Timofey Nastyukhin is bracing himself for the most important bout of his mixed martial arts career.
He is scheduled to officially welcome American legend Eddie “The Underground King” Alvarez to ONE Championship on Sunday, 31 March.
The two knockout artists are set to collide in the last ONE Lightweight World Grand Prix quarter-final contest at ONE: A NEW ERA in Tokyo, Japan, and a victory over the four-time Lightweight Mixed Martial Arts World Champion would boost his career to a whole new level.
A win would also advance him to the semi-final round against Hawaiian grappler Lowen Tynanes.
“This is the biggest fight of my career so far,” the 29-year-old Russian acknowledges. “He is the most decorated fighter I’ve ever faced in my life.”
With less than four weeks until event night, Nastyukhin shares his thoughts on Alvarez, his prediction for the semi-final bout on the opposite side of the bracket, and more.
ONE Championship: When you heard Eddie Alvarez signed with ONE Championship, did you expect to be his first opponent?
Timofey Nastyukhin: I found out from ONE about the Grand Prix and the names of eight lightweight fighters who were going to take part in it.
Eddie was one of them and when I heard his name, for some reason my first thought was that we would be matched against each other in the first [quarter-final] fight, and that’s exactly what is going to happen on 31 March in Tokyo.
ONE: What are Eddie’s strongest points, and how is he different from your previous opponents?
TN: Alvarez has incredible experience, having performed so many times at the highest level of competition.
None of my previous opponents had comparable experience. None of them faced the opposition that Eddie has, so I think experience is his number one advantage.
He possesses another mighty weapon — his right hand, which is like a cannon. His takedowns and work against the cage are very good, too.
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ONE: How about his weaknesses?
TN: He might be a [multi-time] champion, however, he is not in his prime now. He is an older fighter.
Having said that, he is very dangerous because he is physically very strong and can pack a punch.
I don’t underestimate him. I am not going to talk about my game plan. I can assure you it won’t be a walk in the park for Eddie, though. I will show a strong opposition and a beautiful fight.
ONE: What do you believe are your keys to victory?
TN: My team and I found some keys to him, so I am training hard, doing my job, and hoping for the best.
Of course, I am motivated to win — otherwise, what is the point of even entering the cage? I believe I can win and I would never step into the cage thinking I might lose.
But at the end of the day, it’s all in God’s hands. I always have a chance. Who knows? I might be able to impose my tactics on him, or I might outstrike him and then maybe even finish in my trademark furious style. We’ll see.
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ONE: Finally, what are your thoughts about the semi-final bout between Saygid “Dagi” Guseyn Arslanaliev and Ariel “Tarzan” Sexton?
TN: I think Saygid is the favorite. He is much younger, he is explosive and fast, and he has both great striking and grappling.
“Tarzan” has only one chance — to move the fight on the ground and try one of his signature submissions. But frankly, I don’t think he is able to submit Saygid.