ONE Flyweight World Champion Adriano Moraes has fended off some incredibly tough challenges during his lengthy reign, but his next opponent might be the most dangerous striker of them all.
The Brazilian superstar will defend his belt against Yuya Wakamatsu on the ONE X: Grand Finale card this Saturday, 26 March, and the Japanese phenom’s firepower could be a great equalizer against “Mikinho.”
There’s plenty at stake for both sides in this intriguing showdown. Moraes wants to keep building his legacy as the most dominant flyweight in ONE history, while the surging “Little Piranha” thinks it’s time for a new era to begin.
Just one day before this historic 10-year anniversary show, we break down the keys to World Title victory for both competitors at the Singapore Indoor Stadium.
#1 Wakamatsu’s Game-Changing Power
With 11 knockouts in 15 career victories, it’s clear that Wakamatsu’s best chance to emerge victorious would come from a KO with his concussive punches.
It won’t be easy against the defending World Champion – who’s never been finished in a career that spans 11 years and 22 bouts – but the challenger has rare power for a flyweight and can turn off lights in an instant.
“Little Piranha” will be giving up some height and reach to the Brazilian, but if he can elicit a reaction to his feints, he’ll be able to make up the ground with his punishing right hand.
He also throws that strike effectively in conjunction with his left hook, using the shorter shot to step inside the range and land his power punch. Or if Moraes is too jerky in response to the right, Wakamatsu can capitalize by leading them into his left hook.
With five rounds to throw hands, the Japanese upstart only needs Moraes to make one mistake, and his conditioning means he’ll keep pressing until the final bell if he gets the chance.
#2 Moraes’ Long Reach And Movement
Moraes is best known for his grappling ability, but he also owns an effective striking game that could frustrate Wakamatsu and open up opportunities.
“Mikinho” uses a lot of lateral movement to stay away from aggressive rivals, and he can combine that with his long straight punches to keep the Japanese scrapper at bay.
He also uses his long legs to score with round kicks to the legs and body. Unlike most strikers, Moraes isn’t afraid to load up on these due to fear of a takedown – as he’d be happy to play from his guard against “Little Piranha.”
If the reigning king can frustrate the challenger and force him to wade in wildly, he can also fire his hard uppercuts to land with twice the momentum on a charging opponent – just like he did to Demetrious Johnson in his career-best win last time out.
#3 Wakamatsu Pouncing On Entries
If Wakamatsu can resist the urge to charge forward as a retort to the American Top Team star’s elusiveness, Moraes will be forced to close the distance in order to initiate the grappling exchanges – and this will create opportunities.
The challenger’s takedown defense is good enough on its own – with 30 takedowns stuffed out of 40 attempts in his ONE career – but he can also use a grappler’s desire to close the distance against them.
“Little Piranha” throws hard low kicks that land most effectively against foes who step in and put the weight through their lead leg, severely limiting their ability to block the thudding strikes.
He also works with his hands low to dig for underhooks when his rivals shoot. This means he is ready to fire off crunching uppercuts when they enter.
Wakamatsu might also target the head with knees or elbows when Moraes gets in tight, meaning the BJJ black belt will have to be extremely savvy when attempting to hunt for takedowns.
#4 Moraes’ Strangling Speciality
Moraes’ skill level is supercharged once he hits the canvas, and there won’t be much respite for Wakamatsu if he does get pinned to the deck.
The Brazilian’s top game is stifling, and he funnels adversaries into increasingly bad positions with his guard-passing and top pressure.
If Wakamatsu does manage to find some space to scramble, he won’t be out of trouble. “Mikinho” is a menace during the transitions, and he’ll quickly jump to the back or attack when his opponents get to the turtle position on their knees.
Both of these positions offer up choking options to the flyweight king, and that’s where he gets most of his finishes, with rear-naked chokes, D’Arce chokes, guillotines, and more all on the menu.