ONE Interim World Flyweight Champion Adriano “Mikinho” Moraes (15-2) has been patiently waiting for a chance to prove that he is the best flyweight on the planet. He will get that chance on Saturday, 5 August, and the stakes could not be any higher.
The Brazilian will clash with ONE World Flyweight Champion Kairat “The Kazakh” Akhmetov (23-0) in a title unification bout at ONE: KINGS AND CONQUERORS, which broadcasts live from the Cotai Arena at the Venetian Macao.
For Moraes, this is also an opportunity to exact payback against the last man who defeated him, and took the belt off his waist. Simply put, this is a dream scenario.
“It is a big dream,” the 29-year-old begins. “This time, it is not just about a championship. It is just a big fight, because I have never in my career fought against the same guy twice. This is the first time. For me, it is more exciting for this to happen.”
This title rematch has been two years in the making. Moraes, who won the inaugural crown in September 2014, defended the championship against Akhmetov at ONE: DYNASTY OF CHAMPIONS (BEIJING II) in November 2015. Riding a 22-fight winning streak, the undefeated Kazakhstani was awarded a title shot in his promotional debut.
In the riveting five-round battle, Akhmetov controlled the pace of the fight, stuffed Moraes’ takedowns, and used his world-class wrestling to ground the Brazilian. “Mikinho” was competitive, however, as he demonstrated versatile striking, and attacked the challenger with submissions from the guard.
Once it went to the judges, the result did not go Moraes’ way – “The Kazakh” snatched the title away via a razor-thin split decision. Although he was dethroned and handed his second-ever loss, Moraes is not bitter. He is a true martial artist, and knows the value of learning from his mistakes.
“I do not have a problem with the judges’ decision. The loss has given me too much in terms of learning and growth. When you lose a fight, you gain other things.”
“Mikinho” gained perspective, put some new weapons in his arsenal, and vowed to correct his past mistakes. He was determined to come back with a vengeance, and reclaim the belt.
The Brazilian’s quest back to the title started with Filipino knockout artist Eugene Toquero at ONE: UNION OF WARRIORS in March 2016. He survived an early scare after getting knocked down by a Toquero flying knee, only to later show his incredible warrior spirt and resilience. He recovered admirably, taking down his Filipino opponent and submitting him with a Brabo choke just seven seconds before the end of the opening stanza.
That victory earned him a title shot, but with Akhmetov injured, he competed for the ONE Interim World Flyweight Championship instead, going up against Tilek Batyrov at ONE: HEROES OF THE WORLD, also in Macao. Although Batyrov put up a valiant effort, Moraes was too much to handle, and submitted Batyrov en route to capturing the interim strap.
Now, nearly a year removed from that bout, he finally gets another crack at Akhmetov, and will attempt to unify the two titles. Moraes, who represents American Top Team and Brazil’s Constrictor Team, has the luxury of knowing his opponent’s strengths and weaknesses from their previous encounter.
“He is very good. He is an undefeated fighter. He is a wrestler who has a good ground game and skills,” the Brazilian explains, before identifying his opponent’s perceived weakness. “But with his back on the floor, he is like a kid.”
That said, Moraes knows he is not competing against a kid, but rather an undefeated champion who could very well be the best flyweight on the planet.
This is his chance to redeem himself from a painful loss two years ago, unify the ONE Flyweight World Championship titles, give the unbeaten Kazakhstani his only blemish, and prove that it is he — and not Akhmetov — who is the undisputed king of the division.
“It is a big fight. I am very excited, and everybody around the world wants to see this fight,” he says. “I need to take that belt again. I want this too much.”