A pair of former UFC champions made their way to tournament finals in ONE Championship, as Eddie Alvarez and Demetrious Johnson were victorious Friday at the Mall of Asia Arena in Manila, Philippines.
Eddie Alvarez earned a second chance in the lightweight tournament after the man that beat him in his debut withdrew with an injury, and made the most of his opportunity with an incredible comeback win against Eduard Folayang.
Folayang, a former ONE lightweight champion, connected a left hand before landing a brutal leg kick that sent “The Underground King” down to the canvas. Folayang went for the finish, but Alvarez was able to sweep, take Folayang’s back and sink in a tight rear-naked choke to earn the victory.
CHOPPING leg kick from "Landslide!" @efolayang #WeAreONE #DawnOfHeroes #Manila #MartialArts pic.twitter.com/vEirjXoNjR— ONE Championship (@ONEChampionship) August 2, 2019
Eddie Alvarez overcomes Eduard Folayang’s fearsome wushu striking to score a submission victory and a spot in the ONE Lightweight World Grand Prix finals! @Ealvarezfight #WeAreONE #DawnOfHeroes #Manila #MartialArts pic.twitter.com/GsC9RNqL9F— ONE Championship (@ONEChampionship) August 2, 2019
“I imagined this, I pictured it in my head,” Alvarez said after the win. “We’ve seen this in my head. We persevered, we dealt with adversity, and we pulled it out the ‘W’. My coaches, my team, thank you guys so much.”
Alvarez will now face off with Saygid Guseyn Arslanaliev. The lightweight tournament final is expected to take place at ONE’s 100th show in Tokyo, Japan, on Oct. 13.
Johnson also had to dig deep, but earned a spot in the ONE flyweight grand prix final after a close decision win over former DEEP champion Tatsumitsu Wada.
Wada had a great start, taking Johnson’s back and threatening to go for a rear-naked choke for almost three minutes before the first round came to an end. The second round was closer, with both fighters landing good knees in the clinch before Johnson took Wada down and passed the guard.
Johnson came back stronger to the third, landing hard kicks on the feet and working on top when both went to the ground. Johnson landed a good elbow that cut Wada’s face and then tried to take his back, but it was Wada who came closer to taking his back in the final seconds.
Johnson admitted he “couldn’t get [his] game going”, but did enough to earn the unanimous decision win in Manila. “Mighty Mouse” advanced to the final to face off with Danny Kingad, who defeated Reece McLaren in the other side of the bracket. The final is also expected to be held in Tokyo on Oct. 13.
Demetrious Johnson books his place in the ONE Flyweight World Grand Prix finals with a unanimous decision win over ultra-tough Tatsumitsu Wada! @MightyMouse #WeAreONE #DawnOfHeroes #Manila #MartialArts pic.twitter.com/1uaCiNgQHn— ONE Championship (@ONEChampionship) August 2, 2019
McLaren went for an armbar early in the first round against Kingad, but missed and ended up with Kingad on his back, going for a rear-naked choke. McLaren reversed the position and took Kingad’s back to also work on a choke. The fast-paced action continued in the next couple of rounds, with Kingad coming out victorious via a split decision.
In the main event of ONE: Dawn of Heroes, Martin Nguyen put the featherweight title on the line against Koyomi Matsushima and retained the gold with a brutal second-round knockout. Nguyen hurt Matsushima with a right hand on the feet, but was patient to find the perfect opening to knock him down and follow up with punches until referee Olivier Coste stopped the contest.
Martin Nguyen (13-3) makes his third defense of the ONE FW strap, draining and decimating Koyomi Matsushima late in round two! The former two-division champ has stopped 12, nine by knockout. He seeks multiple belts once again in a trilogy with LW king Christian Lee. #DawnOfHeroes pic.twitter.com/RyssOXgrJh— Kyle Johnson (@VonPreux) August 2, 2019
In a reserve bout for the flyweight tournament, Yuya Wakamatsu bounced back from a loss to “Mighty Mouse” with a first-round knockout over former champion Geje Eustaquio.
Yuya "Little Piranha" Wakamatsu takes out former flyweight king Geje Eustaquio with an ⚡ ELECTRIFYING⚡ KO in a ONE Flyweight World Grand Prix alternate bout! @Yuya0209C4 #WeAreONE #DawnOfHeroes #Manila #MartialArts pic.twitter.com/vh1dvLfA4x— ONE Championship (@ONEChampionship) August 2, 2019
The preliminary portion of the card featured undefeated James Nakashima, a former LFA welterweight champion, dominating UFC veteran Yushin Okami to earn a unanimous decision and improve to 12-0 in MMA.
Click here for full ONE Championship: Dawn of Heroes results.