Much of the attention will be on Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson when the ONE Flyweight World Grand Prix kicks off, but he faces a big challenge in his ONE Championship debut.
To progress in the tournament, he will have to get past Yuya “Little Piranha” Wakamatsu, who will receive the passionate support of his home fans at ONE: A NEW ERA at the Ryogoku Kokugikan in Tokyo, Japan.
As a record-breaking mixed martial arts World Champion Johnson deserves to be a favorite, but you can guarantee he will not sleep on his opponent, who has a bright future in the sport and already has the potential to beat anyone on his day.
This is why great things are expected from the 23-year-old.
Guided By Legends Of The Game
Wakamatsu has come through the ranks at Tribe Tokyo MMA under the guidance of Ryo “Piranha” Chonan.
The two-division DEEP World Champion is a legend of the Japanese scene who competed all over the world and defeated some of the best pound-for-pound athletes in mixed martial arts history.
“Little Piranha” inherited his mentor’s nickname for having the same warrior spirit and he has taken his first steps to emulate his success by winning his belt at a young age – he is a Pancrase Flyweight Tournament Champion.
Now on the global stage for martial arts, he has the chance to surpass his coach and win the biggest prize in martial arts.
Wakamatsu also works alongside other iconic athletes in the Japanese capital, including former ONE Lightweight World Champion Shinya “Tobikan Judan” Aoki, who is a regular at the gym.
He Is A Physical Specimen
Wakamatsu has all the attributes of a world-class martial artist.
Even before you take his skills into account, he has the physical gifts that will give him an advantage over many of his peers. He is strong and athletic, but his muscular frame takes nothing away from his cardio, and he is able to compete for 15 minutes or more.
He also can move well. His footwork and grappling flow show he is naturally adept at martial arts and the demands of the elite level.
The rising star is also strong for his size, with unnatural punching power for a flyweight that has delivered nine of his 10 wins by knockout. That is a great equalizer in any match-up, even when he is an underdog.
Of course, physical gifts would be nothing without the proper technique at the highest level of martial arts, and Wakamatsu has that in spades.
Perhaps the most impressive aspect of “Little Piranha’s” martial arts attributes is his warrior spirit.
Whenever he has suffered a setback in his career, he has shown the character to recover, improve, and come back in style.
After he suffered his first loss in his very first bout – against a man with 11 professional matches on his record – he won his next nine in a row.
When his streak was ended in his challenge for the Pancrase World Title, he took the lessons from the experience on the biggest platform of his career to return with his most impressive win to date, and earn a ONE contract.
Though he was narrowly bested by Danny Kingad in The Home Of Martial Arts last September – despite scoring a knockdown and pushing the Team Lakay star all the way for three rounds – he had no hesitation stepping up to take on a legend at the biggest event in ONE history.
Hunger And Courage
Throughout his life, Wakamatsu has relentlessly pursued his dream of becoming a mixed martial arts World Champion.
As a teenager, he left his home in Kagoshima to move to Tokyo and give himself the best chance of success.
Since his debut, he has shown no fear, by taking on more experienced opposition on many occasions to climb through the ranks. He also wants to prove himself on the global stage for martial arts. So far, he has not hesitated to take on the toughest matches.
That includes his assignment against Johnson. Though “Mighty Mouse” has all the hype, “Little Piranha” is confident he has the tools to score a massive shock result.
“I’m not afraid of him. He is also a human,” he says.
“If my punch hits him, I can KO him.”