size be a factor?

Even though this match is at 155lbs, it's not accurate to say these are two evenly-sized grapplers. Dante Leon is a -77kg, 170lb athlete who has made the strict descent down to 155 for more matches, while Diego Pato is a -66kg, 145lb champion who is coming up for this match. By the time they weigh in and finally hit the mats, Dante is likely to be significantly heavier, thicker, and more muscular than Pato.

That's not the end of the story, in many ways it's just the beginning. How will Pato handle that on the night? Will Dante just be able to impose himself physically in a way Pato hasn't dealt with in this weight range? Or does the 145lb champion have the secret sauce to become double champion?

The match itself will likely be a lot of Dante having to navigate the leg entanglements/aggressive breaking of Pato and putting top pressure. Dante's title win came off of a back take from an opponent chasing his legs - and his strategy here will likely be similar.

Tainan Dalpra vs Oliver Taza

The question - Can Tainan pass the leg locking test?

This match is full of questions, but the biggest has got to be the simplest - gi specialist Tainan is taking on heel hook specialist Taza. Can Oliver find his way to a leg entanglement and do damage or even get the tap?

We've seen this before with Oliver when he welcomed Johnatha Alves to no-gi and defeated Dalpra's teammate at WNO. Since then, Oliver has leveled up more, winning his first major title at black belt (2023 IBJJF No-Gi Pans) and becoming world ranked at both 170 & 185lbs. Even in his Pans final, he leg locked Kieran Kichuk in under 30 seconds for gold.

Tainan will need to have a very strong leg locking ability to win this match. Whether that is prevention, escapes, or even some kind of counter-offense (back takes, for example), if his defense in this one realm is lacking then he is going to be in for either a very long night or a very short one. If he can pass that test from Taza - then he really is already a force in no-gi.

Tubby Alequin vs Adele Fornarino

The question - How does the late notice affect both athletes?

Late notice changes can be tricky for athletes to navigate - on both sides of the equation. Originally, Tubby was set to face off with Ffion Davies for the flyweight title after she beat Alex Enriquez at WNO 18 last year. Now, Ffion is injured and Atos's Adele Fornarino steps up instead for her WNO debut.

So who does that give the advantage to? Really, it depends. Tubby has been training hard with this date in mind for a full camp, but preparing for a totally different grappler. Ffion is typically relying on her judo and top game to win but Adele is much more of a guard player who has very specific positions she uses very well.

Adele on the other hand, wasn't preparing for this match but has been busy - including a recent silver medal at the IBJJF No-Gi Worlds - so she likely is still in good condition. A shortened prep time also brings fewer chances to over-prepare and over-analyze, and a singular push to the event rather than the grind of a longer camp.

So who did the short notice favor? We'll find out this Friday, because it will depend on the athletes, their teams, and how they handled the late changes.

Jacob Couch vs Sebastian Rodriguez

The question - Is this a brand new Hillbilly Hammer?

Jacob Couch has been a fan favorite since he broke out on the grappling scene, with his submission-heavy style and big personality. Still, that higher level of success always eluded him with a couple inconsistent performances. He'd pick up a big win, but then fall short in the next outing. Putting together a run where he could navigate a bracket without one of those down performances seemed like a real issue. That all changed though, when Jacob finally won the big won - going all submissions at the ADCC East Coast Trials to win entry to the 2024 World Championships.

It was everything you'd ever want to see from 'The Hillbilly Hammer' - patient, methodical, and successful. He looked like the caliber of grappler who can medal and even contend at ADCC Worlds. Now, though, comes the question; is this the new Couch that has fixed the flaws we saw before or could we see another regression? He's taking on Sebastian Rodriguez, a former black belt IBJJF No-Gi World Champion and one of the biggest dogs in all of grappling - tenacious, aggressive, stubborn, tough. If Jacob is off his game or has a down performance then this could be a prime opportunity for the upset.

WNO 22: Rodriguez vs Hugo Full Card

Main Card

  • Nick Rodriguez -300 vs Victor Hugo +235
  • Mica Galvão -750 vs Kenta Iwamoto +475
  • Amanda "Tubby" Alequin -300 vs Adele Fornarino +235
  • Dante Leon -225 vs Diego "Pato" Oliveira +185
  • Tainan Dalpra -300 vs Oliver Taza +235
  • Jacob "The Hillbilly Hammer" Couch -350 vs Sebastian Rodriguez +260

Preliminary Card

  • Elijah Dorsey -400 vs Ivan Herrera +300
  • Max Hanson +165 vs Daniel Sathler -200
  • Ashlee Funegra -450 vs Marilyn Cruz +325
  • Dory Aoun +280 vs Kyle Chambers -365

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