On Friday, Jan. 14, ONE Championship will kick off its 2022 season with ONE Championship: Heavy Hitters. The card is absolutely stacked, featuring a dozen fights. The event is headlined by a women’s MMA title fight, preceded by a men’s kickboxing championship bout. However, one of the most anticipated match-ups of the evening will take place earlier on the main card as former NCAA Division I wrestler James Nakashima welcomes sambo stud Saygid Izagakhmaev to the ONE Circle.
Izagakhmaev was born and raised in Makhachkala, Russia, and the welterweight trains out of Academy MMA in his hometown. Most impressively, he got his start under the tutelage of Khabib Nurmagomedov’s late father Abdulmanap, and now serves as a protégé of the former UFC lightweight champ. He made his pro debut in July 2013, and currently sits at 19-2 as a pro with only five wins by decision and most of his stoppages by submission. Needless to say, the guy is a grappling ace.
Nakashima is a huge test for the Russian in his promotional debut. He grew up as a wrestler in central Illinois, and after a short stint in junior college, he ended up wrestling at the University of Nebraska. While in college, he began cross-training in MMA at Premier Combat Center in Omaha, before moving to The MMA Lab in Arizona, where he currently trains under John Crouch. He made his pro debut in Jan. 2015, currently sits at 12-2, and has gone to decision in almost every fight, except for one of his wins and both of his losses.
At the end of the day, this is a huge fight for both men. The clash of style will be an interesting one, as both men are standout wrestlers, but in different ways. Nakashima has more of a wet blanket technique with his wrestling, while Izagakhmaev has more of an attacking style on the ground. However, their previous results can be somewhat deceiving.
Nakashima has fought on much larger stages against more experienced opponents. In the last five years, all of his fights have been in the LFA, the RFA or ONE Championship, where he is already a five-fight veteran. His nine opponents in that time had a combined record of 218-51-1. In that same time frame, Izagakhmaev has mostly dominated the regional scene in Russia, and his ten opponents had combined for a record of 147-41. It should also be noted that Nakashima holds wins longtime veterans like Yushin Okami and Luis Santos. And, his two losses were to current ONE middleweight champ Kiamrian Abbasov in a title fight, and to former ONE lightweight champ Shinya Aoki, who is one of the most famous Japanese MMA fighters in history.
Regardless of what has happened in the past, this fight should be an exciting bout. Nurmagomedov has already said he plans to corner his Russian brother. Nakashima is looking to get back in the win column after back-to-back losses, and Izagakhmaev is looking to make a statement in his promotional debut. That is a recipe for what is shaping up to be a feature bout on an already stacked card.
ONE Championship: Heavy Hitters is currently scheduled to kick off on YouTube on Friday, Jan. 14, at 5 a.m. ET.
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