One of ONE Championship’s action MVPs will finally return to the Circle this Friday, 6 November, as Timofey Nastyukhin gloves up for a high-stakes encounter at the previously recorded ONE: INSIDE THE MATRIX II.
That evening, the Russian knockout artist will face #3-ranked lightweight contender Pieter “The Archangel” Buist in a battle of striking specialists that could thrust the winner into a ONE Lightweight World Title fight with the division’s reigning king, Christian “The Warrior” Lee.
Nastyukhin has been forced to wait on the sidelines for more than 18 months since his mind-blowing knockout of mixed martial arts icon “The Underground King” Eddie Alvarez, but he believes the long layoff has largely been beneficial.
Following his first-round TKO of Alvarez, the Russian powerhouse was due to compete in the semifinals of the ONE Lightweight World Grand Prix in August 2019. But just days before the event, he suffered a serious injury to the medial collateral ligament (MCL) in his right knee.
“On the last week of preparation for Banario, I tore my knee ligaments and had to move [from Thailand] to Russia for surgery,” Nastyukhin reveals.
“It was done very well, and I got back to training after three months. Actually, I have been ready to fight since January.”
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Like the rest of the ONE roster, Nastyukhin’s plans for a comeback were put on ice due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Though he was disappointed not to build on his career-defining victory, the man from Novokuznetsk gained the opportunity to recover while enjoying quality time with his wife and baby daughter.
“I spent much time with my family and took some rest. My body recovered completely,” Nastyukhin says.
“You can find positive things even during an injury. Now I am ready to get back. I am hungry and healthy.”
With ONE Championship resuming its flagship event schedule, Nastyukhin’s all-action style and status as the #4-ranked lightweight contender meant he was a shoo-in to take a spot on one of the stacked INSIDE THE MATRIX cards in Singapore.
Furthermore, the 30-year-old’s matchup with Buist all but guarantees excitement.
The Dutchman, who enters the contest with a 13-centimeter height advantage, has produced three thrilling wins on the global stage, including a decision victory following a back-and-forth 15 minutes against Eduard “Landslide” Folayang in January.
Buist’s success has come courtesy of his striking skills, and although many opponents have regretted banging it out on the feet with Nastyukhin, he expects to trade with “The Archangel.”
“One hundred percent. His plan will be to keep the fight on the feet,” the Russian says.
Though Nastyukhin’s aggressive striking has given him iconic victories against Folayang and Alvarez – as well as the fastest KO in ONE history – he does not expect an easy night against Buist.
“My opponent is a good striker at range, and he has good kicks, knees, and good timing,” he says of Buist.
“His fight with Folayang was close, but it went as Buist wanted it to, and he managed to get the victory.
“I studied him and worked a lot with tall sparring partners. I worked a lot in Dagestan with different sparring partners [with a similar style to Buist]. His timing, reach, and striking experience are his strong points. I shall be very attentive to them.”
Despite his predilection for causing mayhem in the Circle, Nastyukhin insists he’ll have to be more strategic to solve the puzzles that Buist presents.
“I never give a prediction on results, but it will be a smart fight, a chess match. Both of us will be waiting for mistakes,” the Russian says.
Of course, a cerebral approach from the Russian should not rule out the chances for a sudden end to Friday’s proceedings.
If he’s given a window to attack, there’s no doubt that Nastyukhin’s aggression, speed, and elite power could lead to checkmate in the blink of an eye. And if that happens, it could pave the way to a ONE Lightweight World Title opportunity.
Read more: Timofey Nastyukhin Remembers His Favorite KO