3 Reasons For The Stunning Rise Of ONE Lightweight World Champion Ok Rae Yoon
Ok Rae Yoon was ONE Championship’s breakout MMA star of 2021, and he’s eager to prove that his success was not a flash in the pan.
On August 26, the ONE Lightweight World Champion will defend his belt for the first time in a highly anticipated main event rematch with former titleholder Christian “The Warrior” Lee at ONE 160.
The South Korean captured the gold with a unanimous decision victory over Lee last year, which completed his shocking rise from a little-known promotional newcomer to the divisional king.
And while “The Warrior” disputed the judges’ decision, Ok believes he was the rightful winner – and he plans to leave no doubt in their second encounter.
Before the rivals run it back at the Singapore Indoor Stadium, here are three reasons why Ok has proven to be an elite lightweight MMA star on the global stage.
#1 Incredible Stand-Up Skills
Striking is Ok’s greatest asset, and it was his biggest weapon during his run of upset victories over Marat Gafurov, Eddie Alvarez, and Lee.
Out in the open, the rangy South Korean makes great use of straight punches. He utilizes every inch of his reach to command distance, before dropping the hammer with his thudding right hand when the time is right.
His versatility on the feet is another key strength.
The 31-year-old can play a patient game and wait for his opening or engage in a firefight if it’s necessary. Plus, he’s comfortable moving forward or countering on the back foot.
Ok will also set the stage with his hands so that he can fire behind with kicks to the legs or head from either side. He’ll even intersperse dangerous flying knees into his output just when his opponents think they’ve figured out his formula.
Overall, the Busan native’s wide range of tools can make him a nightmare for any lightweight on the feet, while his power can instantly change the course of any fight.
#2 High-Level Takedown Defense
In order to use his impeccable striking arsenal, Ok must stay on his feet, and he’s been incredibly difficult to bring down during his ONE tenure so far.
So far, the Team MAD representative has defended 36 of 42 takedown attempts in the promotion, giving him an incredible 86 percent success rate.
His control of the distance with strikes certainly helps, as opponents often have to shoot from farther away than they’d like and meet the South Korean’s heavy sprawl when they attempt to get to his hips.
However, Ok is also solid along the Circle Wall and moves to scramble quickly when he does get grounded, meaning there’s no easy route for any takedown offense.
All of this wears down his foes and makes additional attempts less likely to succeed, meaning the lightweight king can stuff and counter even more effectively.
#3 The Heart Of A Lion
While Ok has numerous tangible skills, they are bound together by the less concrete – but no less important – attributes of heart and durability that he brings to the Circle.
There’s simply no quit in the ONE Lightweight World Champion, no matter what is thrown at him.
Whether it’s Gafurov’s submission skills, going toe-to-toe with Alvarez, or getting dropped and almost submitted by Lee, the 31-year-old has kept himself in every match. In fact, he’s gotten stronger when faced with adversity.
His chin is sturdy and reliable, meaning he can eat massive strikes from big hitters and either keep marching forward or drag himself off the canvas.
His submission defense is also off the charts, as he showed when he fought his way out of a deep rear-naked choke with pure desire against “The Warrior.”
It must be disconcerting for rivals who give their all but can’t finish the South Korean. And at the final end, he’s usually the fresher man.
This mindset extends beyond of the Circle, too, as Ok returned to face Alvarez just three weeks after damaging his shoulder against Gafurov. He then won the contest despite spending the majority of his preparation time in solo quarantine.
It’s clear that Ok will never give up or back down, which means it will take something special for an opponent to put him away.