Yoshiyuki Nakanishi is only 26 years-old, but the four-time national Sambo champion already has a mixed martial arts (MMA) record of 11-2 and is the reigning DEEP Light Heavyweight titleholder. He is in for the highest profile fight of his entire career when he takes on the heavy-hitting Melvin Manhoef at ONE FC 3 later this month.
Nakanishi holds a win over reigning Bellator Light Heavyweight Champion Christian M'Pumbu and despite having such a strong Sambo background, he has been known to knock opponents out cold with either punches or head kicks. His last win came by stoppage due to soccer strikes so he will relish fighting under the ONE FC ruleset which allows kicks to the head of a grounded opponent.
After spending virtually his entire career competing in Japan, with a 2009 excursion into the Netherlands the sole exception, fighting in front of 7,000 fans at the Singapore Indoor Stadium will be a brand new experience for him and he has every reason to fear the explosive power of his opponent, a K-1 veteran and legendary knock out artist.
However Nakanishi is far from overawed by Manhoef, in fact he feels his stand up will be more than a match for the man who once knocked out UFC heavyweight contender Mark Hunt in less than 30 seconds.
"Not only am I confident that I will be good enough to stand with Manhoef, I think I can KO him. He is a very famous fighter in Japan and I have always loved watching him fight. I’m very happy and honored to fight against the fighter who I admire."
Nakanishi's base is Sambo which stylistically could make him a dangerous opponent for Manhoef whose devastating leg kicks and lightning fast punches are often undermined by a slightly suspect takedown defense and ground game.
Nakanishi claims to be very comfortable fighting on his feet but if he can use his Sambo skills to take the fight to the ground he will be a strong favorite to defeat the experienced Dutchman. He has been studying the stand up game for several years though and says he is much more than just a wrestler.
"Anyone who has seen me fight will tell you that I am not just a Sambo fighter anymore because I have been learning the stand up since the age of 21. You can not win MMA fights with only grappling techniques although I do prefer taking the fight to the ground."
Nakanishi is also 11 years younger and feels this is another factor which could play into his favour against a fighter who in 34 MMA fights has never experienced a third round.
"I feel that the longer the fight goes on the more I will be at an advantage but I have finished fights in the first round myself seven times so why should I wait? I can definitely knock him out in round one and if he thinks that I would need a takedown to do it maybe he will be surprised. I want to strike and grapple because I can win with both."
The fight will be taking place at a catchweight of 88 kgs (193.6 lbs) and although Nakanishi won the Deep Light Heavyweight tournament at 205 lbs and holds the title at that weight he has been as low as 185 lbs in the past. Many feel that his long term future is in the middleweight division but for the time being he is happy competing at 205 lbs.
"I’d like to defend my Deep title and keep fighting at light heavyweight division but I want the ONE FC light heavyweight belt too. I'm really excited to be fighting for ONE FC, it's an honor to fight on such a big stage against such a great fighter."
ONE FC is taking place at the Singapore Indoor Stadium on March 31st and is available worldwide on pay per view for $24.99 USD. For more information visit: www.onefc.com.