Some would argue Martin "The Situ-Asian" Nguyen is already the greatest ONE Featherweight World Champion in history. Others might still lean toward Marat Gafurov. There is an argument to be made for both men as it pertains to all-time greatness in the weight class. However, here is why Nguyen's resume is so impressive and why he has a chance to create some distance between himself and Gafurov.
Nguyen Vs. Gafurov Head-to-Head
The two great featherweight champions have met in the ONE Circle twice. Gafurov defeated Nguyen by first-round submission to win the interim title back in September 2015 at ONE: ODYSSEY OF CHAMPIONS in Jakarta, Indonesia. It was a dominant performance that helped set up Gafurov's reign as world champion. Later in the year, he'd become the official champion, and he defended his title twice.
In August 2017, at ONE: QUEST FOR GREATNESS, Nguyen got his rematch, and he starched Gafurov with a one-punch KO to capture the title.
The Title Reigns
Gafurov was champion for a total of 636 days with defences against Narantungalag Jadambaa and Kazunori Yakota. He wasn't that active, but he was effective when in the ONE Circle. Nguyen has already surpassed that from a length standpoint. Nguyen's current reign will be at 704 days when he climbs into the ONE Circle to face Koyomi Matsushima on 2 August at the Mall of Asia in Manila, Philippines. The match will be the main event for ONE: DAWN OF HEROES. Having a longer reign only counts if Nguyen can successfully defend his title against Matsushima.
The Title Defenses
In Nguyen's career, he has defended his title against current ONE Lightweight World Champion Christian Lee and former ONE Featherweight World Champion Jadambaa. If he can defeat Matsushima, he will have set a new record for successful defences of the featherweight crown. In fact, if Nguyen wins, he will join Aung La N Sang, Ben Askren, Bibiano Fernandes, Xiong Jing Nan, and Angela Lee as the only ONE athletes with three or more successful title defences.
Having more defences than Gafurov, and owning a win over him in the head-to-head competition should carry some weight. You also have to consider Nguyen's title defences have come over current or former ONE World Champions. That's a distinction Gafurov doesn't have.
The Matsushima Factor
After Gafurov was knocked out by Nguyen, he suffered another KO loss in his next bout, and that setback came at the hands of Matsushima. Gafurov has since gotten back in the win column with a victory over Tetsuya Yamada. However, it would seem, Nguyen can completely distance himself from Gafurov if he can defeat the only other man to defeat the Russian. Without a third and deciding match between Nguyen and Gafurov, which could still happen in the future, the best tiebreaker is for Nguyen to beat Matsushima.
Obviously, Matsushima will want to throw a monkey wrench into the plans. He'd love to become the only man in history to own a victory over the two best in the history of the ONE featherweight division. If he wins, perhaps a third name needs to be added to this debate.Published 30 Jul 2019, 00:25 IST