For anyone who has seen his thrilling bouts before, Eddie “The Underground King” Alvarez’s signing with ONE Championship was fantastic news.
The American superstar brings the action to the cage every time he competes, and as he tests himself against the other exciting athletes in the lightweight ranks, thrills are practically guaranteed.
Shortly after Alvarez’s arrival, ONE announced his promotional debut will be in Japan in the quarter-finals of the Lightweight World Grand Prix. That brought back memories of his success in that format and location.
The 34-year-old has done some of his best work in tournaments, including during his time in the Land Of The Rising Sun, where he was a hit with the passionate martial arts fans.
Ahead of “The Underground King’s” match with Timofey Nastyukhin at ONE: A NEW ERA on 31 March, see what you can expect when he returns to his old stomping ground by looking back at some of his best performances in front of a Japanese audience.
A War With Joachim Hansen
After winning his opening bout in the DREAM Lightweight Grand Prix with a TKO over Andre Amade, Alvarez faced off against hard Norwegian warrior Joachim “Hellboy” Hansen in the quarter-final.
“The Underground King” boasted an impressive 13-1 record coming into the contest, but “Hellboy” was more experienced at 17-6-1, and well known in Japan thanks to his defeats of athletes like Kotetsu “No Face” Boku, Masakazu “Ashikan Judan” Imanari, and Takanori “The Fireball Kid” Gomi.
Within the opening minute, Alvarez proved he was capable of competing with the best martial artists in the tournament, as he sent Hansen to the canvas with a crushing straight right. The durable European somehow managed to survive and did not back down as he went toe-to-toe with his opponent.
At the midway point of the first round, Alvarez again scored a knockdown – this time with a leaping right hook. His battle-hardened rival sprung back to his feet again, but the pressure was telling.
“The Underground King” kept up the offensive with high impact takedowns and ground and pound, dominating the grueling 10-minute opening round.
He showed a different side to his game in the second, as Hansen’s savvy grappling came into play. He threatened with his slick ground game, came close with armbar attempts, and forced the action right until the end, but Alvarez worked through every tough spot to meet the final bell.
His early work was enough to get him the nod to advance to the semi-finals after an epic 15-minute battle.
Non-Stop Action Against Tatsuya Kawajiri
Alvarez returned two months after his epic battle with Hansen to take part in the tournament semi-finals against Japanese icon Tatsuya “Crusher” Kawajiri.
The Shooto World Champion entered with an impressive 22-4-2 record and the home crowd on his side and posed a different stylistic challenge to the American.
Rather than play to his opponent’s strengths, Alvarez charged forward in trademark style to engage in wild exchanges, but he was smart, too, as he mixed takedown attempts and hard low kicks in with his boxing.
Kawajiri was the first to fall as a barrage of hooks on the ropes sent him down, but not for long. He regained his composure and came back with guns blazing.
Minutes later, Alvarez walked on to a hook and hit the canvas, once again showing his durability by holding on to see out the dangerous moments.
However, he spent a period being dominated on the canvas, as “Crusher” controlled from the mount. As soon as Alvarez escaped, he went on the offensive, and the last minute of the battle was a furious toe-to-toe exchange between the two warriors.
Alvarez’s power came up trumps. He once again felled his world-class adversary and sealed the finish at 7:35.
Comeback To Defeat Katsunori Kikuno
An injury sustained in the Kawajiri bout meant that “The Underground King” could not advance to the tournament final, and he had his chance at DREAM gold taken away. However, he returned to North America and won the inaugural Bellator lightweight tournament to become a World Champion in his home nation.
In October 2009, he was back in Japan, and anticipation was higher than ever as he was booked to face off against DEEP Lightweight World Champion, Katsunori Kikuno.
Like Alvarez, Kikuno was a knockout artist. Seven of the karate stylist’s 12 victories heading into the bout had been stoppages from strikes.
The Japanese star put the Philadelphian in a compromising spot in the opening seconds as he trapped him in an uncomfortable standing crucifix. It took some time for Alvarez to free himself, and it sapped his strength. When the exchanges began on the feet again, it was Kikuno who looked more lively.
Alvarez went to his corner down on the scorecards, but he returned to the contest with a renewed will to win. He charged at Kikuno with powerful punches and kept the pressure on.
The karateka escaped a tight guillotine, but “The Underground King” continued his offensive on the feet as he refused to stop until he found a finish.
After he connected with plenty of hard strikes, Alvarez secured a takedown on his fading foe and passed guard to set up an arm-triangle submission.
It was a display of courage, determination, and well-rounded martial arts skill – and a reminder of what could be in store when he meets Nastyukhin in the ONE Lightweight World Grand Prix in front of the Japanese fans.