After several months away from mixed martial arts competition, Agilan “Alligator” Thani made a thunderous return to ONE Championship and delivered a career-best performance.
The bout marked the Japanese-Korean icon’s return to the sport following a three and a half year break, but the young lion spoiled the occasion as he left the Baoshan Arena with a unanimous decision victory.
BOUT OF THE NIGHT CONTENDER Malaysian sensation Agilan Thani scores the biggest win of his career in a seesaw battle against martial arts legend Yoshihiro Akiyama!: Check local listings for global TV broadcast: Watch on the ONE Super App http://bit.ly/ONESuperApp
Posted by ONE Championship on Saturday, June 15, 2019
Both athletes wanted to register the all-elusive comeback win. Akiyama wanted to make a glorious return from his hiatus, whereas Thani wanted to prove that he recovered from a back injury that had sidelined him for nearly six months.
Fans were in for a treat as soon as the opening bell sounded.
“Sexy Yama” was forced to backpedal as his 23-year-old rival advanced forward and landed some punches, which caught the legend on the face. However, Akiyama used his judo expertise to his advantage and executed a brilliant counter-takedown soon thereafter. “Alligator” would quickly get back to his feet, though.
Thani, who proudly represents Monarchy MMA, continued to show his versatility moving forward, as he landed an overhand right followed directly by a straight right. Every time he moved forward, Thani made sure to push the 43-year-old tightly against the ropes or towards the corner of the ring.
Just when Akiyama was expecting Thani to strike high, he instead secured a huge takedown, got into side control, and then transitioned to the icon’s back. The Team Cloud representative managed to get back on his feet in the corner, but “Alligator” sealed a rare high-crotch takedown with 90 seconds remaining in the opening stanza.
A short injury timeout followed after Thani landed an accidental knee to Akiyama’s crotch. When the action resumed, the young star sealed a double-leg takedown to end the round.
The Malaysian’s desire to secure an early knockout continued in the second frame, as he catapulted a huge knee into the Japanese-Korean warrior’s chest. He answered his rival back with a perfectly-timed spinning back elbow, which grazed the temple of the Kuala Lumpur-based hero.
Nonetheless, Thani’s confidence started to grow, which left Akiyama in all sorts of trouble. As soon as the match was looking like a striking battle, “Alligator” flipped the script and registered a number of takedowns in succession.
The final two minutes of the round was nothing short of a slugfest, as both welterweight phenoms threw everything they had in their arsenals.
For the first time in the match, “Sexy Yama” put Thani on the back foot. He landed two left hooks, followed by a heavy right, which stung the Kuala Lumpur competitor. As soon as Thani’s guard dropped, Akiyama continued to assert damage.
Both athletes were swinging heavy, but it was Thani who won the final exchange in the stanza with an accurate left hand.
When the last round got underway, Akiyama caught his young adversary with a huge spinning back kick in the midsection. But soon, Thani’s boxing started to power him through the final minutes of the bout.
With 30 seconds remaining in the contest, the Japanese-Korean legend once again connected with one of his classic spinning strikes, but it proved to be costly as “Alligator” saw an opening and countered with a sharp six-punch combination.
The bushido spirit of Akiyama was clear throughout the highly-entertaining affair, but Thani’s determination proved to be too much for the icon.
All three judges gave the Malaysian the unanimous decision win, which boosted his professional record to 10-3.