Rahul “The Kerala Krusher” Raju doesn’t want to be known as a dark horse in ONE Championship’s lightweight division, and he plans to deliver that message to the world on Friday, 9 October.
“I will break him as soon as possible,” Raju says. “People think that I am the underdog, but I think it will be easy work for me.”
That confidence stems from Raju’s recent outings, in which he produced a pair of dominant victories.
First, the 29-year-old submitted Filipino striker Richard “Notorious” Corminal via rear-naked choke with just seconds remaining in the opening stanza.
Raju, who owns a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu brown belt and has improved his boxing under Arvind Lalwani at Juggernaut Fight Club in Singapore, plans to utilize both his striking and grappling skills when he meets Khan in the Circle next Friday.
“I am going to mix it up,” he says. “I am going to push him from the start until he gives up – until I finish him. I think I’ll break him by the second round. Even if it goes on for three rounds, I am ready for it.”
While Raju is carrying plenty of confidence into this bout, there’s no doubt that Khan will be a game fighter.
The 25-year-old Khan is tied with lightweight king Christian “The Warrior” Lee for the most knockouts in ONE history (8), and he’s also scored submission victories over battle-hardened veteran Vaughn “The Spawn” Donayre and former ONE Featherweight World Champion Honorio “The Rock” Banario.
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But lately, the former ONE Lightweight World Title challenger has experienced a difficult spell, losing four of his last five bouts, including two to grapplers.
That could bode well for “The Kerala Krusher,” who has a less than favorable view of Khan’s BJJ acumen.
“Khan’s strength is his striking. His striking abilities are very good. He’s good in every kind of striking, be it Muay Thai style or mixed martial arts. He’s a very smart fighter, too,” Raju acknowledges.
“[But] I think his weaknesses are probably his cardio and his grappling. I know he has won bouts by submission, but I am not too pleased with his grappling skills.”
A third consecutive victory, especially over a former ONE World Title challenger and record-holder in Khan, would be huge for Raju on both personal and cultural levels.
“The Kerala Krusher” wants to move closer to a ONE Lightweight World Championship opportunity, but he also wants to help elevate the growing mixed martial arts movement in India alongside compatriots Arjan “Singh” Bhullar, Ritu “The Indian Tigress” Phogat, and Gurdarshan “Saint Lion” Mangat.
“I am 100 percent certain that I can beat him. There’s no doubt about that,” Raju says.
“This win would mean a lot to me. I want this win. I am desperate for this win. I can’t express in words how much this win will mean for me.
“Also, I believe that this win would get huge coverage. So, this would definitely put the Indian mixed martial arts scene on the map.”