Meet the Russian who spoiled the party at Eddie Alvarez's ONE Championship debut: Timofey Nastyukhin
To much of the western-watching MMA fanbase, Timofey Nastyukhin was just an obstacle. The Russian fighter was lined up to be the first opponent for ONE's high-profile new signing Eddie Alvarez in the organization's Lightweight Grand Prix tournament.
Some believed Nastyukhin - a relative unknown outside of dedicated followers of ONE - would be a pushover opponent. After all, wouldn't ONE want their new signing Alvarez to get off to a flying start after his big-money arrival?Also on rt.com ‘Monstrous KO artist’: Russia’s Nastyukhin stuns Alvarez at One Championship (VIDEO)
Well, ONE Championship doesn't quite work that way. The organization is entrenched in its martial arts ethos of fairness, respect and honor, and as such Alvarez was thrown in with one of the organization's most dangerous men.
Unbeknown to many watching ONE for the first time this weekend, Nastyukhin is an established contender in the ONE lightweight division, and one with a penchant for quickfire stoppage victories.
In short, he was a very dangerous opponent for someone like Alvarez, who often finds himself involved in toe-to-toe battles with his opponents.
Timofey Nastyukhin SHOCKS THE 🌏! The Russian warrior knocks out Eddie Alvarez at 4:05 of Round 1 to advance in the ONE Lightweight World Grand Prix! #WeAreONE#ANewEra#Tokyo#MartialArtspic.twitter.com/YxUV0TSnFR— ONE Championship (@ONEChampionship) March 31, 2019
And so it proved, as Nastyukhin caught Alvarez with a big shot that staggered the former UFC and Bellator world champion, then moved in and battered "The Underground King" with strikes to secure a quick finish and claim a shock victory against his more illustrious opponent.
But who is Timofey Nastyukhin? Here are eight things you need to know about the heavy-handed 29-year-old from Siberian city of Novokuznetsk.
1. HE IS A FIRST-ROUND FINISHER
Nastyukhin is a bona-fide finisher of fights, with 11 of his 13 career wins coming inside the distance.
But even more impressively, all seven of those finishes have coming inside the very first round, making him one of the most dangerous fighter in the ONE Championship lightweight division.
2. HE HOLDS A KNOCKOUT WIN OVER A FORMER ONE WORLD CHAMPION
Nastyukhin arrived in ONE Championship with a bang, as he starched Filipino star Eduard 'Landslide' Folayang in just three minutes, 11 seconds with a stunning flying knee knockout.
It announced his arrival on the big stage as a legitimate threat to the world's best in the lightweight division. And when Folayang later went on to become one of the biggest superstars in ONE Championship, Nastyukhin's incredible KO only became even more impressive in retrospect.
3. HE WAS BORN AND RAISED IN KAZAKHSTAN
Nastuykhin's mother is Kazakh, while his father is Russian. And following the break-up of the USSR and the resulting tensions between nations, Nastyukhin's family left Kazakhstan and settled in the Siberian city of Novokuznetsk.
He says his strong family values have stayed with him to this day.
"I am from an ordinary family, really," he said.
"Many people think that after perestroika, everyone in Russia went crazy, but it is not true. Family values and education has always been important in my country.
"My sister and I were taught the importance of simple truths: to love your family, to always put them first, and to help each other."
4. HE HAS BOUNCED BACK FROM MULTIPLE SETBACKS
Nastyukhin, competing as a featherweight, suffered a broken shin during a fight with former world champion Kotetsu Boku, but somehow continued to fight to the end. But his injury meant he had to spend a spell away from the sport to rest and recover.
Shortly after, he suffered another terrible setback with the loss of his father. But Nastyukhin persevered and came back to ONE Championship as a lightweight fighter and quickly became one of the most dangerous men in the division.
5. HE ISN'T INTERESTED IN TRASH TALK
Nastyukhin is a quietly-spoken, respectful fighter who doesn't engage in the sort of trash talk that we sometimes see in the sport of MMA.
Instead, he prefers to keep his counsel, focus on his preparation then do his talking with his fists and his feet inside the cage.
"The cage always shows who is the better man, so what is the point of being a bully before the match," he told ONE Championship during a pre-fight interview last year.
"I do not want attention for the sake of attention. I was taught from a young age to not seek cheap popularity."
6. HE TOOK UP MARTIAL ARTS TO BEAT THE BULLIES AS A YOUNGSTER
Being of Kazakh descent, he didn't look like most of the other children in Siberia when he was growing up, and that led to him being relentlessly bullied as a youngster.
In a bid to give him the confidence to stand up to the bullies, he took up martial arts, which put him on the path to MMA stardom he has achieved today.
7. HE LIVES IN RUSSIA, TRAINS IN THAILAND AND FIGHTS ACROSS ASIA
Nastuykhin may still live in Siberia, but parts of his training camps are spent in the much warmer climes of Thailand, where he is put through his paces at the world-renowned Tiger Muay Thai camp in Phuket.
There, Nastyukhin trains alongside some of the best fighters in the world, including Russian UFC bantamweight star Petr Yan and UFC lightweight Mairbek Taisumov, as he sharpens his skills ahead of his fights.
But when he competes, he does so across the continent of Asia. He has won his ONE Championship fights in the Philippines, China, Thailand, Myanmar and, most recently, Japan.
8. HIS NEXT FIGHT IS AGAINST ANOTHER AMERICAN
Nastyukhin's stunning first-round knockout of Alvarez meant he progressed to the semi-finals of the ONE Lightweight World Grand Prix tournament, where he will face another American fighter, Hawaiian grappler Lowen Tynanes.
If he wins that, he'll find himself in the tournament final, where victory will put him into a fight for the ONE lightweight world title, which was won at the weekend by Japanese veteran Shinya Aoki.