For ONE Strawweight World Champion Yoshitaka “Nobita” Naito and challenger Alex “Little Rock” Silva, they will have traveled a long, triumphant road to get to the main event of ONE: WARRIORS OF THE WORLD on Saturday, 9 December.
The blockbuster bout, which takes place at the Impact Arena in Bangkok, Thailand, pits two of the very best strawweight grapplers in the world against each other for the greatest prize in martial arts today – the ONE Strawweight World Championship.
Before the epic clash happens, let’s take a quick look back at the victorious battles that brought them to Bangkok.
Naito’s Title-Winning Debut In ONE Championship
Naito set foot in Bangkok ever since he first signed for ONE. The undefeated Japanese Shooto Flyweight Champion was immediately granted a title shot for the ONE Strawweight World Championship in his promotional debut back in May 2016.
At first, the Muay Thai legend lived up to his name by punishing “Nobita” with his powerful strikes and stifling the challenger’s takedown attempts. But Naito’s pursuit for the takedown was relentless, as he eventually brought the titleholder to the mat, dropped ground strikes, and constantly fished for submissions.
Though Amnuaysirichoke was initially successful in fending off the challenger’s attack, he eventually succumbed to the Japanese champion’s rear-naked choke in the fourth stanza, which gave Naito the victory and the ONE Strawweight World Championship.
A Successful First Title Defense
Naito did not sit still, however. In October 2016, five months after he captured the prestigious world title belt, he defended it against then-undefeated top contender Joshua Pacio of the famed Team Lakay at ONE: STATE OF WARRIORS in Yangon, Myanmar.
“The Passion,” as the world has come to know Pacio, gained the upper hand in the early going, successfully defending the grappler’s takedown attempts and displaying his world-class wushu. He out-struck the Japanese champion, and even looked to have stunned Naito a few times.
Naito is a persistent individual, however, and that quality tends to pay off. He brought the contest to the ground in a very competitive second frame, but it was in the third stanza where his mastery was seen. The Japanese athlete tied Pacio’s leg up against the cage, and then cleverly coiled around him to secure a match-ending rear-naked choke.
It was an emotional victory for “Nobita,” as he got his title reign off to a solid start. He hopes to duplicate that success against Silva, a competitor of a completely different style.
Silva Kicks Off 2017 With Dominant Display
For Silva, greatness has been a long time coming. The BJJ world champion may have fallen short in his promotional debut to former ONE Flyweight World Title challenger Geje “Gravity” Eustaquio, but he soon bounced back, defeating a trio of Catalan brothers along the way.
Doliguez kept it competitive, but was overpowered by Silva. The Copa do Mundo BJJ world champion kept bringing the Filipino to the ground to work for submissions. The onslaught continued until the third and final round, when Silva finally latched onto one of Doliguez’s arms to secure a deep armbar, which ultimately forced the Filipino to tap out.
Submitting Suzuki In 82 Seconds
What was supposed to be Silva’s toughest challenge to date turned out to be his quickest.
“Little Rock” made his return to the cage at ONE: LEGENDS OF THE WORLD in Manila, Philippines, earlier this November. He collided with previously-undefeated Grachan champion Hayato Suzuki, who is considered one of Japan’s best wrestlers competing in the cage today.
It was expected to be a long, drawn out battle between two elite grapplers of contrasting styles – the Brazilian jiu-jitsu wizard versus the wrestling sensation. But in a matter of 82 seconds, it was all over.
Suzuki struck first with a takedown, but Silva used his wizardry to flip him around, all while securing a tight armbar that led to the feverish tap.
Now, he hopes to cap off a banner year in Bangkok, and defeat Naito for the ONE Strawweight World Championship to realize his life’s ambition.