A submission grappling classic took place at ONE Championship 156: Eersel vs Sadikovic. One of the more prominent black belts today, Mikey Musumeci, faced MMA and jiu-jitsu legend Masakazu 'Ashikan Judan' Imanari.
The bout was set for a single 12-minute round and had no points system. The ways to win were via submission or whoever had the most legitimate submission attempts by the end of the match.
In a classic contest that featured the highest levels of grappling you'll ever see, Musumeci and Imanari went into a classic leg-lock battle right away. After a scramble, Musumeci landed in mount position, but Imanari scambled to half-guard bottom.
From there, Musumeci majestically transitioned to back control with a tight body triangle. Imanari tried to escape but Musumeci transitioned his body lock to trap one of the Japanese's arms. It was beautiful.
The rear-naked choke was academic from there and Imanari had no choice but to tap.
In his post-fight interview, the geeky side of Musumeci came out and provided an impromptu jiu-jitsu lesson:
"So I was working from the back. I trapped one arm. And then I was working to lift his chin. So, in jiu-jitsu, we don't have strikes to hit the head when they tuck their chin... So when the chin tucks, the shoulders go down. So I slipped my hand to the side of his neck. So when I get to the side of the neck, I start to raise the chin, cause I raise their shoulders. So when the shoulders go up, the chin goes up. And when their chin is down, their shoulders go down."
Mikey Musumeci wins a $50,000 performance bonus on his ONE Championship debut
After his amazing submission win over the legendary grappler, Musumeci expressed how amazing and cool it was to just tangle with a leglock icon like Imanari:
"Yeah I was just comfortable in those exchanges, you know. But just to have those exchanges with him were so cool, you know. Like, I had so much fun [laughs]."
His win was the first submission scored in ONE Championship's blossoming submission grappling division since Garry Tonon submitted Shinya Aoki in 2017.
Because of his marvelous finish, ONE CEO Chatri Sityodtong decided to give Musumeci a $50,000 performance bonus. A visibly shocked and emotional Musumeci had a hard time finding his words:
Teary-eyed but full of joy, Musumeci recalled a touching story behind his journey to the storied ONE Championship circle:
"My grandma died, like a month ago. So I stopped competing for a few weeks and this is my first competition back after my grandma. So to be here fighting to make the money I just made, I'm just so honored, you know. When my grandma died, [ONE CEO] Chatri [Sityodtong] was one of the people that was messaging me, giving me the most support out of anyone. He really got me again focusing on training and now I'm here living and training in Singapore. In another continent. And just being around so many great people, I'm blessed. Thank you so much, Mr. Chatri. Thank you."
Look to see more of Musumeci's grappling wizardy in ONE Championship. The kid is a marvel on the mat.