Marat “Cobra” Gafurov (15-1) is ready to take the first step on his journey to reclaim the ONE Featherweight World Championship.
This Friday, 20 April, the Dagestani will clash with surging contender Emilio “The Honey Badger” Urrutia (11-4) at ONE: HEROES OF HONOR, which emanates from the Mall Of Asia Arena in Manila, Philippines.
Not only could Gafurov capture his first victory since losing the belt, but he could also start a new streak. “Cobra” had previously submitted six consecutive opponents with the rear-naked choke on the way to becoming the most dominant ONE Featherweight World Champion ever, and would love nothing more than to win once again with his trademark move.
Let’s take a quick look back at his astonishing record-setting rear-naked choke streak.
A Quick Debut
Gafurov got the royal treatment upon his promotional debut in October 2014.
The M-1 Featherweight Champion headlined ONE: ROAR OF TIGERS against Rob Lisita, and made short work of the the Aussie heavy-hitter.
As expected, Lisita threw fast and furious. But Gafurov dropped the Australian with a roundhouse head kick. He immediately followed up with punches, took the back, and locked in a body figure-four, all while methodically wrapping his arms under Lisita’s chin.
“Cobra” out-smarted Lisita, secured the rear-naked choke, and flattened him out. The Aussie tried holding on, but was forced to tap just 68 seconds into the contest.
The Malaysian Warrior Falls
For his next act, Gafurov collided with Malaysian warrior Ev “E.T.” Ting at ONE: WARRIOR’S QUEST in May 2015. It may have gone a little longer, but he still got the job done inside he first round.
The bout began with a relaxed-looking “Cobra” leading the dance, keeping his foe alert with a steady stream of high kicks, including a spinning attack. Although Gafurov opened the show with his ever-improving striking, he closed it with his world-class grappling.
Midway through the first round, the Dagestani secured a body lock, and drove Ting into the canvas. The grappling ace smothered “E.T.” from top position, and softened him up with shots to the head and body as he worked to pass guard.
While Ting’s defenses held up well for a time, Gafurov eventually succeeded in passing guard. After a series of wild scrambles, “Cobra” slid onto his Malaysian foe’s back, applied a stifling body triangle, rained down a few more punches, and locked up a rear-naked choke. Ting was forced to tap with 30 ticks remaining in the opening stanza.
Winning The ONE Featherweight World Title
After two stunning, and lighting-fast, victories, Gafurov was given the opportunity of a lifetime later that September.
The Dagestani was originally supposed to challenge Narantungalag Jadambaa for the ONE Featherweight World Title at ONE: ODYSSEY OF CHAMPIONS, but the Mongolian was forced out of the bout.
Fellow undefeated warrior Martin “The Situ-Asian” Nguyen bravely stepped in on two days’ notice, but that did not affect “Cobra.” He was motivated, and turned out the best performance of his career.
Gafurov took the center of the cage, and pushed the pace with some kicks. He darted forward with a jab, but Nguyen ducked, and rushed for a single-leg takedown.
“Cobra” partially deflected it, instantly popped back up, took the Vietnamese-Australian’s back, and quickly locked in the body figure-four. He slide his arm underneath the chin, locked the choke in, and made “The Situ-Asian” tap in 41 seconds. Gafurov left with his perfect record, and the ONE Interim World Title.
Becoming The Undisputed World Champion
Two months after capturing the interim title, Gafurov finally challenged the aforementioned kingpin Jadambaa in a world title unification bout at ONE: DYNASTY OF CHAMPIONS (BEIJING II).
In this back-and-forth thriller, Jadambaa took “Cobra” deeper into a match than anyone had ever dared. The Mongolian initially out-pointed the more technical Gafurov with his striking, and threw massive punches with authority.
Gafurov struck in the second frame, however. He grounded his nemesis, constantly threatened with submissions, and dropped ground strikes from favorable positions.
Everything intensified in the third stanza, which contained a little bit of everything. There was fierce striking, a strategic clinch war, and takedowns. At one point, Gafurov locked up the body figure-four, and nearly submitted Jadambaa with his patent rear-naked choke. That is, until the Mongolian escaped.
The Dagestani would not be denied, however. Although Jadambaa showed confidence in his striking, a missed overhand right caused Gafurov to take his back, get the body figure-four once again, and fish for the rear-naked choke. Eventually, after some scrambling, “Cobra” put the exhausted Jadambaa to sleep.
Submitting The Two-Division DEEP Champion
In May 2016, at ONE: KINGDOM OF CHAMPIONS, Gafurov defended the undisputed world title for the first time against Japan’s Kazunori Yokota, a two-division DEEP Champion riding a 13-bout win streak.
Although the grappling advantage was believed to belong to Gafurov, it was actually the streaking Yokota who completed the first takedown of the battle. Despite this surprising twist, Gafurov quickly gained control, and began to impose his will.
“Cobra” threatened with submission after submission, and punctuated each attempt with thunderous ground-and-pound.
Gafurov dominated the majority of the first round’s grappling exchanges, but he chose to lean on his striking in the early portions of the second. Eventually, however, the Dagestani returned to his bread and butter, and brought Yokota to the canvas.
After tenderizing his foe with an onslaught of ground strikes, Gafurov secured a rear-naked choke. The Japanese combatant was forced to tap, just 35 seconds away from reaching the third frame.
A year removed from their thrilling back-and-forth encounter, Gafurov granted Jadambaa a rematch at ONE: DEFENDING HONOR in November 2016. It was the same result, but vastly quicker, and much more decisive.
Following a brief feeling-out process on the feet, a Jadambaa slip sent the battle to the canvas. Gafurov jumped onto his foe’s back, where he squeezed the air from his lungs with a body triangle, and softened him up with strikes to the head.
Even though Jadambaa managed to escape this position for a period, the Dagestani ultimately took his back again, and this time, was able to lock up the rear-naked choke.
The Mongolian tried as hard as he could to hang on. However, with just nine seconds left in the first round, Jadambaa went to sleep, which forced the referee to intervene. Just like that, Gafurov had his sixth consecutive rear-naked choke victory, and won the rematch everyone wanted to see with relative ease.
Manila | 20 April | TV: Check local listings for global broadcast | Facebook: Prelims LIVE | Twitter: Prelims + 2 main-card bouts LIVE | Tickets: http://bit.ly/onehonor18