Why You Should Care About Lapicus vs. Gafurov

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Just a week removed from ONE: Fire and Fury, the promotion returns to Jakarta for ONE: Warrior’s Code. A card full of exciting fights featuring local talent and international stars. Three matches in particular stand out as the most important.

These are the main events: Petchmorakot Petchyindee Academy versus Detrit Sathian Muay Thai for the inaugural Featherweight Muay Thai belt; Nyrene Crowley versus Itsuki Hirata; and Iuri Lapicus versus Marat Gafurov.

The reasons to get excited for the first two fights are obvious. A belt always helps put a division in perspective. Hirata, meanwhile, is putting her division on notice and may be on the path towards either Stamp Fairtex or Angela Lee.

Lapicus versus Gafurov may fly a little bit under the radar, but it’s one that has potentially massive implications for the Lightweight Division. Let’s take a look at who our fighters are, what they bring to the table, and what a victory on either side means for the future of the division.

New Year, New Division

Former Featherweight Champion Marat Gafurov needs little introduction and listing off all the competition he’s faced over the years is an article all by itself. But where has he been and why is he moving on from the place that once called him King?

In an interview with ONE, Gafurov explains that weight cutting is a big reason for his inactivity, and how it’s getting harder to make Featherweight in his mid-thirties. Now he says he feels strong and healthy with a weight he’s more comfortable in. After his now immortal loss against Martin Nguyen in 2017 and just one fight in 2019, what does the Russian Warrior have to offer?

Why Gafurov Might Win

We actually don’t have to look far to find out what Gafurov can and wants to do inside the cage. His last fight against Tetsuya Yamada at ONE: For Honor was a takedown and top position masterclass. The shoot and smother style isn’t the prettiest to look at but the options to counter it are scarce. In fact, the more I watch Gafurov in action, the more I’m convinced he picked the wrong snake as a nickname.

Twelve out of his seventeen victories have come by submission and only one man has ever bested him in a grappling contest – Shinya Aoki.

Everyone and their mother know what Gafurov’s gameplan is, but it doesn’t matter. He will shoot, Lapicus will go down, he will stay on top of him, raining ground and pound until the bell rings. Gafurov himself is confident of a quick victory and move up the ladder to the top of the division.

A New European Contender

Though not as prolific as his opponent, Iuri Lapicus isn’t someone to sleep on. He’s an undefeated prospect with thirteen wins, all of them finishes. He beat Shannon Wiratchai in his ONE debut via Rear-Naked Choke at ONE: Enter The Dragon last year.

Lapicus hasn’t seen much action outside of Italy and there are still a lot of questions surrounding him. Hopefully, we can get more of those answered on Friday.

Why Lapicus Might Win

The first thing we need to know about Lapicus is that he’s also quite good on the ground. Nine of his thirteen wins came by submission, and although that might not be enough to beat Gafurov he shouldn’t be pinned on his back for 13 mins. like Yamada was.

It’s no secret that the way to beating Gafurov is through his chin. Both of his only two on-record defeats were knockout punches. Even Yamada managed to make Gafurov eat his knees in the second and third rounds of their match, but the former champion wore those well.

Looking at that narrow avenue of victory, things don’t look good for Lapicus, until you discover that he’s training with Team Petrosyan. Yes, THAT Petrosyan. Can The Doctor work his magic with his young and hungry protégé?

A Future Defining Fight

The real intrigue begins when we consider what happens after the fight.

If Gafurov wins, that announces the arrival of another top-tier grappler in a division that’s already packed with talent. Future matches with TImofey Nastyukhin, EV Ting, and even a rematch with Shinya Aoki are all in the cards

If Lapicus wins, not only does that make Gafurov the second big name he’s defeated, but also legitimizes him as a top-tier all-around threat. He’s already won against a prolific striker in Wiratchai, and getting past Gafurov will prove his power on the ground.

Whoever wins this fight is an automatic contender, and may find themselves one or two wins away from challenging for the gold.

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