Revisiting The Stacked Flyweight Division After ‘ONE On TNT’

May 6, 2021

The flyweight mixed martial arts division took center stage at “ONE on TNT I,” as Adriano “Mikinho” Moraes and Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson battled for the gold in the 7 April main event.

Despite DJ’s reputation as the GOAT, Moraes became the first man to finish the legendary American with a second-round knockout, cementing his own status as the most dominant flyweight in ONE Championship history.

That wasn’t the only big flyweight battle of the U.S. prime-time television series, however, and the outlook for the division seems bright. After all the drama, let’s see how the landscape has changed since our last look through the bustling ranks.

The Undisputed King

After winning the ONE Flyweight World Grand Prix and earning his shot at World Championship gold, Johnson was pegged by many fans as the soon-to-be king. However, Moraes always believed in himself.

The Brazilian waited patiently to face the mixed martial arts legend, and he made the most of that opportunity when it arrived. 

After a tight first round, “Mikinho” caught his rival rushing in, dropped him with an uppercut, and then sealed the deal on the ground with a concussive knee to the head.

“Mighty Mouse” had never been stopped in a glittering career against many of the world’s elite competitors, so it was a massive statement from Moraes, who widened the gap between himself and the chasing pack in his weight class.

The Brasilia native now has the most victories (10), World Title wins (7), finishes (7), and submissions in ONE flyweight history.

Next, it’s about building his legacy and perhaps even usurping “Mighty Mouse” as the flyweight GOAT.

The Next World Title Challengers?

Exclusive photos from Kazakh flyweight Kairat Akhmetov and South Korean star Dae Hwan Kim’s MMA fight at ONE: COLLISION COURSE II on 25 December

Kairat “The Kazakh” Akhmetov is in fine form and has a score to settle with Moraes. The fighters are tied at 1-1 in their World Title battles, with both bouts going the full five rounds.

The #3-ranked contender and former World Champion has won three straight contests against highly ranked adversaries, and the rubber match would make sense for “Mikinho’s” next defense.

However, the #4-ranked Yuya “Little Piranha” Wakamatsu is also calling for a shot at the belt given his own spectacular run of form. Plus, being a fresh face in the World Title mix could help his cause.

Most of the other contenders have already lost to Moraes, but the Japanese knockout artist has yet to lock horns with the Brazilian. Wakamatsu’s four-bout winning streak and incredible punching power mean he’s a dangerous threat to any opponent inside the Circle, including the reigning World Champion.

Wrestler Akhmetov and striker Wakamatsu would both offer intriguing challenges to “Mikinho,” and their respective resumes have earned them the right to be in the Flyweight World Title conversation.

The Other Ranked Challengers

Given Johnson’s back catalog, it would not take much for him to rejoin the Flyweight World Title picture. The #1-ranked contender was the most dominant flyweight ever in North America before he moved to ONE and claimed the World Grand Prix Championship with three consecutive victories.

The emphatic loss he suffered at the hands of Moraes makes an immediate rematch unlikely, but if he can bounce back with a win or two, there’s no doubt the cerebral Washington native could adjust and give the Brazilian another tough test.

After a 2017 World Title defeat to “Mikinho,” Danny “The King” Kingad looked unstoppable with six straight wins. However, his run of success came to an end against “Mighty Mouse” in the ONE Flyweight World Grand Prix Championship Final.

Kingad got back on the horse with a win over “The Hunter” Xie Wei in January 2020, and the #2-ranked Team Lakay star could definitely earn a rematch with another big win.

Though he was narrowly bested by Wakamatsu last time out, Reece “Lightning” McLaren is still in the mix, and he would arguably be the trickiest opponent for Moraes in terms of style.

McLaren is a BJJ ace with impressive wrestling and submission skills that could rival those of the World Champion, but the #5-ranked contender will need to get back in the winner’s column to make the matchup possible.

Looking To Crack The Rankings

The flyweight division is stacked, and there are athletes waiting just outside the top five who want to hustle their way into the rankings.

Former World Champion Geje “Gravity” Eustaquio is on a two-bout winning streak and while the aforementioned Xie came close against Kingad, he has since defeated Chan Rothana. Also, ONE Hero Series graduate “Wolf Warrior” Hu Yong upset the burgeoning Yodkaikaew “Y2K” Fairtex in his big-show debut.

Gurdarshan “Saint Lion” Mangat and Roshan Mainam are primed for an all-Indian catchweight battle at ONE: DANGAL, but both men are out to make a name for themselves in the flyweight division.

Japanese veteran Tatsumitsu “The Sweeper” Wada and Finnish rising star Aleksi “The Giant” Toivonen can also make it a rough night for anybody, proving that the depth of this division goes very far down.

That means the global fan base can expect nothing but excitement in the flyweight ranks in the coming months.

Read more: Vera Vs. Bhullar World Title Fight Headlines ONE: DANGAL On 15 May

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