The heavy-hitting mixed martial artists bring power and intensity into every battle, which means their highly anticipated rematch at ONE: WINTER WARRIORS this Friday, 3 December, is a guaranteed barn burner.
It’s been three years since their fast and furious battle at ONE: CONQUEST OF HEROES – where “Dagi” walked away with a stunning first-round knockout – and the landscape has changed greatly since then.
Before their next meeting at the Singapore Indoor Stadium, let’s break down what these contenders have done since their first matchup – and what makes this rematch so intriguing.
The 2019 ONE Lightweight World Grand Prix
Following Arslanaliev’s first-round stoppage of Nastyukhin, both men entered the ONE Lightweight World Grand Prix, which featured eight of the division’s top contenders.
“Dagi” continued his impressive run of form in the opening round, as he needed just 25 seconds to knock out Ev “E.T.” Ting at ONE: CALL TO GREATNESS in February 2019.
Meanwhile, Nastyukhin got back to winning ways in style with one of the biggest upsets in ONE history. The powerful Russian finished American icon Eddie “The Underground King” Alvarez with a relentless barrage of punches in his first Grand Prix outing at ONE: A NEW ERA in March 2019.
In May of the same year, Arslanaliev punched his ticket to the ONE Lightweight World Grand Prix Championship Final by recording another incredible first-round KO, this time over Amir Khan at ONE: ENTER THE DRAGON.
Unfortunately for Nastyukhin, his tournament hopes were dashed by a serious knee injury that forced him out of the semifinals. As a result, Alvarez re-entered the bracket and defeated former lightweight king Eduard “Landslide” Folayang to reach the final.
However, there was even more drama to come.
Just weeks before the final, Alvarez withdrew due to his own injury. In stepped Christian “The Warrior” Lee, who had just knocked out Shinya “Tobikan Judan” Aoki to capture the ONE Lightweight World Title.
With that, the Grand Prix final was set. Arslanaliev was hoping to win the tournament’s silver belt against the lightweight king himself, while “The Warrior” was looking to become the dominant force in his weight class by adding the silver strap to his World Championship gold.
‘Dagi’ Snaps His Streak
Overall, 2019 was a tumultuous year in the lightweight ranks, but the final match of the electrifying World Grand Prix brought some feeling of finality to the division.
It pitted ONE Lightweight World Champion Lee against dangerous contender Arslanaliev in a bout for the World Grand Prix silver belt at ONE: CENTURY in October.
With a four-bout winning streak and his only career defeat coming via disqualification, Arslanaliev felt like he could go all the way – but a sublime performance from “The Warrior” diffused the Turk’s explosiveness.
Lee used his excellent wrestling and ground game to subdue the former BJJ Champion, scored a dominant decision victory to grab the silver belt, and cemented himself as the unquestioned top dog at lightweight.
Nastyukhin Rises Again To Earn World Title Shot
After a lengthy absence to rehabilitate his injury, Nastyukhin returned to the Circle in November 2020 against Pieter “The Archangel” Buist at ONE: INSIDE THE MATRIX II to decide the top lightweight contender.
The Tiger Muay Thai and Russian Top Team athlete combined powerful punches with takedowns and dominated Buist to score a unanimous decision win. That victory set up a showdown with divisional kingpin Lee, but this time, Nastyukhin’s aggressive style proved to be his downfall.
After charging at Lee in their World Title contest at “ONE on TNT II” this past April, the Russian was clipped with a counter hook. His hopes of winning the belt then went up in smoke as “The Warrior” sealed the deal with a rapid flurry of strikes.
The Post-Lee Landscape
Arslanaliev and Nastukhin both lost to Lee in their last outing, but they want to put that behind them, work their way back up the ladder, and challenge the man who recently dethroned “The Warrior” – new ONE Lightweight World Champion Ok Rae Yoon.
Going up against each other will give them the perfect opportunity to prove they’re still a World Title threat. A victory – especially an emphatic one – would have massive implications for the lightweight division’s upper echelon.
Arslanaliev is eager to get back to work and add more wins to his 8-2 record, while his Russian rival is fueled by a chance at redemption.
And with 19 finishes among their 22 combined career victories, these two mixed martial artists rarely leave anything to the judges. Fans can certainly expect them to go all out in Friday’s pivotal rematch.