Former ONE Flyweight World Title challenger Danny “The King” Kingad wanted to set the tone for his best friend Joshua Pacio’s main-event World Title rematch later in the evening, and he succeeded in his mission.
The 22-year-old Filipino overcame a spirited effort from promotional newcomer Yuya “Little Piranha” Wakamatsu, and defeated the Japanese debutant via unanimous decision at ONE: CONQUEST OF HEROES, which took place in Jakarta, Indonesia, on Saturday, 22 September.
Kingad, a Philippine national wushu champion, would have to deal with Wakamatsu’s boxing in the first round, as the Japanese standout made his power known early.
The Pancrase Flyweight Tournament Champion looked for a quick finish, as he unleashed explosive boxing combinations that kept the Baguio City, Philippines native hesitant to engage.
A lightning-quick right hand dropped “The King” midway through the stanza. Once the Filipino stalwart was able to shake off the cobwebs, however, he proceeded to hunt for the takedown.
He finally succeeded in bringing the contest to the ground, and as soon as his 23-year-old Japanese rival tried scrambling back to his feet, Kingad grabbed his back and rolled into a rear-naked choke attempt. Though it looked grim for a moment, Wakamatsu escaped to cap off a thrilling opening stanza.
In the second stanza, Kingad knew he had to find a way to nullify Wakamatsu’s dangerous hands, and he wisely resorted to utilizing Team Lakay’s brand of wushu kicks to slow down his opponent.
A thudding spinning back kick sent “Little Piranha” flying halfway across the cage. Kingad followed it up with a successful takedown, but his foe was able to pop back up to his feet almost instantly.
Although the Japanese athlete’s knockout power remained a constant threat, the big story was Kingad’s strategic focus on a side kick to his opponent’s lead knee.
At one point, Wakamatsu’s legs appeared to have buckled beneath him, as the Baguio City bruiser connected with a powerful strike right on the money.
The third and final round was all Kingad, who took control of the flyweight match-up by consistently attacking the lead leg and hitting a plethora of successful takedown attempts.
While “Little Piranha” hid the discomfort in his left knee from plain sight, he slowed down considerably and lacked the pop that made him stand out in the earlier frames.
“The King” began to tee off, and towards the end of the stanza he scored on another takedown, took Wakamatsu’s back, and tried threatening with another submission.
However, Wakamatsu was never in any real danger. In fact, he would escape to his feet, and he finished the bout standing over Kingad and raining down punches.
Despite his best efforts, it was too little, too late. The Filipino had done enough to earn a unanimous decision.
Kingad’s strategic attack saw him pass a tough test to move to 11-1. Most of all, he impressed with such a huge comeback against a dangerous opponent.