Plenty of fans thought the Russian had a chance to win, but most probably expected the American mixed martial arts icon to have too much skill and veteran experience in the Circle.
Timofey Nastyukhin SHOCKS THE ! The Russian warrior knocks out Eddie Alvarez at 4:05 of Round 1 to advance in the ONE Lightweight World Grand Prix!Watch the full event on the ONE Super App http://bit.ly/ONESuperApp | TV: Check local listings for global broadcast
Posted by ONE Championship on Sunday, March 31, 2019
However, when the two athletes faced off in the ONE Lightweight World Grand Prix at ONE: A NEW ERA, Nastyukhin’s power was the great equalizer, as he stunned Alvarez, and the world, with an incredible finish.
Now safely through the first stage of ONE Championship’s epic tournament, he can look forward to a match against Lowen Tynanes with a place in the final at stake.
Fresh off the biggest win of his career – and a $50,000 prize for the performance of the night – Nastyukhin reveals how he pulled off the shock of the year so far, and his predictions for the rest of the World Grand Prix.
ONE Championship: Did you feel any extra pressure preparing for the strongest opponent of your career?
Timofey Nastyukhin: Not really. Of course, there were some nerves as usual and a bit of doubt, but I tried and put these thoughts aside.
When I saw him face-to-face, I just felt that massive urge to jump into the cage and fight him. I knew I was ready and I did my best in the run-up to the fight.
If you don’t expect to win, what’s the point of fighting at all? I always say the same – it never matters who is in front of you, your state of mind and your preparation are so important.
ONE: What did you do to prepare for this contest?
TN: I trained with my friends at Raty MMA in Russia and with my brilliant sparring partner Andrei Koshkin at Tiger Muay Thai in Phuket. We made a plan, we put in work, so I just had to follow it and hope for the best.
I prayed before entering the cage. Everything was in God’s hands, and that night, God let me win.
ONE: What was the game plan, and did it play out in the ONE Circle?
TN: We analyzed Eddie’s style before the fight. We expected him to put a lot of pressure on me from the start.
We knew he likes to move forward, work double jabs followed by the right overhand, push opponents against the cage, and look for ways to transition to the ground from there.
My guess is that his corner advised him to change his style, to surprise me. It looked like he started off slowly, trying to get the feel of the cage and my behavior.
Unfortunately for him, that meant he played my game, letting me do what I do best – close the distance and strike. He didn’t put pressure on me, he was happy to stay in defense, he gave me the center, and that’s all I needed.
He changed his typical style, but that was a real gift for me, it allowed me to showcase my best skills. I was given a great chance, and I used it. I hit Eddie with a heavy right, and I saw that he started stepping back. My instincts kicked in and I finished him.
ONE: How did you feel when the referee stepped in to stop the match?
TN: I was absolutely overwhelmed with emotions – that’s why all the spectators saw me going crazy in the cage!
I won via KO, in my signature dominant style, and I didn’t allow my opponent to do much. Even though I almost brainwashed myself that I would win, I didn’t expect it to happen like this, so after the fight, I was psyched.
Had I won after three rounds, it wouldn’t have been the same. When I calmed down, and it finally dawned on me that I had won the most important fight of my career, it was an incredible feeling.
ONE: Did you feel overwhelmed with the reaction from fans and media across the planet?
TN: I didn’t feel like a new superstar or anything like that, but people’s response was a bit overwhelming.
Never before have I had so many messages from all over the world, where people showed their admiration and appreciation of my work. I got many new followers on social media, too.
ONE: Were you surprised that ONE Chairman and CEO Chatri Sityodtong awarded you a $50,000 bonus for your performance?
TN: To be honest, I was shocked. It means a lot to me – I can pay off my mortgage now, which is a relief.
After my fight, Chatri came up to me and told his assistants to sign me a cheque for performance of the night, even though there were many important fights ahead of me.
I was given papers to sign and saw an extra $50,000 added to my payment – that felt really good!
ONE: What are your thoughts about your next match with Lowen Tynanes?
TN: I saw Lowen fighting Kuat Khamitov back in 2015. He is a worthy opponent for me.
He is a very strong guy with great wrestling technique and strong punches, and he can command very good control on the ground. It will be a hard fight for me, and I will be pleased to share the cage with him.
ONE: If you win that contest, you will face either Ariel Sexton or Saygid Guseyn Arslanaliev. Who do you think it will be?
TN: If everything goes well, I hope to make it to the finals, though it is premature to talk about it now.
I think Saygid will defeat the American fighter. We might meet for a rematch, which I would anticipate with great pleasure. I would love to fight Saygid again.