5 serious contenders for Kiamrian Abbasov’s newly won Welterweight Title

It took Kiamrian Abbasov a while to get his shot at the ONE Welterweight World Championship, but when he got his opportunity, he made the most of it. Abbasov dominated Zebaztian Kadestam at ONE: Dawn of Valor in October to win the title. The victory made Abbasov just the third man to win the title in the promotion’s history.

Through Abbasov’s career, he has compiled a 22-4 record with 10 KOs and four submissions. He wasn’t able to finish Kadestam, but his unanimous-decision victory served the rest of the division notice. It will take a herculean effort to dethrone the new king. Here is a look at five prospects who will line up to challenge the new champion.

James Nakashima

The American came to ONE Championship under tons of fanfare. He’s been every bit as good as he was billed. The 31-year-old is 12-0 in his career and a perfect 3-0 with ONE Championship. From the moment he arrived with the promotion, he has faced and defeated noteworthy opponents. In November 2018 at ONE: Conquest of Champions, James Nakashima scored a unanimous-decision victory over Raimond Magomedaliev. He’d beat veteran striker Luis Santos in April at ONE: Roots of Honor via TKO when the latter suffered a leg injury and couldn’t continue.

Most recently, Nakashima defeated Yushin Okami at ONE: Dawn of Heroes in August in one of his most dominant performances. Quite honestly, it’s difficult to see where else he’d go but to a title shot at this point.

Luis Santos

While Nakashima handed LuiSantos a defeat, the Brazilian is the only man in ONE Championship who owns a victory over Abbasov. In March 2018 at ONE: Visions of Victory, Santos scored a unanimous-decision over Abbasov. Santos has had more combat experience than almost anyone you’ll see with any promotion. The 39-year-old is 65-12-1-1 in his career. He has a whopping 38 wins by KO, and it’s his striking that makes him a tough assignment for anyone. 

Abbasov found that out firsthand. There is no guarantee we’d see the same result in a rematch. However, while Santos’ last bout was his loss to Nakashima, it’s easy to make an argument he deserves to get a second crack at Abbasov.

Reinier De Ridder

ONE and mixed martial arts fans should be very excited about Reinier De Ridder. The 29-year-old from The Netherlands has a perfect 11-0 record with stoppages in every bout. Most recently, he crushed the rugged Gilberto Galvao in June at ONE: Legendary Quest via second-round TKO. At 6’3″, De Ridder is an imposing figure. On the strength of a crushing ground game, De Ridder has the tools to give anyone a run for their money. Many believe it’s only a matter of time before he wins a world title with ONE.

De Ridder vs. Abbasov has the potential to become an epic contest between multi-faceted martial artists. De Ridder might be the only man who could leapfrog Nakashima in the line to be Abbasov’s opponent in his first defense.

Zebaztian Kadestam

The first match wasn’t close, but Kadestam was a strong champion. It’s not to say he deserves an immediate rematch, but a chance to regain his title shouldn’t be too far from his reach. Kadestam won the title with a fifth-round TKO win over Tyler McGuire. He then defended his title with a win over Georgiy Kichigin in a match that required Kadestam to display some serious resilience. Much like Abbasov and former champion Ben Askren controlled Kadestam with grappling, Kichigin had success against The Bandit in this way.

Perhaps a win over a contender or two would put Kadestam back into position to challenge for the title he lost. In the meantime, Kadestam must shore up his grappling if he wants to have better luck against Abbasov in a rematch. If he is matched with De Ridder in a No. 1 contender’s match of sorts, these underdeveloped skills will come in handy.

Agilan Thani

Yes, Agilan Thani just lost to a close split decision to aging Japanese veteran Yushin Okami at ONE: Century in October, but we still have to remember a few things. First, the match really could have gone either way. If one of the judges had seen it just a bit more in Thani’s favor, he’d be on a two-bout win streak. As it is, he’s lost four of his last five bouts. 

Unfortunately, one of those losses was a first-round submission loss to Abbasov back in December 2018. Thani is in a rough patch of his career, but he’s only 24 years old. He may have accelerated his competition a bit too quickly. Regrouping, adding victories against some lesser opponents while regaining his confidence could be the move for him. 

Thani is talented, but he needs to string some wins together to get a championship rematch against Abbasov.

This article first appeared on BJPENN.COM on 11/11/2019.