Kairat Akhmetov just tasted defeat for the first time in his professional career after putting together a 23-fight winning streak. But the circumstances were exceptional, the Kazakh flyweight returned from a near-two-year layoff to fight the best opponent in the entire division.
He lost a decision to Adriano Moraes last month and with it his belt, but Akhmetov feels it was a below par performance that he is unlikely to repeat.
“During my last fight, I didn’t utilize my whole skillset. I got too tired in round one. I hope this time I can show my best qualities in striking and grappling; everything I’ve learned over the past few years.”
Some fighters would be devastated about losing an undefeated record that took years of hard work to put together. Akhmetov is more philosophical and is able to take some positives out of the experience.
“I don’t think of it as a loss overall, as Moraes and I are 1-1 now, so it’s a draw. I managed to fight all five rounds, even though I felt tired after the first round. I feel fine despite of that loss. I accepted this fight (with Geje Eustaquio) at a short notice because I am ready. I feel calmer than ever.”
The fight he is referring to will headline ONE: Total Victory on Saturday night in Indonesia. It is a remarkably quick turnaround for Akhmetov, who fought Moraes only last month, and he is determined to get straight back to his winning ways and set up a trilogy bout with the Brazilian in the process.
“I am as excited as can be. As it happens after a loss, I want to jump back into the cage, fight, and put it all behind me. I accepted this fight at a short notice because I feel good now. I think this belt is mine and I should take it back, let’s not get ahead of ourselves, but this fight will decide a lot of things.”
Eustaquio has been fighting regularly for ONE Championship for over five years now so Akhmetov has seen plenty of footage on the Filipino. He thinks he knows exactly what to expect from the Team Lakay standout.
“He loves striking, has good wrestling defense, good knowledge of grappling. He has a strong character, goes until the very end , fights all the rounds. It won’t be easy to defeat him. He is a hard nut to crack. I am getting ready to fight all rounds. I feel well physically and strong mentally. I will try to show a good fight.”
However, Akhmetov has identified one weakness he feels he could exploit.
“He has holes in his wrestling game. I will try and wrestle.”
Akhmetov has been training at Tiger Muay Thai for this fight. He spends much of the year in Phuket and has been working hard on his striking skills, but sees the bout with Eustaquio as being high risk.
“To be honest, I think of him as a dangerous opponent because the stakes are high for me. He has little to lose, but if he wins, he gains a lot.”
If Akhmetov defeats Eustaquio then it seems likely that ONE Championship will award him an immediate title shot. But for the Filipino, this is a golden opportunity to jump the queue and the Kazakh is correct to point out that he has much more to lose than an opponent, who has won three out of his last four fights.
Akhmetov doesn’t seem as traumatized by no longer being undefeated as some fighters would. He has come to terms with it quickly but that doesn’t mean he lacks either the resolve or determination required to recapture that former glory,
“It was painful but I can accept it but I will never give up, I will never stop and will come to the top again.”
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