Filipino striking ace Geje “Gravity” Eustaquio is looking to exact some revenge, and claim a world title in front of his beloved countrymen.
On Friday, 26 January, he will meet former ONE Flyweight World Champion Kairat “The Kazakh” Akhmetov (24-1) for the ONE Interim Flyweight World Championship. The bout takes place as the main event of ONE: GLOBAL SUPERHEROES, which broadcasts live from the Mall Of Asia Arena in Manila.
“It was a learning experience for me, the first time I met Kairat,” the 28-year-old recalls of their initial encounter.
“I knew going into the match that it would be one of the biggest challenges of my career, given that he is a former world champion. Honestly, I was a little flustered. I thought I could have pushed the pace more, and maybe forced him to defend my strikes.
“I lost focus of the game plan, and allowed myself to operate at Akhmetov’s pace instead of dictating the action on the feet. I also could have had better takedown defense. I would have loved to have won, but it is what it is.”
Eustaquio, a fan favorite in the Philippines, is known for his fluid wushu striking game, with the distinct ability to remain calm under duress. He has faced some of the most talented martial artists in the world, with notable victories over Kentaro Watanabe, Gianni Subba, Anatpong Bunrad, and reigning ONE Strawweight World Champion Alex Silva.
The Team Lakay veteran even previously challenged current ONE Flyweight World Champion Adriano “Mikinho” Moraes for the inaugural title in September 2014, losing via guillotine choke in the second round.
Now, “Gravity” receives the second world title opportunity of his career, and a victory over his Kazakhstani adversary would line up a future showdown for the undisputed title of best flyweight in the world.
In order for him to win, however, Eustaquio is working on correct the mistakes he committed in their initial meeting. Of top priority is his takedown defense, which should prove handy against a wrestler of Akhmetov’s caliber. The good thing is that Team Lakay has made great strides to upgrade their wrestling and jiu-jitsu program, and the results have shown in the past two years.
“One of the aspects of my game I am working very hard on is my takedown defense,” he explains.
“Every day, we drill very hard in training. We all work to improve our ground game and takedown defense, so we can better showcase our wushu. After every bout, I aim to get better, win or lose. Every bout is a learning experience.”
Still, defeating Akhmetov will be quite the challenge.
The 30-year-old Akhmetov is one of the most talented flyweights on the planet. He is a three-time Kazakhstan Greco-Roman Wrestling Champion who has only lost once since making his professional cage debut in 2010 — a five-round unanimous decision loss to Moraes last August.
Despite falling on the wrong side of a split decision to “The Kazakh” in September, Eustaquio believes the knowledge he gained of his rival will be helpful in their forthcoming rematch.
“Kairat is a tricky opponent. After three rounds with him, I have gotten to know him a little better. I am able to understand what makes him a great martial artist,” the Filipino says.
“The thing is, his ground game is both a strength and a weakness. He relies heavily on his wrestling and grappling, so if I can somehow take him out of his element, I would find better success.”
For Eustaquio to emerge victorious against Akhmetov, he will have to somehow find a way around his elite grappling. Only then would he be able to put his world-class wushu striking on full display, and a win would guarantee another opportunity for revenge against Brazil’s Moraes.
“One thing you cannot knock Kairat for, though, is that he has a big heart. Kazakhstani martial artists have big hearts, and lots of pride. They do not go down easily, and are very tough. I am expecting another difficult bout. That is why I am preparing very well,” Eustaquio says.
“A victory over Kairat would land me a rematch against Adriano. I believe I have what it takes to become the undisputed ONE Flyweight World Champion.”