This Friday, 2 August, the Vietnamese-Australian will headline the main event at ONE: DAWN OF HEROES, which will take place inside the Mall Of Asia Arena in Manila, Philippines.
Coming off a stunning flying knee KO of former titleholder Narantungalag “Tungaa” Jadambaa, Nguyen is riding a wave of optimism, and the division’s reigning king believes he will successfully defend his World Title.
“Having some time off [with the injury] made me reflect, and it made me hungrier. It also motivated me to push myself beyond setbacks and come back with a victory [over Jadambaa],” Nguyen said.
His opponent, “Moushigo,” first took the featherweight division by storm in September when he scored a phenomenal first-round TKO against former World Champion Marat “Cobra” Gafurov.
In a decisive victory against “Pretty Boy” Kwon Won II, the Japanese athlete impressed fans with his grappling skills and established himself as the division’s top contender, finally earning a shot at the gold.
Nguyen is well aware of Matsushima’s dual-threat skill set, and he knows nothing short of his best performance will allow him to successfully retain his title.
“His performance against Gafurov was expected as Gafurov was clearly getting frustrated and rushing in carelessly like he did with me,” Nguyen explains.
“The performance against Kwon Won II was a surprise to me as I thought Kwon had better defense to counter Matsushima’s wrestling, but Koyomi dominated and earned himself a shot with me.”
A Kyokushin Karate black belt, “Moushigo” has a varied striking repertoire and the accompanying power that can turn his stand-up game into a dangerous encounter for any opponent.
Nguyen, however, is a well-accomplished veteran who became the organization’s first-ever two-division ONE World Champion after capturing the featherweight and lightweight belts via back-to-back knockout wins.
Although Nguyen is the more experienced of the two athletes, the Vietnamese-Australian recognizes a lot of similarities between “Moushigo” and himself.
“He has really good wrestling. His striking is decent as well, but it is very reckless,” Nguyen said. “Both of our styles are very similar. We have great movement and power to counter, so come fight night, the fans should be expecting a great tactical battle full of fireworks and action.”
The Hardknocks 365 representative is also confident he has the skills to adjust and exploit some of the possible mistakes he believes his Japanese rival will commit during their thrilling battle.
“Every fighter has their strengths and weakness, but that is up to me on fight night to find out, capitalize on my game plan, and take Matsushima out – keep it simple,” Nguyen explained.
Matsushima may be Nguyen’s most well-rounded opponent to date, but the World Champion knows defeat at the hands of the Pancrase ISM Yokohama representative is not an option.
Before his return in April, Nguyen had to endure a lengthy spell away from the cage due to rehabilitation from injury.
Riding his recent triumph over “Jadambaa,” Nguyen is determined more than ever to maintain his focus and ensure he stays busy this year by stacking up the wins.
“Knowing that I am not injury free, I want to try and push out at least one more fight to end the year on a high,” Nguyen said.