Christian Lee fought his way to greatness in the finale of the ONE Championship Lightweight World Grand Prix at ONE: Century Part I in Tokyo Saturday night.
Sometimes, the MMA Gods look favorably upon the sport. At ONE: Century Part I, in the lightweight grand prix finale, the perfect ending to a tumultuous tournament was written. Having won the lightweight title against Shinya Aoki earlier in the year, Christian Lee stepped in short notice to replace Eddie Alvarez. Lee, brother of ONE star Angela Lee, had all of ten days to prep for opponent Saygid Guseyn Arslanaliev, as dangerous an opponent as you’ll find among the ONE ranks.
Arslanaliev was a rising prospect on a four-fight wrecking streak. Four finishes. Lee, a champ whose reign had only just begun, entering the tournament on such short notice that it was impressive he was even willing to throw his name in the hat.
It’s a good thing he did. It wasn’t easy, but Lee pulled off quite the upset Saturday in Tokyo. Less than a minute into the ONE lightweight grand prix final, Arslanaliev had the champ on his back. However Lee wouldn’t stay down for long. He’d have to be wary of a knee scrambling free, and Arslanaliev was relentless in his pressure. But Lee was back up, ready to regroup. He found himself under fire against the cage moments later, and was frequently retreating. He was taken down again, with nearly two minutes remaining. But again, Arslanaliev could not keep Christian Lee down long. The champ was back up, and with underhooks in, looked for a takedown of his own. He’d get it, landing in full mount with a full minute to work. Lee would uncork ground n’ pound while Arslanaliev covered up, but they’d escape the round.
That move to mount, that ground n’ pound, was key to the fight. It’s a scene that would repeat, again and again. Round two saw Christian Lee working on a front headlock. Arslanaliev would fight that off, but he was soon under fire from Lee, who used his striking to close the distance. Lee then worked for a trip, and finally took his opponent down, up against the cage, with three minutes to work. Having taken the fight on less than two week’s notice, Lee was putting on an impressive showing against a dangerous foe. With a minute remaining, he secured yet another takedown, and mount again, as he had in the first round. Arslanaliev worked to buck him off. Lee began dropping some slicing elbows. Once again, the frame came to a close before Lee could seal the deal.
Round three saw Arslanaliev, after an early attack, fending off another Lee takedown attempt. After stuffing that, Arslanaliev unloaded with some big shots. They’d move to center, and Lee would eat some big uppercuts. He’d take the fight down, looking to escape the danger, and once again moved to mount. Rinse, repeat, it was the theme of the fight. With two and a half minutes remaining, Lee had a huge opportunity to finish. He dropped in slicing elbows. Arslanaliev would turn, giving up the back. Lee wouldn’t give up on the fight. After coming in short notice as a big underdog, Christian Lee battled to a hard-fought victory to win the ONE Lightweight World Grand Prix. So hard-fought, Lee was seen vomiting into a pail after the fight.
The price paid of greatness, something Christian Lee achieved on Saturday at ONE: Century Part I. He now reigns as ONE lightweight champ, and grand prix champ.
Official Result: Christian Lee def. Saygid Guseyn Arslanaliev by unanimous decision – to win the ONE lightweight world grand prix.