In case you’re wondering just how stacked ONE Championship’s first card of 2022 is, in the words of the great comedian Anthony Jeselnik, “Let me learn ya’ somethin’.” Buried in the middle of, not the main card, but the lead card of ONE Championship: Heavy Hitters, is an exciting middleweight match-up between longtime MMA veteran Yushin Okami and Brazilian brawler Leandro Ataides.
The 40-year-old Okami will enter the ONE Circle for the fourth time in his 52nd professional fight. After losing three fights in a row, he picked up his first win in 16 months when he narrowly beat Agilan Thani by split decision in Oct. 2019. He has not been in the cage since. However, that is not the case for his next opponent.
Ataides has been fighting under the ONE banner for over eight years. The Nova Uniao standout is a BJJ black belt world champ, who has scored most of his MMA wins in the last decade by finish. He was on a three-fight winning streak, before dropping his last two. While that may not look great on paper, it is important to point out that the first one was in Feb. 2020 to currently undefeated ONE light heavyweight and heavyweight Reiner de Ridder. The last one was in July 2021, when he faced former ONE champion Aung La N Sang, whose only losses in the last seven and a half years were the back-to-back title fights with de Ridder. He is looking to get back in the win column against the quadragenarian vet.
This clash is one that fans will not want to miss. Ataides is the relatively fresher fighter, having stayed active against top-ranked opponents in the two years Okami has been on the bench. But you can’t count out the vet.
In 37 pro wins, Okami has 12 knockouts and six submissions, and he’s only been stopped seven times. He might be the slight betting favorite, dude to his experience, but this fight definitely serves as a sleeper match-up on the card. Ataides is coming in hungry, and has been within one fight of a title shot. A win over Okami would put him back in position to taste gold, which makes this one exciting match-up.
ONE Championship: Heavy Hitters airs live on YouTube on Friday, Jan. 14, from the Singapore Indoor Stadium with the lead card kicking off at 5 a.m. ET.