At ONE: Quest for Power on Saturday (local time) Martin Nguyen is going up against one of the most experienced and successful featherweights in Japanese MMA. His opponent at the Jakarta Convention Centre is two-division Deep champion Kazunori Yokota.
Yokota dropped to featherweight in 2011 and put together an incredible 13-fight winning streak, which was only ended by Marat Gafurov last year. He’s a veteran of 34 fights but Nguyen is not intimidated by his opponent’s career or credentials.
“His professional career is amazing. He has had 30 plus fights and I’m pretty sure we all know who the most experienced guy is but that’s all he has.”
Nguyen is facing off against all types of featherweights. He’s already fought the reigning champion, Gafurov handed him his first and only career loss, and in his most recent bout the Australian finished undefeated teenage contender Christian Lee.
The Singaporean has five-straight stoppage wins inside the ONE Championship cage, and Nguyen was delighted to be the man who ended this streak.
“The win over Christian hit the sweet spot and I was pretty happy with my performance. Everything we had been working on during camp was picture perfect, the plan was to knock him but putting him to sleep was just as good.”
The 27-year-old has been preparing for his forthcoming fight in Australia and feels he will be well equipped to deal with the threat posed by Yokota.
“My camps have always been training for the worst scenario, my opponent’s advantages. Judging from his win record, they have all been to the judge’s decision, so cardio and patience I would say is his advantages as well as his judoka and grappling background. This fight might possibly be going 15 minutes.”
Nguyen’s pro record currently stands at 7-1 and he hasn’t been the distance since his amateur days. He doesn’t feel Yokota has any obvious weaknesses, but is confident of finding some flaws in the veteran’s game once the fight starts.
“During a fight, you can see many holes open up. I’m just going to fight this fight and whatever weaknesses I see arise I will capitalize on them.”
Nguyen is a family man who is married with three young children. Being in fight camp mode during Christmas has been tough on him, but he just sees it as another source of motivation.
“It’s been very difficult training over the holiday break. Missing out on all the good food my wife and family went through to put on the table for us, celebration nights ending early… Seeing my wife and team work double-time to keep my nutrition on point motivates me.”
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Nguyen’s first title shot arrived unexpectedly. He had initially been booked to face Bashir Ahmed in Indonesia in 2015, but was elevated to main event status when Jadambaa Narantungalag was stopped by immigration officials at the Jakarta airport.
The undefeated champion is dominating the featherweight division at present, but Nguyen wants another crack at him and believes a win over Yokota would be enough to earn it.
“ONE never say if it’s an eliminator or not, but for me this fight is definitely a title eliminator. It’s a high caliber fight because both of us have losses to the champ and want to redeem ourselves.”
Given the gulf in experience Nguyen predicts his opponent might be taking this fight lightly. However, he has a point to prove and believes a win over the Japanese veteran would send out a strong statement about his title credentials.
“I’m sure he’s fought much more seasoned fighters than me and might see me as less of a threat than his previous opponents, but Jan. 14 is when everyone will see that I am a threat not only to Yokota, but to the whole featherweight division.”
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