With the somewhat shocking departure of former UFC champions Eddie Alvarez and Demetrious Johnson to ONE Championship, it was a matter of time before we found out what was in store for them in their new home.
As it turns out, we didn’t have to wait that long. Ahead of its Singapore card this weekend, ONE has announced that they will be holding two 8-man tournaments in both their lightweight and flyweight divisions. The tournaments were announced via social media, and have a lot of potential for action.
As indicated from the video, the lightweight field includes the following:
Former Bellator/UFC champion Eddie Alvarez (29-6, 1 no contest) is coming fresh off a loss to Dustin Poirier in July, but still has the Underground King cred. With a penchant for action fights, he managed to defeat Gilbert Melendez, Anthony Pettis, Rafael dos Anjos and handed Justin Gaethje his first professional loss during his UFC run. His inclusion is compelling not only due to his pedigree and who’s who of opponents, but the fact that it sets up a potential rematch against former foe Shinya Aoki (42-8). Aoki’s on a sensational three-fight win streak in which he’s finished all his opponents. Two of those were submissions, and they were the kind of fun that shows that he’s still got it.
Also in the tournament was Aoki’s last opponent, New Zealand transplant Ev Ting (16-5). Despite losses against Eduard Folayang, Mark Striegl, and Marat Gafurov, he had an impressive string of victories over ONE mainstays Eric Kelly and Honorio Banario, as well as Aussie Rob Lisita and former WEC and UFC fighter Kamal Shalorus.
While we’re playing six degrees of Kevin Bacon, Eduard Folayang (20-6) is also in the tournament. A fighter that’s been in ONE since 2012, Folayang has gone 9-5 under the ONE Championship banner. He’s racked up some good wins over Vuyusile Colossa, A Sol Kwon, Felipe Enomoto, Kotetsu Boku and Shinya Aoki, to bring us all full-circle.
Also included will be Timofey Nastyukhin (12-4), a talented Russian that spends time at Tiger Muay Thai. He holds wins over Yusuke Kawanago and Rob Lisita, along with Folayang and Japan’s Koji Ando. Funny enough, he also defeated Singapore’s Amir Khan (11-3), who racked back to back wins after the loss to Nasyukhin - a submission against Honorio Banario and a win over Sung Jong Lee with ground strikes.
Saygid Guseyn Arslanaliev (6-1) is a fighter most fans may not be familiar with, but the Turk affectionately known as “Dagi“ is a certified finisher. None of his wins have gone to a decision. His wins include this lovely armbar against Tetsuya Yamada, as well as his last win - a beating against the fence against Timofey Nastyukhin this past September.
Finally, Canadian Ariel Sexton (12-4) rounds out the field. A former Ultimate Fighter contestant (season 12), he moved on to have wins over Roger Huerta in 2016 and a surreal submission over Kota Shimoishi this past July. His last loss was to Ev Ting this past February.
The flyweight picture is also impressive, with some fast and dynamic athletes.
Demetrious Johnson says he was made an offer he couldn’t refuse, and was an obvious choice to be in the tourney. But current ONE flyweight champ Geje Eustaquio (11-6) is also in the fray, having back to back wins against Adriano Moraes and Kairat Akhmetov, whom he defeated via decision in his bid for the interim title in June. He also defeated Gianni Subba in 2016.
Adriano Moraes (17-3) has got a ton of submissions on his record, with some early finishes due to strikes. Moraes is 1-1 against Eustaquio, 1-1 against Kairat Akhmetov, while also holding a win over former UFC talent Yasuhiro Urishitani and current ONE contender Danny Kingad. Speaking of Kingad (10-1), he’ll possibly also get a chance at redemption here. With a current run of three consecutive wins, he’s had some fun performances like his last win over Pancrase vet Yuya Wakamatsu.
Kairat Akhmetov (25-2) racked up some finishes on his native Kazakh regional turf, but has been mostly winning by decision as of late. His last fight was a decision win against Hao Bin Ma in September.
The final spot goes to Reece McLaren (12-5), who despite losses to Ben Nguyen, Kevin Belingon and the untouchable Bibiano Fernandes, has an impressive submission win over Subba, and another great win over veteran Mark Striegl.
No dates have been announced yet, but everything is aimed at kicking off both tournaments in early 2019.