Yusup “Maestro” Saadulaev may be one of the most dangerous grapplers in ONE Championship’s bantamweight division, but on Friday, 18 December, he showcased a different facet of his game.
The #4-ranked bantamweight contender used his boxing to score a hard-earned unanimous decision win over the erstwhile unbeaten Troy “Pretty Boy” Worthen at ONE: COLLISION COURSE inside the Singapore Indoor Stadium.
Saadulaev started the match by moving forward with crisp jabs and scoring a body lock takedown that took the American by surprise. Worthen recovered by putting “Maestro” in his guard before springing to his feet.
Their separation didn’t last long, though. The two bantamweights soon found themselves in the clinch once again, where the Dagestani launched knees into the American’s stomach while Worthen countered with body punches.
With 90 seconds remaining in the opening stanza, both men separated and landed punches in the ensuing exchange. Worthen, however, was determined to work from within the clinch – though he ate an inadvertent knee to the groin near the end of the round.
At the start of round two, Worthen moved forward and Saadulaev loaded up on one-two combinations. But it wasn’t long before the pair of grapplers fell back into the clinch, where “Pretty Boy” pushed his rival to the Circle Wall.
After a brief exchange of knees and punches in the clinch, the referee separated both men and that worked in Saadulaev’s favor as he began to increase his output of combinations. The 35-year-old popped Worthen with a one-two and pestered the Sanford MMA standout with crisp jabs. Afterward, he repeatedly connected with left straights from the southpaw stance.
The American could only answer with a clinch, but he ate a knee to the body while “Maestro” hammered out a solid second round.
After struggling through the stand-up exchanges in the previous round, Worthen looked better on his feet in the final stanza. For instance, when Saadulaev tried to move forward, a short punch from Worthen was waiting for him. But the American’s success didn’t last long.
A wild exchange in the middle of the Circle ensued midway through the round, with Saadulaev picking his shots and connecting cleanly. Worthen changed gears and shot for a takedown, but the Dagestani sprawled and popped his foe with a straight left.
Now in his groove, Saadulaev threw surgical strikes, sticking his jab in Worthen’s face and throwing pinpoint accurate combos. Just to highlight his striking dominance, “Maestro” saved his best for last – he connected with a clean one-two that popped Worthen’s head back just before the final bell.
After three grueling rounds, the judges gave the unanimous decision victory to Saadulaev, who improved to 20-5-1 and kept a stronghold on his position in the ONE bantamweight rankings.