Eddie Alvarez and Demetrious Johnson picked up wins at ONE Championship: Dawn of Heroes on Friday, August 2, in Manila, Philippines, but it wasn’t without a challenge.
Alvarez had been granted another opportunity to compete in the ONE Lightweight Grand Prix after an injury forced Timofey Nastyukhin out of the tournament.
Stepping into the ring for the first time since losing to Nastyukhin, it didn’t take long for Alvarez to again experience trouble. Just a few minutes into the fight, a heavy leg kick by Folayang crushed Alvarez’s lead led and forced him to drop to the mat. In a move that is likely to cause regret for some time, the Team Lakay fighter followed the former UFC and Bellator champion to the mat, intending to finish him with ground and pound.
Alvarez hung on despite taking several heavy shots. Eventually, he secured half guard and then a brilliant sweep to land in top position. From there, Alvarez sliced through Folayang’s defenses and ended up taking the back and flattening him out with ease. Once “The Underground King” secured the rear-naked choke it was all over for Folayang.
“I imagined this. I pictured it in my head,” Alvarez explained in his post-fight interview.
“I hired a mindset coach, Vinny Shoreman; we seen this. We seen this in my head. We persevered, we dealt with adversity, and we got the W.”
Alvarez now advances to the final of the ONE Championship Lightweight Grand Prix and will face Saygid Guseyn Arslanaliev at ONE Championship’s Century event in Tokyo, Japan, on October 13.
Moments before Alvarez entered the ring, Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson experienced slight adversity of his own against Tatsumitsu Wada. Johnson entered the ONE Flyweight Grand Prix semi-final bout against Wada as a -1400 betting favorite, yet didn’t look to have the overwhelming advantages that those odds suggested.
After a patient start for both fighters, Johnson closed the distance and entered the clinch with Wada against the ring. It didn’t take long for his opponent to turn him and swap positions, however. Wada swiftly took the back of Johnson and secured two hooks for maximum control while Johnson was still standing. The Japanese fighter used his right hook to unbalance the former UFC champion and end up in a dominant position on the ground.
Wada locked in a body triangle and secured underhooks to hold Johnson and disable him from returning to his feet. Every time “Mighty Mouse” attempted to scramble, Wada followed him and kept hold of the position. With seconds remaining in the first round, Johnson escaped only to find himself in Wada’s full guard.
Likely down in the minds of the judges, Johnson required some kind of improvement in round two to get ahead. The start of the round played out much the same as the first one, though, as neither fighter excelled while standing. This time it was Johnson who secured the takedown in the middle of the round. As he tried to pass Wada’s guard, the Japanese fighter displayed excellent guard retention skills to keep him from doing so. While there was little impact from either fighter so far in the fight, Johnson had finally gained an attacking position and looked to have some kind of momentum heading into the final round.
It wasn’t long into the third round before Johnson land in Wada’s guard. This time, however, he managed to pass the tricky full guard of his opponent and move into half guard. From here, “Mighty Mouse” landed an elbow to the head that opened up a bad cut. Johnson controlled the grappling exchanges for most of the round until the two finally separated and returned to their feet. Wada encouraged Johnson to trade strikes but it was ultimately too little, too late for Wada.
When asked about how he feels about fighting Danny Kingad in Tokyo, Japan, Johnson said, “That sounds like a fun fight. Danny Kingad is a young prospect, very explosive, still young.”
“Tonight I couldn’t get my game going. Tatsumitsu Wada did a good job of just locking me down. I used more of my grappling tonight and got him with a nice cut on the eye.”