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3 Potential Opponents For Garry Tonon’s MMA Return

Jun 25, 2022
Garry Tonon at ONE: LIGHTS OUT

Garry Tonon came up short in his ONE Featherweight World Title challenge in March, but the BJJ superstar still has plenty of time to become a top contender in the bustling division once again. 

Just seven fights into his professional MMA career, the #4-ranked American has already achieved much more than many expected, and his world-class grappling makes him a serious threat to anybody he faces inside the ONE Championship Circle.

Here are three potential opponents that would offer up exciting stylistic matchups for “The Lion Killer” as he looks to get back on the winning track.

#1 Martin Nguyen

Former two-division ONE World Champion Martin Nguyen would represent an immediate return to the upper echelon of the featherweight ranks for Tonon, and victory for either man would greatly impact the World Title picture.

They both lost at the hands of reigning king Thanh Le, and this would be a good place to start if they want to earn a rematch with the division’s top dog or his upcoming challenger, #1-ranked Tang Kai.

Now the #3 contender, Nguyen is known for his concussive punching power, while Tonon’s submission skills are equally devastating. 

Neither man would want to fight in their rival’s preferred territory, and it would be interesting to see whose skill set dictates the action.

Plus, they’ve been on each other’s radars for a long time, and Nguyen thinks it’s only a matter of time until they square off.

“A matchup with me and Tonon will definitely happen,” he said. “It’s inevitable.”

#2 Keanu Subba

Keanu Subba has been a stalwart of ONE’s featherweight MMA division since 2015, and he recently returned from a long injury-related layoff to earn an impressive win over James Yang in April.

The Malaysian used his impressive grappling to take a decision victory over the training partner of MMA legend Demetrious Johnson, showing some marked improvements from his time away, as well as solid physical condition. 

Subba has always been a potent submission threat inside the Circle, and his grappling savvy would make for an intriguing battle with Tonon – not because he would plan to defeat “The Lion Killer” on the canvas, but because he has the skills to try to fend off the BJJ wizard’s ground offense.

As a result, this matchup would be a good test for the all-around skills of each mixed martial artist. The usually aggressive grappler in Subba would have to navigate the contest in a different way against one of the greatest of all time in that domain.

On the other side, Tonon would get the chance to show how his transitions between the ranges have improved, especially since he believes he made a fatal error by rushing to the mat in his World Title loss against Le. 

#3 Shinya Aoki

The less obvious choice could be a rematch against iconic Japanese fighter Shinya Aoki, who faced “The Lion Killer” in a submission grappling battle back in 2017

Although he was ultimately submitted via heel hook, Aoki had his moments in that bout, and things could swing in his favor if they meet under mixed martial arts rules. “Tobikan Judan” has much more experience in all-encompassing sport, with 58 professional appearances to Tonon’s seven. 

Moreover, Aoki is arguably the greatest submission specialist in MMA history – but that is also Tonon’s specialty. It would be interesting to see how the stand-up and ground striking influences the dynamic, and whether it would make for a different result. 

Tonon would likely have to move up or compete in a catchweight clash against the former ONE Lightweight World Champion, but it would be a massive name to have on his MMA resume. 

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