If the action in the ONE Lightweight World Grand Prix Championship Final can live up to what has already taken place in the tournament, then martial arts fans will be in for a treat on Sunday, 13 October.
At the groundbreaking ONE: CENTURY PART I in Tokyo, Japan, Saygid “Dagi” Guseyn Arslanaliev and “The Underground King” Eddie Alvarez will compete for the gold, and their bout has all the makings of a classic.
Before the day of battle arrives at the famous Ryogoku Kokugikan, take a look at the lessons we have learned from the World Grand Prix so far, and what implications they could have on the grand finale.
#1 The Best Athletes Are Always Ready
With three bouts in quick succession, changes in the tournament bracket were always possible, and the athletes who rolled with the punches have made it through the semifinals.
Arslanaliev had to adjust his preparation for Amir Khan when Ariel “Tarzan” Sexton was forced to withdraw from the semifinals, and he proved his ability to adapt with a stunning win.
The former mixed martial arts World Champions were slotted into the bracket when both Timofey Nastyukhin and Lowen Tynanes suffered injuries, and after a false start in The Home Of Martial Arts, Alvarez made amends with a first-round submission over “Landslide” when the stakes were raised.
#2 Do Not Underestimate Arslanaliev’s Power
“Dagi” has always been a fierce finisher, but the KO victories over Ev “E.T.” Ting and Amir Khan that earned his spot in the ONE Lightweight World Grand Prix Championship Final have taken his reputation to a whole new level.
The TKO victories early in his career revealed a glimpse of his power, but back-to-back knockouts over elite opposition in the tournament – adding to his previous stoppage over Nastyukhin – proved he has the concussive force to take out the best in the world.
Stand-up specialists Ting and Khan believed they could hold their own in the striking exchanges against the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt, but both ended up slumped on the canvas in the opening frame when they stood toe-to-toe with him.
Arslanaliev can finish with either hand, and his confidence and technique have grown stronger with each successful outing.
#3 Alvarez’s Warrior Spirit Can Take Him To Victory
A martial arts legend like “The Underground King” can never be written off. He did not get the result he wanted in his return to Asia this past March, but his ability to bounce back has always been one of his biggest assets.
Alvarez jumped at the chance to face Folayang in a high-profile encounter to prove he was still a force in the lightweight division, and he overcame adversity to score a spectacular rear-naked choke victory.
The American looked like he was seconds away from another defeat, but his toughness allowed him to survive an onslaught from “Landslide” before his veteran savvy and skill set allowed him to turn the tables and complete his comeback.
When his back is against the wall, the 35-year-old is often at his most dangerous, and this was just the latest example of him turning a contest on its head.
A rampaging “Dagi” can look unstoppable, but he must be aware of his rival’s superhuman ability to battle back from the brink of defeat. It served him well in his first successful stint in Japan, and he will carry it with him into ONE: CENTURY.
#4 The Final Should Be Spectacular
The hottest lightweight in the world right now will square off against one of the division’s most legendary names, and everything about their records suggest you will not be able to take your eyes off their bouts for a second.
All four of their World Grand Prix bouts have ended inside the first round, and that reflects how their careers have gone, too.
The Dagestan-born athlete has never been to the judges’ scorecards, while his rival from Philadelphia has seen 81 percent of his 38 career contests end before the final bell.
Both men can finish with strikes or submissions, and they are skilled in every phase of the game, so the stage is set for an explosive battle on the global stage for martial arts.
ONE: CENTURY is the biggest World Championship martial arts event in history with 28 World Champions featured across various martial arts. No organization in history has ever promoted two full-scale World Championship events on the same day.
The Home Of Martial Arts will break new ground as it brings multiple World Title bouts, a trio of World Grand Prix Championship Finals, and several World Champion versus World Champion matches to the famous Ryogoku Kokugikan in Tokyo, Japan on 13 October.