Saygid “Dagi” Guseyn Arslanaliev knows he made a mistake.
The Turkish lightweight dynamo had smashed through every adversary in ONE Championship with precision and speed. As a matter of fact, he stopped each of his opponents in under two minutes. But during his last bout, a momentary lapse in judgement cost him his spotless record.
In January 2017, he clashed with Bulgarian veteran Georgi “Stanchev” Stoyanov, and his inexperience showed.
Nearly 90 seconds into the contest, Stoyanov held onto Arslanaliev’s leg in an effort to defend from the ensuing punishment. However, once “Dagi” broke free, he accidentally threw an illegal kick to his downed opponent.
The bout was immediately stopped, and after it was decided the Bulgarian could not continue, Arslanaliev was given a red card, and disqualified from the contest. It marked his first, and only, loss.
“I honestly did not plan to do it,” the 23-year-old Turk assures.
“When I realized I hit him in the head, it was too late to do anything about it. It was like a bad movie. I was on top, and in an advantageous position. It was a silly mistake, but I am young. There is still time to fix things, and show everyone the real ‘Dagi.’”
That was not the only thing that needed to be fixed, however.
“Not many people know this, but I broke my hand when trying to finish Stoyanov,” continues Arslanaliev, who required surgery to repair the injury. “After the match, I had a long rehab.”
Once his hand healed, the young talent remained busy. He returned to his birthplace of Dagestan, where he visited extended family, and trained with some of the republic’s best wrestlers.
Then, he traveled to Dubai, where he devoted his training strictly to Brazilian jiu-jitsu. And, of course, he has been fine-tuning his overall game at Corvos MMA in his native Istanbul, Turkey, in anticipation of his return.
Yamada, a Japanese ZST Welterweight Champion who trains out of Tiger Muay Thai & MMA, holds a dazzling 24-5-2 record, and has 17 stoppage victories to his name. The last time he appeared in ONE was this past September, when he submitted Kyle Rozewski in under two minutes.
The Japanese lightweight serves as a formidable challenge, and a massive step-up in competition for “Dagi,” as he meets a match in both speed and power.
“Tetsuya is a very experienced athlete,” Arslanaliev says. “He is respected, and well-rounded. I know he has a lot to show on the day when he meets me, but I can assure you that anyone who enters a cage with me is not going to have an easy match.
“I always have a game plan, and I act according to it. It is never a goal to finish with a knockout as soon as possible, but if an opportunity presents itself, I always take it. Anything can happen in the cage. It does not matter how Tetsuya normally competes. What matters is how he will compete against me.”
The Turkish lightweight dynamo is confident in his abilities, and is happy to be taking on a skillful veteran who he feels will get him closer to achieving his ultimate goals in ONE.
However, he has also learned from his past mistake. This coming Saturday, Arslanaliev plans to showcase some improvement, display a few new tricks he learned over the past year away from the cage, and unveil a different side of himself.
“I made it known from early days at ONE that my goal was to get the ONE Lightweight World Championship, not to win a few matches,” he says.
“It took a year for everyone to start taking me seriously. I was ready for bigger matches and bigger opponents — I needed them to showcase my full skill set. There is a lot of me you have not seen yet. I am not the same I was a year ago, and soon you will see the new me.”