ONE Featherweight World Champion Martin “The Situ-Asian” Nguyen (9-1) is looking to deliver his greatest hit yet.
The 28-year-old Vietnamese Australian will challenge ONE Lightweight World Champion Eduard “Landslide” Folayang for the Filipino hero’s belt at ONE: LEGENDS OF THE WORLD on Friday, 10 November. The championship super bout will headline the event, which broadcasts live from the Mall Of Asia Arena in Manila, Philippines.
Nguyen has an opportunity to make history, as he can become the first martial artist in ONE Championship’s history to become a two-division champion. He possesses the talent to accomplish that goal and, as his 100 per cent finishing record.
Here are Nguyen’s four most memorable finishes in ONE Champion, as told through the eyes of the reigning featherweight champion himself.
The TKO Of Li Kai Wen
The war truly raged on once the bell rang, when Li suplexed Nguyen and connected with a spinning back elbow. Nearly a minute later, he dropped “The Situ-Asian” with a cross and left hook, and charged with a knee to the chin.
Fortunately, Nguyen was able to recover, dragging Li to the ground with a single leg takedown before going to work with his ground-and-pound. The hurt Li rolled to his side, which allowed Nguyen to take his back and throw more strikes until the referee stopped the contest.
“This was a ‘fat-kid-loves-cake’ type of bout,” Nguyen states. “He came out strong. I did not expect him to be as quick and as strong as he was. I kind of underestimated him. It took a punch or two for me to realize that this guy was here to win. The switch came on late, but once it did, it was pretty entertaining.”
Choking Out Christian Lee
Lee, an Evolve MMA representative, was an undefeated teenage prodigy who had dispatched five consecutive opponents in the first round. He was on a meteoric rise, and many thought he was the favorite heading into the bout with “The Situ-Asian.”
“When I arrived in Macao, I did not think anything of it. I was just another underdog. Then, I started reading the articles,” Nguyen admits. “I read one he did and it was like: ‘This guy thinks he is going to walk through me and demolish me.’ It felt demoralizing.
“Like, ’I have been in this game longer than you.’ And everyone was saying how he would walk through me, and how quick he is and how strong he is. I thought these people were crazy, and I was going to shut these people up.”
The Aussie was going to let his fists do the talking, and sure enough, they did. He got the better of the stand-up exchanges in his match with Lee.
While there was a point where “The Warrior” seemingly clipped him, Nguyen responded with one of his infamous left hooks, which stunned his nemesis. From there, he clasped on a modified guillotine choke and put his rival to sleep.
“I was so focused, razor-sharp focused,” Nguyen recalls.” I was not going to let anything slip. I told my striking coach that I am going to stand there and bang with this guy and beat him to every punch, and that is what I did.
“I felt like I started getting attention after that match, but it is what it is. I am not in this for attention, I am in it to win it.”
Knocking Out Kazunori Yokota
In January 2017, Nguyen drew a stiff test in Kazunori Yokota, a former featherweight world title challenger and multi-divisional DEEP Champion.
The Japanese native was a highly-respected judoka who had the striking ability to match. Again, the Aussie was viewed as the underdog, but again, he and his team were confident.
“When that bout was offered, everyone said to be careful. But I said: ‘This guy is human and I am going to continue the same training camp as what we previously had. I will execute the same plan.’
“My team and I saw some flaws, but maybe the flaws we saw were him being normal — like hands down, long jab, no head movement and big punches. So I just had to watch out for the big punches, move my head, slip and counter.”
Hours before ONE: QUEST FOR POWER went live, he saw his rival warming up inside the cage and his confidence soared.
“When I was getting my hands wrapped, I saw him in the cage with three of his teammates. They were trying to take him down,” he recalls. “I looked at my coach like, This guy thinks I am going to take him down, but I am not. I am here to knock his head off and test his chin.”
That is exactly what he did. The two engaged in a stand-up war, but Nguyen patiently picked his shots, and eventually crushed his Japanese opponent with the signature overhand right.
Yokota crumpled to the ground, and was unable to defend the Aussie’s ground-and-pound onslaught, which forced the ref to wave the bout off. That earned him the title rematch against Gafurov, which he was so desperately seeking.
Landing That Overhand Right On Gafurov
After nearly two years, Nguyen received the opportunity to avenge his only loss. He challenged then-undefeated ONE Featherweight World Champion Marat “Cobra” Gafurov for the title at ONE: QUEST FOR GREATNESS in August 2017.
Unlike their previous encounter, where he mere days’ notice to prepare, the Australian underdog entered the cage with a solid eight-week training camp. He was fully prepared for the seemingly-unstoppable Dagestani grappler and his devastating rear-naked choke submission.
Only 45 seconds into the bout, Gafurov tested Nguyen’s preparation. He took the Vietnamese Australian down, and secured a body triangle before attempting his patented rear-naked choke.
“It was like deja vu all over again,” said Nguyen. However, instead of losing his composure, he remained calm and remembered everything he worked on during training camp.
“It was all about being patient, and confident about getting out of that position,” the Aussie said. “It was muscle memory at the end of the day, so when he had my back, I was not panicking.”
“The Situ-Asian” escaped and got back to his feet. Gafurov kept going for the takedown, but the challenger kept escaping and standing back up. Finally in the second round, when “Cobra” dropped his guard to deliver a left leg kick, Nguyen responded with his trademark overhand right and knocked out the Dagestani.
“It was a perfect hit. A perfectly-timed punch, and it put him out,” Nguyen said. “If you watch the whole match, every time he threw the left leg, whether it was an inside kick or roundhouse kick, the hand is always down. We noticed that, and it was a matter of time before we landed that overhand.”
Just like that, Nguyen avenged his only loss and won the ONE Featherweight World Championship.