ONE Lightweight World Champion Christian “The Warrior” Lee has looked unstoppable since claiming the gold, but Timofey Nastyukhin believes he can end the Singaporean-American’s reign over the division.
With 24 finishes among their 28 combined victories, both men have plenty of reasons to be confident ahead of their headlining tussle at “ONE on TNT II” this Wednesday, 14 April.
However, only one of them can leave the Circle with the World Title belt around their waist. Here, we break down the keys to victory for both Lee and Nastyukhin in this exciting five-round tilt.
#1 Nastyukhin’s Relentless Boxing
There’s no question that the Russian’s aggressive boxing attack will be at the forefront of his offense, and that he will come out of the blocks with his usual high tempo to try and gain a foothold in the match.
Nastyukhin’s style doesn’t involve much in the way of feints and probes. Instead, he throws with almost full force in every swing. That’s why, when a clean connection does land, his rivals feel the effects.
The Raty athlete loves to wade in with his heavy, looping right hand, and if his opponent reacts by trying to draw away from its impact, they walk straight onto his left hook money shot — one that’s already helped dispatch Eddie Alvarez, Rob Lisita, and Yusuke Kawanago.
It is vital that Nastyukhin scores early to get Lee’s respect. This could force the United MMA and Evolve man to make more hurried – and potentially rash – decisions.
#2 Lee’s Multi-Purpose Right Hand Rocket
Lee has his own strengths on the feet. In particular, his long straight right is a crucial tool that’s put him on a path to victory many times.
“The Warrior” likes to bounce in and out of range, which allows him to avoid the firing line against big punchers. From the outside, he uses his long limbs to launch into a darting backhand strike.
It can come behind many different setups, including feints, jabs, and oblique kicks. Lee then covers a vast amount of distance to catch his rivals by surprise when his concussive punch comes flying through their guard.
And more often than not, the lightweight king charges in right behind it to take his opponents to the canvas — much like he did with Kazuki Tokudome at ONE: HEART OF THE LION, as he rocked his Japanese rival with the punch before slamming him and finding the finish on the mat.
The combination of concussive punching and a seamless switch to wrestling is extremely effective because an opponent can either block their head or prepare to wrestle, but they can rarely do both well at the same time.
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#3 Nastyukhin’s Takedown Timing
With all the talk of Nastyukhin’s powerful hands, it could be easy to overlook the rest of his arsenal, but he does bring strong takedowns and top control into the equation that allow him to mix things up.
Though he seldom shoots, the Novokuznetsk native has a great eye for catching the kicks of his rivals and using them to fire back with a thunderous right hand or to gain top position.
Against Pieter “The Archangel” Buist in his last outing at ONE: INSIDE THE MATRIX II, the Russian repeatedly latched onto his foe’s leg and body kicks. When he caught the rangy Dutchman’s foot, he either dumped him to the mat or pushed him to the Circle Wall to secure a takedown from the clinch.
From there, Nastyukhin has a tight and punishing top game, where he uses his stocky frame to smother his rivals and score with ground strikes.
#4 Lee’s Ferocious Ground Striking
Lee will be desperate to win the battle for top position because that is where he does much of his best work. He’s arguably the most devastating ground-and-pound specialist on the ONE roster, and he’s recorded a slew of finishes from those salvos on the canvas.
While other athletes might think first about securing position, the Hawaii resident does not let his opponents rest or catch their breath underneath. After transitioning from striking to wrestling in an instant, “The Warrior” immediately goes on the offensive and seeks to punish his foes with heavy punches and hammerfists.
Blending that striking with his black belt Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu skills, Lee slices through guards like a hot knife through butter and lands whatever he has available when he gets to more advantageous positions — whether it’s elbows and hammerfists from side control or heavy punches from mount or back mount.
The reigning World Champion’s ferocity and constant unloading of shots mean that his opponents are barely allowed any space to post to try and get back up. And if they do, they often pay for it — just like Nastyukhin did in his stoppage loss to Saygid “Dagi” Guseyn Arslanaliev.