The ONE Championship debut of Eddie Alvarez didn’t go the way he planned, nor the way most expected. He was stopped in the first round by Timofey Nastyuhkin and was promptly eliminated from the ONE Lightweight World Grand Prix. It was a humbling experience, but now Alvarez is back and ready to take on former two-time ONE Lightweight World Champion Eduard Folayang at ONE: DAWN OF HEROES on 2 August in Manila.
Despite the definitive loss in his debut, there are several reasons to believe Alvarez’s second match with ONE Championship will be different.
Losing First Bout With Other Promotions in the Past
Oddly enough, Alvarez loses the first bout every time he joins a new promotion. In 2018, Alvarez kicked off a wave of American signings and acquisitions by ONE. When he made his debut in March against Nastyuhkin, most thought he would easily handle the Russian. Perhaps we shouldn’t have assumed Alvarez would win based on how he performed in similar situations in the past. Alvarez has lost the first match with each of the last two promotions he has signed with throughout his mixed martial arts career. It has become a pattern that Alvarez gets dropped in his matches early in his career. If that’s the case, he’ll be ready to bounce back.
Motivated by the Doubts
The loss brought out the doubters in force and questions were raised whether the 35-year-old veteran still has enough left in the tank to compete at a high level. Based on his social media posts, Alvarez heard all the doubters and sounds like he can’t wait to climb back into the ONE Circle to silence the critics. That mindset isn’t the end-all-be-all, but it is the right start.
Better Acclimated to ONE’s Lightweight Division
ONE Championship has a different and safer weight management system than any other martial arts promotion. The athletes come in a bit bigger and stronger than what you’d normally find in other promotions. Alvarez knew that, but it’s one thing to see the information and another to feel it in the ring. Nastyuhkin looked massive in the Circle with Alvarez, and I’m not sure if it was something the latter was totally prepared for heading into the match.
With that experience behind him and an entire training camp in place to prepare for the size and strength of his next opponent, Alvarez shouldn’t be stunned by Folayang’s power. In fact, Alvarez may be a bit bigger himself when he climbs into the Circle.
Folayang is Vulnerable
At 35, and soon to be 36, Folayang has had a long career. He’s coming off a first-round submission loss to Shinya Aoki which cost him his ONE Lightweight World Title. Throughout Folayang’s career, he has proven to be susceptible to precision striking, and that’s especially the case with counterpunching. Martin Nguyen put him to sleep with a counter right hand to win the ONE Lightweight World Title in 2017.
Folayang has a lot of mileage on his body, and he may be at a crossroads in his career. Alvarez appears to be the more well-rounded martial artist, but he has to prove it in Manilla.