Why Christian Lee’s Toughest Days Are Still Ahead
Christian “The Warrior” Lee earned his status as the leading lightweight in ONE Championship with a series of stunning victories in 2019, but his most difficult tests could still lay ahead.
The superstar rose to the occasion last year by capturing both the ONE Lightweight World Championship and the ONE Lightweight World Grand Prix Championship, and that incredible success painted a target squarely on his back.
At the tender age of 21, Lee’s career resume is already phenomenal, and he could become an all-time great if he continues to dominate a ferocious and hungry stack of contenders.
None of the tests will be easy, as the top challengers in the ONE Athlete Rankings — and those narrowly outside the top five — are all eager to topple the Singaporean kingpin.
Here are the key names to watch out for as “The Warrior” eagerly awaits his next assignment in the Circle.
Iuri Lapicus was booked to face Lee at ONE INFINITY 2 before the COVID-19 pandemic forced the postponement of all live shows.
The undefeated Team Petrosyan representative is still next in line for a shot at “The Warrior,” and his perfect 14-0 slate — with 14 finishes — shows he’s a major threat to the reigning World Champion.
The Moldovan athlete has 10 submission victories to his credit, including breakout performances on the global stage against Shannon “OneShin” Wiratchai and Marat “Cobra” Gafurov.
Lapicus also owns four knockout victories and trains alongside ONE Featherweight Kickboxing World Grand Prix Champion Giorgio “The Doctor” Petrosyan, so he will be ready to test Lee in every range when they meet for the gold.
“The Warrior” respects his upcoming opponent, but he predicts he’ll finish Lapicus in the first round.
Dutchman Pieter “The Archangel” Buist’s phenomenal run in The Home Of Martial Arts has pushed him up to the #3 contender position.
The rangy striking specialist has raced to three straight victories in ONE, and his energetic and explosive style has earned him plenty of new fans along the way.
Buist’s fierce punches, kicks, and knees have already contributed to wins over Kota “Kong” Shimoishi, Antonio “The Spartan” Caruso, and former ONE Lightweight World Champion Eduard “Landslide” Folayang.
Additionally, “The Archangel” has shown his offensive and defensive capabilities on the ground, and he believes he’ll find a way to topple Lee.
Timofey Nastyukhin was forced to withdraw from the ONE Lightweight World Grand Prix due to injury after his stunning knockout win over “The Underground King” Eddie Alvarez, but make no mistake – he is still one of the division’s biggest threats.
The Russian slugger – who is the #4-ranked contender – has consistently shown he can end any bout in an instant, and his aggressive style is enough to unnerve even the most confident adversaries.
Though Nastyukhin’s injury setbacks have stopped him from gaining more momentum, the World Title gold will be in his sights when he returns to action.
Sitting just outside the top five in the rankings, four-time mixed martial arts World Champion Alvarez has done it all in his sport — except claim ONE gold.
That is now Alvarez’s main focus, and he has “The Warrior” locked in his crosshairs.
The American has plenty of weapons in his arsenal, and his famous kill-or-be-killed style means he would push the World Champion from the opening bell, making for a fascinating battle.
Lee has also expressed his desire to face Alvarez, an icon of mixed martial arts.
The Past Rivals
Lee defeated Shinya “Tobikan Judan” Aoki via TKO to claim the belt last year, but not without coming wincingly close to being submitted by the Japanese legend.
Aoki, who is the #5 contender, is always a factor and could work his way back into the World Title picture soon.
The #2 contender Saygid “Dagi” Guseyn Arslanaliev will also be hungry for a second encounter with Lee after “The Warrior” halted his incredible run of form in the ONE Lightweight World Grand Prix Championship Final last October.
Lee outgrappled the Turkish juggernaut despite competing on short notice, but that also meant little preparation for “Dagi,” who is never more than one punch away from victory.
Reigning ONE Featherweight World Champion Martin “The Situ-Asian” Nguyen relinquished the ONE Lightweight World Title to focus his efforts on the featherweight division, but he owns two victories over Lee.
That is something “The Warrior” wants to address in the future — although the score could potentially be settled in either weight class.
Read more: How Christian Lee Proved 2019 Was The Year Of ‘The Warrior’