Turkish lightweight contender Saygid “Dagi” Guseyn Arslanaliev is ready to take the biggest opportunity of his mixed martial arts career.
On September 22 at ONE: CONQUEST OF HEROES in Jakarta, Indonesia, Arslanaliev will take on Russian knockout specialist Timofey Nastyukhin in a pivotal bout in the ONE Championship lightweight division.
And the 5-1 contender says he’s ready to make the leap from championship hopeful to championship challenger with a career-best win.
“I am going to fight the toughest opponent in my career, and I am ready to step up my game,” the 23-year-old says.
“I had a very strong opponent the last time, and now the matchmakers have an even better one for me.”
Arslanaliev took to mixed martial arts like a duck to water, claiming stoppage wins in each of his first four bouts, with each win coming inside the opening two minutes.
His lone defeat was a self-inflicted one, as an illegal kick on Georgi Stoyanov saw him lose a bout he was controlling until he threw a poorly-chosen strike.
After a spell out of action with a broken hand, Arslanaliev returned looking to prove a point.
“Everyone thought I was quick-tempered, and that I could not control myself in the cage,” he remembers.
“But let me tell you, those quick wins were all part of my game plan.
“At the end of the day, if you can finish a fight quickly, why hang out in the cage for longer?”
His return bout saw him face seasoned Japanese veteran Tetsuya “MMA Fantasista” Yamada, an opponent who had six times the experience of the young Turk.
But Arslanaliev made light of that fact as he used his opponents pre-bout comments as motivation en route to a third-round submission win via armbar.
“He publicly claimed he was stronger than me – both in the stand-up and on the ground – and he said he would finish me quickly,” he recalls.
“I wanted to teach him a lesson, so I decided to stop him by submission – something he had never experienced before.”
With that win taking his career record to 5-1, Arslanaliev is set to face heavy-handed Nastyukhin, who has recently bounced back from an injury setback of his own to return to ONE and rediscover his form.
The Russian defeated former title challenger Koji Ando in his comeback bout, then put an end to Amir Khan’s six-bout win streak.
Arslanaliev has respect for the Russian charger, but says he believes he has two key advantages: his confidence and his ground game.
“I can’t say anything bad about the guy,” he admits.
“He is a good fighter, but I feel like I am more confident than him. I like that he does not mind fighting at a short distance – it shows character. I have longer arms than him, so I will be able to keep him at bay.
“Timofey is very talented, but I have better grappling skills than him. If I take the fight to the ground, I can win.”
Armed with supreme confidence in his abilities and a desire to prove his doubters wrong, Arslanaliev has all he needs to move himself one big step closer to a shot at the ONE Lightweight Title.
Victory in Jakarta could put him right in the mix at the top of the division.
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