ONE Lightweight World Grand Prix – The Story So Far
All eyes will be on the Ryogoku Kokugikan in Tokyo, Japan on 13 October as three groundbreaking tournaments conclude at the biggest martial arts event of all time.
The first to conclude will come at ONE: CENTURY PART I as American mixed martial arts icon Eddie “The Underground King” Alvarez attempts to complete a remarkable comeback story by winning the ONE Lightweight World Grand Prix Championship Final.
He will not have an easy task, however, as he will face arguably the most dangerous finisher in the division – Saygid “Dagi” Guseyn Arslanaliev.
The resident of Istanbul, Turkey, may have less experience than his rival, but showed in his run through the bracket that he is capable of pulling off some stunning results.
Two First-Round Finishes Kick Off The Tournament
All the way back in January, the ONE Lightweight World Grand Prix kicked off at ONE: HERO’S ASCENT in Manila, Philippines, as former ONE Featherweight World Champion Honorio “The Rock” Banario met Lowen Tynanes.
It was the man from America’s first appearance in the Circle after three years on the shelf, but he looked like he had never been away as he stunned the local fans with a one-round demolition of their hero from Team Lakay to march on to the next phase of the competition.
Fans had to wait until the following month for the next match-ups to take place, but the events in the Singapore Indoor Stadium were worth waiting for.
The first of two quarterfinals on that night promised action galore as “Dagi” began his campaign against Kiwi-Malaysian warrior Ev “E.T.” Ting.
There was a lot of hype around Arslanaliev after his first-round knockout of Timofey Nastyukhin the previous September, but Ting is a durable veteran, and he was expected to offer some stiff resistance.
Instead, the 24-year-old found his rival’s chin with a left hook in the first few seconds, and followed up with a flurry of ground and pound to get the KO in just 25 seconds – the fastest win of a career littered with quick stoppages. He was already looking like the man to beat.
A Thriller And An Upset
While fans were still composing themselves after “Dagi’s” lightning finish, Amir Khan and Ariel “Tarzan” Sexton walked to the ring to finish ONE: CALL TO GREATNESS’ World Grand Prix doubleheader.
These men put on the most compelling bout of the competition so far, as submission specialist Sexton mostly ignored his grappling to go toe-to-toe with the Muay Thai specialist.
The hometown hero came close to a finish when he stunned his Costa Rican rival with a hard right hand in the second stanza, but “Tarzan” did a great job of keeping his composure to survive. In the last round, he finally unleashed his ground game to grab the rear-naked choke and set up a semifinal clash with Arslanaliev.
There was a short wait until March for the next tournament contest, as two proven finishers met at ONE: A NEW ERA in Tokyo, Japan.
Alvarez came in with a weight of expectation on his shoulders thanks to his history as a four-time lightweight mixed martial arts World Champion, but Timofey Nastyukhin cared little about his reputation, and scored one of the most shocking victories of the year with the KO of the night.
That set him up for an appointment with Tynanes in August, but there were a few big twists left in the tale of this tournament.
A Pair Of Semifinal Stunners
Sadly, the Sexton-Arslanaliev bout was hit with an injury blow when “Tarzan” broke his arm. Luckily, Khan was available to step back into the breach to challenge the Dagestani finishing machine at ONE: ENTER THE DRAGON and attempt to fare better than Ting.
Although the Singaporean made it until the 2:56 mark of round one, he spent most of that time being tossed around the ring like a ragdoll before he was finished with a flurry of heavy hands. It was another flawless display from“Dagi.”
The other match-up in the second stage of the World Grand Prix was also blighted by pull-outs. Tynanes was forced to withdraw because of his battle with spondyloarthritis – a type of arthritis that attacks the joints and spine. Nastyukhin was also unable to make it to ONE: DAWN OF HEROES because of a serious knee injury.
Luckily there were two titans of global mixed martial arts scheduled for the same card in Manila, Philippines who were more than worthy of filling in – former World Champions from the East and West, Alvarez and Eduard “Landslide” Folayang.
For as long as it lasted, their battle was a thriller. It looked like “The Underground King” was about to fall to another quick finish when he was caught by a left hook, and then a thudding low kick put him on the canvas.
However, the American showed the savvy of a veteran to hit a surprising sweep, and then submit Folayang with a rear-naked choke to book his spot in the final.
Every step of the ONE Lightweight World Grand Prix so far has been nothing short of compelling, and it has set up a final that could eclipse everything that has come before. On 13 October, a legend will battle one of the biggest rising stars in martial arts, and the results should be electric.
Read more: 4 Lessons From The ONE Lightweight World Grand Prix So Far
ONE: CENTURY is the biggest World Championship martial arts event in history with 28 World Champions featured across various martial arts. No organization has ever promoted two full-scale World Championship events on the same day.
The Home Of Martial Arts will break new ground as it brings multiple World Title bouts, a trio of World Grand Prix Championship Finals, and several World Champion versus World Champion matches to the famous Ryogoku Kokugikan in Tokyo, Japan on 13 October.