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Adriano Moraes is targeting a knockout against Geje Eustaquio

ONE Flyweight World Championship hopes to showcase his improved striking in upcoming title defence

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ONE Championship

Reigning ONE Flyweight World Champion Adriano “Mikinho” Moraes is now injury-free and ready to defend his title.

The Brazilian veteran and two-time ONE world champion makes his highly-anticipated return to action in a world title unification bout with ONE Interim Flyweight World Champion Geje Eustaquio at ONE: PINNACLE OF POWER in Macau on Saturday, 23 June.

And after enduring a spell on the sidelines rehabbing a knee injury, Moraes is looking forward to making his return as he bids to cement his position at the top of ONE Championship’s flyweight division.

His initial return was set to be against Reece “Lightning” McLaren at ONE: VISIONS OF VICTORY, but a freak training injury put him on the shelf.

“I was more than ready, but two weeks before the fight I was in a sparring session, and a couple of guys training on the same mat collided with me,” he recalled.

“It was an accident, but I sprained the MCL in my right knee.”

Thankfully for Moraes, the injury wasn’t severe enough to warrant surgery, but it did require him to spend some time on the sidelines.

“It was injured, but I did not need surgery – just hard physiotherapy and a little bit of rest,” he explained.

“I had good support, and I got better.

“I am ready now, and I have taken better care. I train alone more when I go on the mats.”

His return to action sees Moraes face off against a familiar opponent. He faced Eustaquio for the inaugural ONE Flyweight World Title back in September 2014, and defeated the Filpino via second-round guillotine choke to capture the title.

But in the years since that bout Eustaquio has improved his all-round game significantly, and his last performance saw him capture the ONE Interim Flyweight Title with a superb performance as he out-manoeuvred former world champion Kairat “The Kazakh” Akhmetov in Manila in January.

Moraes was cageside for that bout, and knows he’ll be facing a much better martial artist when they meet for a second time in Macau.

“Yes, I was there, and I watched that fight live,” he explained.

“It was the first time I watched ONE Championship without being in the cage.

“Geje showed a good mixed martial arts game, and he showed he had improved a lot. Now, he is not just a striker.

“He defended Kairat Akhmetov’s takedown attacks very well, and won the fight by unanimous decision – the same thing I did [in August].

“Geje improved his takedown defence. His grappling and his footwork is getting better. I am very impressed, and I think this fight against him is going to be tough.”

Despite heaping praise on his future opponent, Moraes remains steadfast in his belief that he has the skills to retain his title. While Eustaquio has added grappling skills to his striking, Moraes has done the opposite, enhancing his elite-level grappling with big improvements in his striking game.

“I have improved all my skill,” he said.

“My wrestling is getting better, and my jiu-jitsu is enabling me to finish people more quickly.

“I put the most importance in this camp on my timing and my speed. I want to try and KO guys. It has been a long time in my career since I have knocked out anybody, so I needed to improve my timing. Everyone will see that my timing has improved a lot.”

That statement of intent to score a knockout will excite fans across the world, with Eustaquio’s wushu-based striking known to be his best weapon.

A desire to stand and trade with the Filipino would make this an interesting bout, as Eustaquio’s strength is undoubtedly his striking, thanks to his wushu background.

For his part, Eustaqucio has stated that he would be comfortable for the bout to go to the mat, such has been the level of progression in his ground game.

But Moraes suggests that any thoughts the Filipino has about winning key exchanges on the mat would be misplaced.

“I am from jiu-jitsu. Everybody knows that. You can watch my bouts and see that,” he said.

“In my last bout against Danny Kingad, my timing was getting better. I landed a good punch and he went down, but I worked my jiu-jitsu and it worked very well. I believe in my jiu-jitsu very much.

“I think my jiu-jitsu is better than Geje Eustaquio’s, and I can submit him again, because I have more weapons on the ground.”

Whether the bout is contested on the feet or on the ground, it promises to be an epic encounter that will have the fans in Macau on the edge of their seats.

Interview by ONE Championship. Story by Simon Head.

Freelance sports writer and MMA reporter with 19 years’ experience in the UK's national media covering major sporting events including UFC world title fights, Olympic Games, FIFA World Cup, UEFA European Championships, Grand National and the FA Cup Final.

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