Nguyen has looked invincible at the top of the division for almost three years thanks to his knockout power, but he will face the most intriguing challenger to his reign this Friday, 2 August.
In Manila, Philippines, the Vietnamese-Australian will face a well-rounded contender with the tools to take his World Title away – wherever the bout goes.
These could be the two men’s keys to victory when they meet in the Mall Of Asia Arena.
#1 The Challenger’s Unpredictable Striking
“Moushigo’s” World Title hopes are bolstered by his knockout power and cerebral approach to the stand-up game that sets it up.
The karate stylist is happy to wait on the outside for a chance to counter, or dart in with strikes behind his feints.
However, Matsushima can also leave Nguyen wondering with his changes of intensity — he can go from patient stalking to planted power punches and low kicks in an instant. Both styles of engagement have resulted in knockout victories throughout his career.
If the Sydney native looks for a pattern in his challenger’s attacks, he will struggle to find one to exploit.
#2 The Champion’s Most Feared Weapon
Any opponent needs to prepare for Nguyen’s bout-ending right hand – and Matsushima knows this – but that is easier said than done.
Some strikers with one particularly potent tool go on the hunt with it recklessly, but the World Champion is instinctive with it and most effective when he uses it as a counter-strike.
The Hardknocks 365 representative does not rush his attacks. He feints and baits his opponents into lunging in before he drops the hammer, and the impact is increased by his opponents’ forward momentum.
If Matsushima goes head-hunting, expect Nguyen to remain composed and find a gap to score. He only requires the smallest of openings to be effective.
#3 Matsushima’s Wrestling Offense
Matsushima showcased his adaptability against “Pretty Boy” Kwon Won Il in his last contest when he relentlessly took his rival to the canvas and dominated with a grappling-heavy agenda.
His well-timed double-leg takedowns and trips can put Nguyen on the canvas, but the 30-year-old will not willingly stay there.
However, when he tries to scramble, he will be in danger. The Pancrase ISM Yokohama representative has ended bouts with hard shots in the phases between the grounded and standing positions, so “The Situ-Asian” must protect himself at all times.
#4 Nguyen’s Takedown Defense
Nguyen says he expects to win by knockout, so he will want to stay on his feet, and he has plenty of tools to keep him where he is most dangerous.
He has never been knocked out and has faith in his chin, which allow him to operate with a low guard. This can invite an opponent in for counter-strikes, but it also means he is ready to defend takedowns when they come.
Against ONE Bantamweight World Champion Bibiano “The Flash” Fernandes, Nguyen also adopted a lower stance and consistently evaded and fended off takedowns.
He can also use strikes to stay upright – the low kicks he used in his last match stifled Narantungalag “Tungaa” Jadambaa’s forward charge, and had the added advantages of hurting him and slowing him down, too.