ONE Flyweight World Champion Adriano “Mikinho” Moraes reaffirmed his status as the division’s reigning king when he knocked out the MMA GOAT and #1-ranked contender, Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson, back in April.
Since then, the global fan base has wondered who the Brazilian star will defend his coveted belt against next. That same question has been on Moraes’ mind, and he believes it could be one of the remaining top-ranked contenders.
“The flyweight division in ONE Championship is so tough. There are a lot of killers in the division,” Moraes told Mitch Chilson during a recent Instagram Live session.
“Danny Kingad is another [strong] fighter right now. I have unfinished business against Kairat Akhmetov – you know, it’s 1-1, so you can do the big trilogy. I think he’s going to do good in the division.
“We have Yuya Wakamatsu, the Japanese guy. He was here in Florida training. I think he is excited to fight for the belt. He [has been doing] really good in the division, also.
“[And there’s] Reece McLaren. He’s an amazing guy [with] black belt jiu-jitsu. He’s a really good fighter. Yes, we have a lot of options.”
Indeed, all four of those athletes could pose a threat to the Brazilian’s historic reign, and any one of them would make for a fascinating storyline.
Danny “The King” Kingad, who holds down the #2 contender spot, has used his explosiveness, wushu striking, and endless cardio to build a 15-2 mixed martial arts record. Moraes is responsible for one of those losses, submitting the Filipino back in November 2017, but the Team Lakay star’s grappling has improved dramatically since then.
Right behind Kingad at #3 is Yuya “Little Piranha” Wakamatsu. The Japanese knockout artist holds a 14-4 slate and is riding a four-bout winning streak, which includes his most recent decision victory over #5-ranked Reece “Lightning” McLaren.
Following that big win, Wakamatsu went to train at Sanford MMA – the home of former two-division ONE World Champions Aung La “The Burmese Python” N Sang and Martin “The Situ-Asian” Nguyen – in hopes of challenging Moraes for the gold. At the very least, “Mikinho” would be testing his elite skills against a fresh face.
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Kairat “The Kazakh” Akhmetov is the division’s #4-ranked contender, and for good reason. Kazakhstan’s beloved multi-time Greco-Roman Wrestling Champion owns a 27-2 mixed martial arts record, which includes a split-decision victory over Moraes for the ONE Flyweight World Title in November 2015.
Akhmetov lost the belt in a rematch with the Brazilian nearly two years later, but he’s come on strong with a three-fight winning streak and could push for the long-awaited trilogy.
And while McLaren recently lost to Wakamatsu, the Australian submission specialist is known for breaking his opponents or pushing them to the limit. Moreover, he was scheduled to challenge “Mikinho” for the gold a few times in the past, but injuries prevented those bouts from happening.
Moraes believes all four are deserving of a ONE Flyweight World Title shot, and when Chilson asked him to size up the athletes in a mini-tournament to declare the next challenger, the Brazilian was excited to do some fantasy matchmaking.
“I would love to watch Kairat Akhemtov versus Yuya Wakamatsu and Danny Kingad against Reece McLaren because the first fight [in August 2019], for me, was too close,” Moraes said.
“For me, I really gave the fight to Reece McLaren that night, but the judges gave the fight to Danny Kingad, and I really want to see this fight again.”
Chilson then asked him to pick the winner of the two dream bouts.
“Mikinho” predicted the Kazakh warrior would defeat the Japanese knockout artist and that “Lightning” would beat Kingad in a rematch. And when it came to the tournament final between Akhmetov and McLaren, the flyweight king was confident in his answer.
“I think Kairat Akhmetov wins this,” Moraes said. “I think he wants this trilogy.”
Whether a mini-tournament to decide the Brazilian’s next challenger happens or not remains to be seen. In any case, it’s clear “Mikinho” is excited about the depth of talent in the flyweight division.