After multiple postponements, the long-awaited clash between #2-ranked flyweight contender Danny “The King” Kingad and #4-ranked Kairat “The Kazakh” Akhmetov is finally happening at ONE: WINTER WARRIORS II, which airs from the Singapore Indoor Stadium on Friday, 17 December.
Their first scheduled matchup was canceled when Akhmetov withdrew from the 2019 ONE Flyweight World Grand Prix semifinals due to an injury. Then, Kingad pulled out of their December 2020 bout after contracting COVID-19.
But the third time appears to be a charm, and the Filipino is excited to finally square off against the former divisional king.
“It’s been years. I’ve been wanting to face him for a long time,” Kingad says.
“Unfortunately, our match got canceled twice. Now, it’s a different kind of excitement for me. I’m facing someone I’ve always wanted to face.”
Kingad’s excitement is justifiable.
To date, the Team Lakay product has competed against every other top-five ranked flyweight mixed martial arts contender — albeit with varying results.
He defeated #3-ranked Yuya “Little Piranha” Wakamatsu and #5-ranked Reece “Lightning” McLaren. However, he fell short to #1-ranked Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson and reigning ONE Flyweight World Champion Adriano “Mikinho” Moraes — the latter in an unsuccessful 2017 World Title bid.
Against Akhmetov, he wants to prove that he’s ready for another crack at the gold.
However, the 26-year-old wushu specialist knows that defeating “The Kazakh” won’t be easy. He’s also aware of the solid all-around game his opponent brings to the Circle.
Akhmetov is a lifelong wrestler who won three Greco-Roman National Wrestling Championships in his homeland before making the switch to mixed martial arts in 2010. Since then, he’s racked up an impressive 27-2 slate in the all-encompassing sport and held the ONE Flyweight World Title.
Unfortunately, a back injury temporarily derailed the Arlan MMA Pro Team and Tiger Muay Thai representative’s momentum. But with three straight wins on his record, he’s returned to form thanks in part to his well-developed stand-up game – which was brilliantly displayed in wins over McLaren and “Holy Beast” Dae Hwan Kim.
Though Akhmetov has power in his hands, Kingad is confident in his own striking ability. And should “The Kazakh” choose to trade blows with him, the Filipino promises it will be a mistake.
“I noticed that his striking has been improving. I watched his last fight, and I got really excited because his improvement really impressed me,” the Team Lakay star says.
“He’s also said that he wants to strike with me, so I’m really motivated by that. I hope he knows that he’s facing a deadly striker.
“Maybe I’ll give him problems when we box. If he truly decides to strike with me, then he’s basically playing my game. That’s the match that I want, so I hope he knows what he wants.”
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Along with his stand-up game, “The King” believes the rest of his repertoire could frustrate Akhmetov and he has left no stone unturned in his preparation.
“I’ve been waiting for this. And make no mistake about it, I’m ready to go toe-to-toe with him. I’m ready wherever the match goes. It can be in striking or we can take it to the ground. I know I have a lot of weapons in store for him,” Kingad continues.
“I’m really not into saying or proclaiming things. I’m not a fan of people saying, ‘I’ll beat this guy,’ or whatnot because, in each match, your opponent is also preparing hard for you. Let’s just say I’m not afraid of him.
“I know that I have a lot of weapons at my disposal that I can use against him. I know for myself that I have worked hard and trained hard for this.”
If he manages to overcome “The Kazakh” on 17 December, then Kingad hopes he’ll earn a rematch with the man who handed him his first career defeat – Moraes. But even then, the flyweight contender is open to all challengers.
“I’m willing to fight whoever. I want to gain experience and learn from each match. In case I beat Akhmetov, I hope they finally give me Adriano. But whoever it is, I’ll be excited for it,” he says.
The Filipino has envisioned another battle with “Mikinho” for quite some time now. And if the opportunity comes to him again, “The King” feels he’ll be a more polished fighter the second time around.
“I have more weapons in my arsenal now. I have learned so much since I lost to Moraes, and I’ve been improving my weaknesses from that bout every day,” Kingad says.
“My teammates have also pushed me to develop new skills and showcase new stuff that I didn’t have in my last fight.”
Before “The King” settles unfinished business with his old foe though, he has to focus on the man standing in front of him at ONE: WINTER WARRIORS II because – like Kingad – Akhmetov also wants another crack at Moraes, who just so happened to snatch his belt away in 2017.
And it was that titleholder, the man who went 22-0 before securing ONE gold, who the Team Lakay standout has been eyeing for a long time.
“We’ve been preparing for this match since Akhmetov became the [ONE] Flyweight World Champion,” Kingad says. “I knew that we were bound to face each other, and it’s finally here.”