Lee stuns Aoki in TKO win

A jubilant Christian Lee at the Singapore Indoor Stadium last night after taking over the vanquished Shinya Aoki's One Championship lightweight belt. ST PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR
A jubilant Christian Lee at the Singapore Indoor Stadium last night after taking over the vanquished Shinya Aoki's One Championship lightweight belt. ST PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR

He survives Japanese's armbar to become One C'ship's youngest champion at age 20

He had predicted a technical knockout win (TKO) against Japan's Shinya Aoki in their One Championship lightweight bout, and Christian Lee duly delivered at the One: Enter The Dragon event last night.

In front of a sell-out crowd of about 12,000 at the Singapore Indoor Stadium, the mixed martial arts (MMA) fighter overcame Aoki via a technical knockout 51 seconds into round 2 to win his first title and become One's youngest champion.

Lee, 20, showed great heart to slip out of an armbar in the first round before seeing off Aoki with a barrage of punches in the second of five scheduled rounds. This was Lee's second shot at a One title after a split decision defeat by Australia's Martin Nguyen in their featherweight title fight last May.

"The key was sticking to the game plan my dad and I created - control the ring, be first to touch him, get back up, don't let him take me down, stay calm, and look for the finish when I see it," said Lee, a Canadian who has a Singaporean father and fights under the Singapore flag like his sister - women's atomweight champion Angela Lee - even though the siblings are not citizens.

"My biggest flaw when I started my career was not being patient. I would rush the finish and panic in certain situations. The way we train and approach the fights now is more mature. The lessons learnt from that defeat last year helped me get to where I am now."

And Lee is hungry for more, adding: "I'm gonna put two, three, four more of these (belts) on my shoulders."

Aoki, 36, first won the lightweight title in 2013, lost it in 2016 before reclaiming it in March. He told Lee after their fight: "I want you to defend the title for many more years because you are now the new face of Asian MMA."

In the co-main event of the night, Regian Eersel overcame a slow start to beat fellow Dutchman Nieky Holzken by unanimous decision after going the full five rounds to win the lightweight kickboxing world championship.

The 26-year-old impressed with some fast and furious combinations, flooring Holzken with a hard right hand to the head with 30 seconds left in the fourth round.

Eersel said: "It was a really hard fight. But now, I'm here to protect this belt for as long as I can. Singapore, I will be back."

Singapore's Amir Khan was knocked out by Turk Saygid Guseyn Arslanaliev's uppercut two minutes and 56 seconds into the first round of the lightweight world grand prix semi-final fight.

At least he lasted longer than the highly touted One Championship debutant Sage Northcutt, who had crossed over from the Ultimate Fighting Championship. After being hit by a flurry of punches, the American karate expert was decked by Brazilian Cosmo Alexandre's ferocious right hook as the referee stopped the welterweight bout after just 29 seconds.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 18, 2019, with the headline 'Lee stuns Aoki in TKO win'. Print Edition | Subscribe