Kairat Akhmetov was on top of the world just one month ago. As the ONE Flyweight World Champion, “The Kazakh” owned one of the most impressive win streaks in all of martial arts, an astounding 23-0.
A close decision loss in a title unification bout against Adriano Moraes last month derailed it all.
In the headlining bout at ONE: TOTAL VICTORY, the comeback campaign was set to begin. But first, the former champ would have to get past former title challenger Geje “Gravity” Eustaquio.
After three rounds of action, the flyweight division is on notice: the former champion is on a warpath to reclaim what he lost. “The Kazakh” (24-1) utilized his superior grappling to defeat a game Eustaquio (9-6) via split decision.
From the onset, Akhmetov surprisingly kept the Wushu champion at bay with a series of flashy kicks, before using his Greco-Roman background to keep “Gravity” grounded.
Though the Team Lakay product landed the first takedown, it was the three-time Kazakhstan national wrestling champion that owned the advantage grappling.
The former champion may have been saved early in the opener, after an Eustaquio upkick had him visibly stunned. The referee, mistakenly believing Akhmetov was downed when the blow was delivered, called for an injury timeout.
Once the bout was restarted, it was all Akhmetov, as he was able to recover in time.
The 29-year-old’s takedowns and ground control were stifling. Eustaquio was often put on his back, desperately trying to get back to his feet. This continued throughout the second round and part of the third stanza.
With less than two minutes to go in the bout, “The Kazakh” locked in a guillotine choke. Unable to finish, “Gravity” powered out, and emerged in top position.
This was his best chance for an upset win, especially on a night where other comeback wins had just taken place. But alas, time was not on the Filipino’s side, as the final bell sounded before victory could be snatched from Akhmetov.
The judges tallied up their scorecards, and while one saw it in Eustaquio’s favor, the other two saw it for “The Kazakh,” giving him his first victory since originally winning the ONE Flyweight World Championship on his promotional debut in 2015.
Akhmetov made no secret that he is aiming for a trilogy against the current titleholder, and the man he lost his belt and unbeaten record to last month at ONE: KINGS & CONQUERORS.
“My next bout, I would like to face Adriano Moraes,” an excited Akhmetov stated. “Where are you Adriano? It’s my belt.”