Given his recent run of excellence, Yuya “Little Piranha” Wakamatsu hoped to challenge for the ONE Lightweight World Title in his next bout. But first, the #3-ranked contender will take a risky detour on his road to the gold.
This Friday, 3 December, the Japanese knockout artist will collide with Chinese upstart “Wolf Warrior” Hu Yong in the opening contest of ONE: WINTER WARRIORS, which broadcasts live from the Singapore Indoor Stadium.
Over the past two years, Wakamatsu has looked exceptional on the global stage.
The Tokyo native has put together an impressive four-bout winning streak, pushing his career record to 14-4. That streak includes a massive first-round knockout of former flyweight king Geje “Gravity” Eustaquio and a brilliant three-round decision over #5-ranked lightweight Reece “Lightning” McLaren.
Another victory would keep Wakamatsu as the favorite to challenge reigning king Adriano “Mikinho” Moraes, but “Wolf Warrior” is looking to make a name for himself against the Japanese star.
Hu has already proven to be dangerous. Following a brilliant stint in ONE Hero Series China, he stopped the meteoric rise of Yodkaikaew “Y2K” Fairtex in his big-show debut this past March, putting himself on a five-fight winning streak.
If he can do the same to “Little Piranha” in Singapore, he would surely break into the ONE Athlete Rankings and continues his own journey toward the flyweight king’s crown.
As event week begins, Wakamatsu talks about his training experience with ONE superstar Aung La N Sang in the United States, details his risky fight against Hu with a World Title shot hanging in the balance, predicts who will win the ONE Women’s Atomweight World Grand Prix Championship Final, and much more.
ONE Championship: About six months ago, you went to Sanford MMA to train with Aung La N Sang and many other world-class athletes. What was that experience like?
Yuya Wakamatsu: I trained, rested, took videos of my techniques, and looked back at them. Every day, I trained and rested and repeated that. It was like a fight week for a fight that lasted for a month. I learned a lot of defenses and attitudes for a fight. Some guys pointed out to me that I can improve my defensive skills more, so I decided to put my effort on that.
ONE: Did you develop a friendship with Aung La N Sang? What did you guys do?
YW: I went out to dinner with him a few times, and he talked to me when we met in the gym. I cannot speak English well, so we didn’t talk about anything complicated, but I got along with him.
ONE: You were expected to fight flyweight king Adriano Moraes at one point, but ultimately, that match didn’t pan out. What are your thoughts about that?
YM: It is what it is. It can’t be helped, and I think [the World Title match] will come sooner or later. If I lose this time, I think it won’t happen. I think it’s the trend of the times, or maybe it’s fate that it wasn’t arranged yet. There’s nothing I can say about that. I just haven’t thought too much about it. At least I have a fight.
ONE: So why decide to fight Hu Yong instead of holding out for the World Title shot?
YM: I’ve only had one fight this year, and it’s my job to fight as a fighter. So if I’m arranged with someone from ONE, I just do it.
ONE: By fighting Hu now, do you feel there is more risk than reward?
YM: All risk is risk. It doesn’t matter who you fight with, it’s the same. At any rate, I’m concentrating on it.
ONE: Let’s talk a little bit about Hu Yong. What do you feel are his strengths and weaknesses?
YM: His strength is his sanda-style of striking. However, it’s not a beautiful style of striking, and he strikes with all his might, which I think is dangerous. Also, he comes forward, so that is his strength.
His weakness is his defense. I think he considers himself to be able to take a lot of hits. Also, I think he is not that accurate with his techniques.
ONE: What are the most dangerous techniques in Hu’s skill set?
YM: Left and right hooks. I think his left and right punches, especially his right hook and right straight – they are very accurate.
ONE: Ideally, how do you want this fight to end?
YM: I won’t let him do anything to me. I won’t allow him to outstrike me, and that’s when his light will just turn off, and the fight will be over. I want to thoroughly dominate and beat him for three rounds.
YM: I think Stamp will win. I think Ritu won’t get the takedown and will end up getting smashed up by [Stamp’s] striking. I think the quality of Phogat’s striking and Stamp’s are different, as far as I can tell.
YM: This is the one I wanted to watch the most. It’s super hard to predict. In my opinion, I think Kairat is stronger. He won’t be taken down, and the fight will go to the striking match. I think it will be a scramble and a close fight. Kairat has a very strong takedown defense. I think Kairat will win by decision. I feel bad for Kingad, though.
Read more: 5 Reasons To Watch ONE: WINTER WARRIORS