In a matchup between a pair of One Championships elite lightweights, Lee vs Nastyukhin promises to be something truly special. Christian Lee is ONE’s current Lightweight champion and has looked near unstoppable as of late. However, Nastyukhin is coming off back-to-back wins over high-level opposition and could well be Lee’s toughest test to date.
Christian ‘The Warrior’ Lee – 14-3
Unbeleiveablely still only 22 years old, Christian Lee is already one of the current elite lightweights in modern MMA. The Singaporean knockout artist has racked up wins over some of ONE Championship’s highest level 155er’s, including the likes of Iuri Lapicus and Shinya Aoki.
What truly stands out when watching Lee fight, is just how well-rounded a fighter he is. He follows the mold of this apparent ‘new breed’ of modern mixed martial artist, similar to fighters such as Cory Sandhagen and Usman Nurmagomedov. Skilled strikers who are more than happy to go 5 rounds on the feet. However, they are equally happy to bring the fight to the mat and engage in grappling exchanges.
When on the attack, Lee truly lives up to his nickname ‘The Warrior.’ He is pure explosive energy, driving forward with flurries of strikes. Many of Lee’s opponents attempt to nullify this aggressive assault by either clinching up or shooting for a takedown. However, as mentioned above, this will make little difference to Lee. Edward Kelly clinched up as soon as Lee started throwing heat. However, ‘The Warrior’ simply cinched up a front headlock to snap Kelly down to the mat. From there he transitioned to an anaconda submission, allowing him to move into full mount. From there, vicious ground and pound led to the referee stoppage.
However, Martin Nguyen, who has defeated Lee twice, had great success with rear hand counters. Lee’s explosivity makes him reckless at times. After appearing to hurt Nguyen early in their first bout, Lee started swinging wildly in an attempt to finish the fight. Nguyen capitalized on this recklessness, catching Lee with a counter hook and dropping him.
Timofey Nastyukhin – 14-4
Conor McGregor, Dustin Poirier, Nick Thompson, Timofey Nastyukhin. The only 4 men on the planet who can say they knocked out ‘The Underground King,’ Eddie Alvarez. This is testimony to Nastyyukhin’s power and skill, especially when considering Poirier and McGregor were Alvarez’s only losses since 2015.
Nastyukhin is a knockout artist. Of his 14 victories, 7 have come by way of first-round (T)KO finish, including the aforementioned Alvarez win. Every punch he throws appears to be done so with bad intentions. Whilst always being light on his feet, Nastyukhin often stands relatively stationary for extended periods. However, he will periodically attack with two or three punch combinations, often with heavy hooks or overhands. Should he fail to rock his opponent he will then step back to a safe distance.
He is also adept at countering. Whilst not having the clean-cut straight counters that a fighter like Martin Nguyen employs, Nastyukhin will plant his feet and swing counter hooks with enough power to hurt any man. This is exactly what led to Eddie Alvarez’s demise in their fight.
However, Nastyukhin’s weakness is relatively clear to see. He is an excellent striker but often suffers in the grappling department. 2 of his 4 losses have come by way of submission. And whilst his most recent loss was by way of KO, it was the grappling exchanges that forced him into a compromised situation, that led to the finish.
In many ways, these two lightweights seem tailor-made to face one another. There is a strong argument to be made that Nastyukhin is ONE’s hardest-hitting fighter in the lightweight division. This paired with his ability to counter strike is undeniably an intimidating challenge for Lee. However, Lee has the ability to dominate the fight on the mat, should he choose to bring there.
Martin Nguyen proved that Lee can be hurt and dropped. Lee being the fighter he is, will bring a high tempo and level of pressure to this championship bout. Thus it would be logical to believe Nastyukhin’s route to victory could well come by way of catching Lee as he blitzes forward. If Nastyukhin is able to take away Lee’s high output of strikes, he will be able to start asserting his own dominance over the fight. However, Nastyukhin’s counters do lack the finesse of Nguyen’s. This fact, combined with Lee’s excellent striking could create some unique battles on the feet.
This is of course presuming the fight will stay on the feet. Whilst Lee does favour striking exchanges, he is lethal on the ground. This is of course a realm of MMA that Nastyukhin has historically struggled with. Should Lee get the fight to the mat, his ability to retain top position and rain down heavy shots could put Nastyukhin in a world of trouble.
ONE on TNT II
ONE Championship’s second venture with TNT takes place on April 14, 8:30 EDT. The fight card will be headlined by Christian Lee, who will attempt to defend his lightweight title against Timofey Nastyukhin. Also on this card, USA’s Janet Todd faces Norway’s Anne Line Hogstad in an atomweight muay Thai bout.