ONE Strawweight World Champion Alex “Little Rock” Silva (7-1) is looking to make a statement in his first title defense.
Five months ago, he edged out former titleholder Yoshitaka “Nobita” Naito (12-1) to capture the gold via unanimous decision. But on Saturday, 12 May, the two will meet again, and this time, the Brazilian is gunning for the finish.
Silva will defend his belt against the Japanese sensation in a highly anticipated rematch at ONE: GRIT & GLORY, at the Jakarta Convention Center in Indonesia.
“I always try to finish the bout. I always try to submit you, or knock you out,” the 35-year-old says.
“I believe I can beat him again. I am looking for the finish, but even if the finish does not come, I feel I can beat him over five rounds again. I do not feel I have to prove anything to anybody in this rematch. I am just looking to improve upon my performance from the first bout. That is my goal now.
“I am training hard, I am pushing hard, and I will be prepared for everything. I will be ready to go all five rounds again if I need to, but I will be looking to finish him before the fifth round this time.”
Silva, a Brazilian jiu-jitsu world champion, surged into title contention with an impressive run of five consecutive submission finishes. The fifth was an incredible 82-second armbar of then-undefeated contender Hayato Suzuki last November.
On the strength of his impeccable skill, and the aforementioned stoppage victories, he earned a title shot at the then-unbeaten ONE Strawweight World Champion Naito.
The pair battled in the main event of ONE: WARRIORS OF THE WORLD last December. Although both martial artists are world-class grapplers, the early portion of the championship tilt was contested on the feet.
“Little Rock” demonstrated the rarely-seen striking he learned under the Muay Thai world champions at Evolve MMA in Singapore, and battered his Japanese adversary with chopping leg kicks and heavy overhand punches. He wobbled “Nobita” a few times, and even dropped him in the third stanza.
Naito was hurt, but he was not finished. He pushed the pace and threatened with his submission grappling prowess in the championship rounds, but Silva’s elite BJJ pedigree nullified anything he was attempting to do.
After 25 minutes, the judges unanimously agreed that Silva was the superior martial artist on that night, and awarded him the victory and the ONE Strawweight World Title.
“I am happy about getting the belt, but I always try my best to finish the bout,” the Brazilian says.
“I cannot say I am not happy about getting the world title, but I would have been happier if I could have finished the contest before the fifth round.”
Silva will have the chance to do that now, but may have a more difficult time, as “Nobita” desperately wants to exact some revenge.
After falling short in their first encounter, Naito promises to come out with a renewed hunger — the same type of hunger that earned him a dozen professional wins, the Shooto Flyweight Title, and the ONE Strawweight World Championship.
The Japanese competitor may look to lean on his grappling finesse, which has earned him six submission wins, and a single TKO victory. However, Silva believes that would not be a wise strategy.
“I think his biggest strength might be his grappling, but I am a grappler, too, and I believe I am better than him in any art, especially on the ground,” Silva says.
“In the first bout, he tried everything. He gave all he had, and I did not really show much of my grappling. So if he looks to take the bout to the ground this time, then it is going to be bad for him.”
Despite becoming the ONE Strawweight World Champion, “Little Rock” has not slowed down. If anything, winning the golden belt has spurred him to train even harder.
The Brazilian wants to be known as the greatest strawweight martial artist of this generation, and he believes he has all the tools at his disposal to dominate for years to come.
“I have been working hard to become a champion, so now that I am the champion of the division, I am working even harder than before to keep a hold of my title,” he says.
“I think I have everything I need. I am determined, I am focused, I have the skills, I always work hard, and I have the best team behind me — Evolve MMA. So I think I have everything to hold this belt for a long time.”
If he can finish Naito in their world title rematch at ONE: GRIT & GLORY, then his title reign would begin in style.