Despite his likely position as the top contender in the ONE Championship featherweight division, Christian Lee jumped at the opportunity to stand toe-to-toe with Kazunori Yokota.
“As soon as they offered me the fight, I signed the contract and sent it back,” Lee told The Body Lock.
After defeating Kotetsu Boku at ONE: Warriors of the world in December 2017, another dominant performance against Yokota Yokota on March 9 will only further solidify Lee as the frontrunner to challenge Martin Nguyen when he returns to the featherweight division later this year.
Scheming and slamming
Lee’s most recent efforts resulted in a memorable stoppage and the most significant victory of his career.
The 19-year-old stepped inside the ONE Championship cage with 39-fight veteran Kotetsu Boku, who had recently overcome Eric Kelly and Timofey Nastyukhin. Lee rose to the occasion and marched past the highly regarded Boku by slamming him into the mat in the first round for a brilliant KO finish.
“Of course, there was pressure going into the fight,” Lee shared.[perfectpullquote align=”full” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=”16″] “For me, I knew that it was just another fight. It was definitely the biggest challenge that I have faced in my career. A lot of people were counting me out and saying that Boku would knock me out. We had a game plan and stayed focused. I went out there and I executed. I try not to let the exterior pressure from anyone else or myself affect me during the fight.”[/perfectpullquote]
Despite his recent success, Lee understands that he is still facing an incredibly dangerous opponent at ONE: Visions of Victory.
“I’m not overlooking Kazunori Yokota in any way,” Lee stated.[perfectpullquote align=”full” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=”16″]”He’s a two-division champion in DEEP, he’s a great opponent. I know he will be confident that he can take me out, he wouldn’t have taken the fight if he wasn’t. But my experience, my youth, my speed, it’s going to be too much. I’m going to take him out in the first round.”[/perfectpullquote]
The roadmap to beating Yokota
Although Yokota has only been defeated twice since December 2010, both of these losses occurred in his only two bouts with ONE Championship.
Yokota lost by submission to Marat Gafurov in May 2016, before being knocked out by Martin Nguyen in January 2017.
Lee told The Body Lock that he has watched Yokota’s bouts with Nguyen and Gafurov “over and over.”
“You can see similar patterns building up in both of those fights,” Lee explained.[perfectpullquote align=”full” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=”16″]”Of course, Gafurov and Martin both took him out. But, I would say that just the fact that the fight with Gafurov lasted longer means that I can see a little more of his tendencies and see a little more of his game than the fight with Martin where it ended in the first round. Both fights are just a great example of the roadmap to beating Yokota.”[/perfectpullquote]
Christian Lee (8-1) will face Kazunori Yokota (26-7-3) in a featherweight contest at ONE: Visions of Victory, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on March 9.
Jake Nichols is The Body Lock's Editor in Chief. Previously, he was the MMA Editor at RealSport.