In a stunning upset of Shinya Aoki for the ONE Lightweight World Championship, Christian “The Warrior” Lee joined his sister Angela as a world champion. Not only did he capture the gold, but he followed it up with a remarkable performance on short notice in the ONE Lightweight World Grand Prix finals against a top contender. Now Iuri Lapicus sits in his shadows.
As the young gun stands on top of the lightweight mountain, five heavy-hitters are inching their way up to challenge him and force him to prove he is the best lightweight in ONE.
It is a division filled with hungry youth and underrated talent, but there are also notable veterans such as Eddie Alvarez sitting just outside the top five. The talent-rich division may be one of the most exciting in the sport.
Take a look at the top five-ranked contenders in the ONE Championship lightweight division.
#5 Shinya Aoki
Shinya Aoki is an MMA legend in Japan, and the former ONE Lightweight World Champion checks in at #5.
After being defeated last May by Lee, Aoki rebounded with a sub-minute submission victory over Honorio Banario at ONE: Century. He is 5-1 in his previous six outings and could be a single win away from earning a rematch to get his gold back.
Given he rebounded quickly, it may be surprising to see the bonafide grappling ace bringing up the rear. However, it is a quick line to the title should he knock off another contender.
#4 Timofey Nastyukhin
The Russian was a virtual unknown on the global scene until Eddie Alvarez made his ONE Championship debut. In under a round, Timofey Nastyukhin burst onto the global stage with a stunning upset knockout.
The 30-year-old displayed his power over a multiple-time world champion. The performance was doubly impressive as Nastyukhin was coming off a KO loss of his own to Saygid Guseyn Arslanaliev at ONE: Conquest of Heroes.
With the Alvarez win under his belt, Nastyukhin has a golden opportunity to build upon his career’s biggest win. Another win would give him critical back-to-back victories and a potential title berth.
#3 Pieter Buist
Pieter “The Archangel” Buist boasts a 15-4 professional record overall, but his recent success has shown he has taken his game to another level.
Buist is undefeated since 2017 and a perfect 3-0 in ONE. He is currently riding an eight-fight win streak and is coming off a victory over former ONE Lightweight World Champion Eduard Folayang by split decision.
The Dutch martial artist could take the mantle as The Netherland’s top talent in the sport. He has come into his own as a true title threat.
#2 Saygid Guseyn Arslanaliev
The man known as “Dagi” may have a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu background, but it’s his heavy hands that have caught the attention of the lightweight division.
“Dagi” is 7-2 in ONE and 8-2 overall. His lone loss since 2018 came last October against the reigning champion in the finals of the ONE Lightweight World Grand Prix. A bout that both men took on short notice.
The 25-year-old Russian holds a KO win over Nastyukhin and is a threat no matter where the action goes. However, the recent loss to Lee puts him down the pecking order when it comes to who is in a position to challenge for the gold.
#1 Iuri Lapicus
Next in line is one of the most unheralded athletes in the sport today – Iuri Lapicus.
The Italian-based Moldovan posted a perfect 14-0 professional record with 14 finishes. None more impressive than his last outing against Marat Gafurov. Against the former ONE Featherweight World Champion in what was supposed to be his toughest test, Lapicus finished with a rear-naked choke in 67-seconds.
The talented Team Leone-Petrosyan warrior has been rounding out his striking with the best strikers in the world. He is the unquestioned top contender in the division and has earned his shot at Lee.