Sydney’s Martin Nguyen shocked the world on Friday night when he became Australia’s first One Championship world champion. After having an initial slow start in round one, Nguyen overcame the odds to finish previously undefeated Russian Marat Gafurov in the second round of the much anticipated featherweight title rematch.
Gafurov had a very strong first round, showing versatility in both his striking and grappling, earning the takedown on multiple occasions. The Russian was able to pin down the Aussie and rain down heavy ground and pound, while also staying active with his submission attempts. Nguyen looked to be a completely different fighter from his last showing against Gafurov back in 2015. The Aussie was able fight out of the tough positions on the ground and defend against Gafurov’s legendary ground game offense. Nguyen scrambled back onto his feet relatively easily on a number of occasions when he was dragged down to the canvas and surprisingly even attempted and achieved takedowns of his own.
Constant switching of stances and leg-kicks from Nguyen kept Gafurov guessing in round two. Gaforov dove in for the takedown early on, however Nguyen worked nicely back to his feet. While in the clinch, Gafurov was active with knees until Nguyen was able to separate and and opt to keep the fight standing. A perfectly timed counter overhand right by Nguyen dropped Gafurov heavily and it was all but over, Nguyen then followed up with vicious ground and pound forcing the referee to stop the fight at 1:27 of the frame.
With the victory, Nguyen now takes his record to 9-1, earns redemption, and is crowned the new One featherweight world champion. Gafurov (15-1), meanwhile, is handed his first career loss with the result.
With an INCREDIBLE KO finish, Martin Nguyen is your new ONE Featherweight World Champion!
Posted by ONE Championship on Friday, August 18, 2017
In the co-main event of the night, former lightweight title challenger Ev Ting made a statement over former champion Nobutatsu Suzuki. Ting tried for the takedown early on, but Suzuki was able to defend well. The two combatants went toe to toe in the stand up exchanges. Ting was very light on his feet, but powerful in his strikes. The Kiwi connected with a cartwheel kick, and then followed with a flurry of strikes. Ting engaged with a jab cross combination, then pounced in for the double leg takedown. Suzuki briefly attempted to defend, but was then picked up and slammed down to the mat. Ting went in for the kill as he punished Suzuki with ground and pound until the match was put to a halt.
With the dominant first round win, Ting (14-4) is back in the winning column since his title fight with Eduard Folyang earlier in the year. Post fight Suzuki drops to 11-3-2.
The other Aussie on the card Reece Mclaren did not fare so well in his match against Filipino striker Kevin Belingon. Mclaren was never able to get into his groove then he was caught cleanly by a powerful hook from Belingon. Belingon followed up with ground and pound which ended in a TKO finish at 1:02 in round one.
As a result of the loss, former title challenger Mclaren drops to 9-5, while Belingon moves to 16-5.
One Championship: Quest for Greatness took place at stadium Negara, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
David Lewellin is a Melbourne based contributor for Fight News Australia.