When Iuri Lapicus stepped foot in ONE Championship’s ring for the first time, back in May of 2019, nobody but the most hardcore fight fans knew who the undefeated Italian-Moldavian athlete was.
During that debut fight, Iuri Lapicus (14-0 MMA, 2-0 ONE) was able to bring home the victory with a slick rear-naked choke on Thai veteran Shannon Wiratchai in the third round. But it was earlier this month that he made a huge statement and shocked the entire MMA community, finishing former ONE and M-1 Global featherweight belt-holder Marat Gafurov with Gafurov’s own signature move, the rear-naked choke.
“The plan was to soften his legs with some low kicks”, Lapicus told BJPENN.com. “I knew he lacked on conditioning in his legs. Well, you saw how it played.”
Iuri Lapicus made short work of the Russian, submitting “Cobra” in just 67 seconds, after a well-executed harai goshi that helped Lapicus take his foe’s back.
“That maneuver doesn’t work every time”, the former judoka admitted. “But it helps me a lot since it’s an unusual technique that usually catches my opponents off guard.”
While the Milan-based fighter has a Judo background, he is certainly not unprepared when it comes to the stand-up game as he trains and spars with one of the greatest kickboxers of all time, Giorgio Petrosyan, who recently won the ONE Featherweight Kickboxing World Grand Prix.
“[Petrosyan] helps me a lot,” he said of his work with the kickboxing legend. “Not everyone has the privilege to train with the best in the world. He gives me advice all the time, not only about the technical side but also about the mind part of the game and it means a lot to me.”
Iuri Lapicus’ last performance impressed ONE CEO Chatri Sityodtong so much that he decided to give him a title shot in May, against the promotion’s current lightweight champ Christian Lee.
“I was expecting a title shot before the Gafurov fight,” Lapicus said. “I knew that with an impressive win I could get it, and so it was. I was already studying Lee before my last bout so I knew him already, but I’ll let the ring talk. We’ll see how it goes.”
Both Lapicus and Lee like to finish their bouts in rapid fashion. The former has never gone the distance and holds a 100% finishing rate, while the champion has needed the judges’ just two times in his entire professional career.
“I always prepare to go five rounds”, Lapicus said. “But again, we’ll see how it plays.”
The Moldavian, a natural 170-pounder, is content with his current weight situation and is not planning to drop a weight class anytime soon.
“You know, it is nearly impossible to cut weight in ONE with all their weight-cutting rules,” he said. Athletes are constantly tested both on weight and hydration. I feel good in my current weight class and I think it’s the best for my health and safety. I’m going to stick to 170 pounds for now.”
Since one of the most prominent Italian combat sports promoters, Carlo Di Blasi was nominated ONE Championship Italy’s president, rumors are circulating about potential potential ONE events on Belpaese’s soil.
“I think the dates are scheduled,” Lapicus said of a potential ONE Championship show in Italy. “There are rumors spreading, but nothing definitive yet. It won’t be easy to have another generation of such talented Italian fighters, so I guess that brings three potential champions [Giorgio Petrosyan, Iuri Lapicus, and Mustapha Haida] fighting in front of their home crowd will be the greatest gift for the Italian fans.”
Do you like Lapicus’ chances of becoming the ONE lightweight champion? Make your prediction in the comments section.
This article first appeared on BJPENN.com on 2/26/2020.