Christian “The Warrior” Lee is the man to beat in the lightweight division.
The Singaporean-American mixed martial arts superstar captured the ONE Lightweight World Title in May 2019, and then he won the ONE Lightweight World Grand Prix Championship just five months later.
Now, the 22-year-old prodigy is ready to start defending his crown, and there are plenty of athletes who are eager to challenge him for the gold.
Lee has reviewed the top five lightweight contenders in ONE Championship’s Athlete Rankings and has some pretty strong opinions. Here, he reveals his complete thoughts.
#1-Ranked Contender Iuri Lapicus
Christian Lee: Iuri Lapicus is currently the #1 contender in the lightweight division. I definitely feel he’s deserving of that title.
He’s currently 15-0 as a professional mixed martial artist, and he’s 2-0 in ONE Championship so far. In his first fight, he got a rear-naked choke finish over Shannon Wiratchai, and in his second win, he took out former World Champion Marat Gafurov in close to a minute.
He has definitely been impressive so far in ONE Championship. Although he is only two-fights deep in ONE Championship, I feel that because his record is spotless and he is undefeated, that’s what helps put him up there. I definitely feel like he’s going to be a good test.
#2-Ranked Contender Saygid ‘Dagi’ Guseyn Arslanaliev
CL: “Dagi” probably would be the #1 contender if I didn’t just fight him last October and beat him, but he has definitely earned his spot up there because he has taken out all the top contenders in the lightweight division and in devastating fashion.
He’s got striking, good wrestling, and a black belt in jiu-jitsu. He’s a very well-rounded fighter. I feel he’s gone through a similar martial arts journey as myself, training as a child. He’s definitely one of the most dangerous contenders in the division. I know he’ll definitely work his way back up to a title shot, and we’ll see each other in the cage again soon.
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#3-Ranked Contender Pieter Buist
CL: Pieter Buist is a good fighter also. He’s a tall, lanky kickboxer. He’s got jiu-jitsu, too – I’m not sure what belt he is, but he looks decent on the ground as well. I think he’s definitely deserving of his spot.
He’s 3-0 in ONE Championship so far, and he’s coming off a good win over Eduard Folayang. Originally, he was wanting a title shot next, and he’s definitely deserving, so maybe after Lapicus, we could see that fight coming up soon.
#4-Ranked Contender Timofey Nastyukhin
CL: Timofey is a great fighter. He’s got heavy hands and knows how to go for the finish. He’s definitely a contender I’m looking forward to facing in the cage. I know we’ll make for a very exciting match for the fans.
I feel like he could even be up higher on this list. He did suffer a knockout loss to “Dagi,” so he’s definitely underneath him, but I feel like he’s a top contender in the division. He’s definitely not someone to look past because he’s always looking for the finish, and oftentimes, he gets it.
He is somebody I’ve had my eyes on, and anytime ONE Championship wants to match us up against one another, I’ll be ready.
#5-Ranked Contender Shinya Aoki
CL: Shinya Aoki is a threat to anybody in the lightweight division. He’s won the belt, and he’s defended the belt. He came back from a loss and still reclaimed his belt. He’s definitely going to be in the ONE Championship Hall Of Fame, for sure. He’s a legend of the sport. For many years, he was considered the #1 lightweight in the world along with BJ Penn. I can’t take anything away from that guy.
When we were originally scheduled to face each other last May, it came as a surprise to me. We were fellow teammates [at Evolve] and I do consider him a friend as well. But when we get in the cage, I consider it a business. I don’t get starstruck. I really don’t put any thought into who that person is. When we sign a contract, get a date set, and step into that cage, it doesn’t matter who I’m matched up with, I’m going to finish them within five rounds.
Facing Shinya Aoki, there was no worry about being starstruck in there. It was just how are my skills going to match-up with his skills and how am I going to build to a finish. That was just pure strategy, game plan, and determination to win that fight. I still consider Shinya [a top] contender, and he could finish any of the other contenders on any given day. He’s definitely one of the most dangerous opponents for me.