No homegrown star has shined any brighter in One Championship than Christian Lee.
The 22-year-old Evolve MMA export will defend his undisputed lightweight title against Timofey Nastyukhin in the One on TNT 2 main event this Wednesday at Singapore Indoor Stadium in Kallang, Singapore. Lee enters the match on a five-fight winning streak that includes four finishes. He last appeared at One Championship “Inside the Matrix” on Oct. 30, when he dismissed the previously unbeaten Iuri Lapicus with first-round punches.
As Lee prepares for his title defense against Nastyukhin, a look at five moments that have come to define him at this stage of his career:
1. Teenage Dream
Lee was a 17-year-old prodigy when he made his professional mixed martial arts debut at One Championship “Spirit of Champions” on Dec. 11, 2015 inside the Mall of Asia Arena in Manila, Philippines. He could not have made a stronger first impression, as he cut down David Meak with punches in just 29 seconds. Lee applied maximum pressure with stinging leg kicks and crisp punches. Meak turned his back in retreat, only to be blindsided and floored by a left hook from the teenager. Lee whiffed on a soccer kick before referee Olivier Coste could arrive on the scene, but the job was done and it was clear One Championship had a true blue-chip talent on its hands.
2. Rude Awakening
Shares in Lee stock were surging by the time he faced Martin Nguyen in a One Championship “Heroes of the World” featherweight showcase on Aug. 13, 2016 at Cotai Arena in Macau, China. He was 5-0 with five first-round finishes, albeit against less-than-stellar opposition. Lee’s efforts did not go according to plan against the equally skilled Nguyen, who choked him unconscious with a standing guillotine 4:30 into the first round of their encounter at 155 pounds. Nguyen countered effectively throughout, sat down the Evolve MMA prospect with a ringing left hook and snatched the guillotine soon after. Lee fought valiantly to free himself from the Australian’s clutches but lost his grip on reality due to lack of blood flow to the brain. Nguyen moved on to capture the promotion’s undisputed featherweight crown a little more than a year later.
Lee failed in his bid for revenge at One Championship “Unstoppable Dreams,” where he wound up on the wrong side of a split decision against Nguyen in their co-main event rematch. To make matters worse for the Hawaiian, the organization’s featherweight title was on the line in the back-and-forth affair. Lee raced out to a strong start, as he struck for a takedown, achieved full mount and ultimately threatened the champion with brabo and guillotine chokes. Action between the two men stalled in the second and third rounds, where they were twice warned for timidity. Nguyen seized control with a takedown in the fourth and remained calm and composed in the face of steady but ultimately ineffective pressure from the challenger in the fifth, denying takedowns and leaning on clean counterpunching to improve to 2-0 in his head-to-head series with Lee. Nguyen remains the only man to legitimately defeat “The Warrior.”
4. Intestinal Fortitude
After back-to-back losses to Nguyen and Edward Kelly—the latter by disqualification due to an illegal suplex—Lee returned to form at the expense of Ultimate Fighting Championship veteran and former Pancrase titleholder Kazuki Tokudome in the One Championship “Heart of the Lion” co-headliner on Nov. 9, 2018 at Singapore Indoor Stadium in Kallang, Singapore. There, “The Warrior” took care of the seasoned and well-regard Tokudome with punches 3:07 into the first round. Lee returned to his feet after being taken down, dropped his Japanese adversary with a right hook and climbed to full mount before eventually transitioning to the back. He then flattened out Tokudome and unleashed an endless barrage of punches to prompt the stoppage, the crowd roaring its approval.
5. Legendary Approval
Lee completed his transformation from prospect to organizational superstar under the One Championship “Enter the Dragon” marquee on May 17, 2019, as he put away the legendary Shinya Aoki with second-round punches at Singapore Indoor Stadium in Kallang, Singapore. Aoki bowed out 51 seconds into Round 2 and in doing so turned over the undisputed One Championship lightweight crown to a man 15 years his junior. Lee withstood a harrowing first round in which he was mounted twice and found himself entangled in an armbar from the Japanese grappling savant. However, he managed to draw Aoki deeper into the match and let his lethal hands do the rest. Early in Round 2, Lee backed up “Tobikan Judan” with punches, eventually sat him down in the corner and closed the door with follow-up shots to the face.
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