ONE Championship: Christian Lee cements lightweight legacy by destroying Iuri Lapicus at Inside the Matrix
- Young gun defends lightweight title with devastating display in first-round TKO in Singapore co-main event
- ‘The way I train, the way my team trains, we go for the finish,’ 22-year-old prodigy Lee says
Christian Lee stamped his class all over the ONE Championship lightweight division on Friday night, putting the doubters – and opponent Iuri Lapicus – to bed in the first round of their clash on the Inside the Matrix card in Singapore.
The 22-year-old wonder (14-3) had heard the calls from the peanut gallery that the lightweight wasn’t his true division, ever since he upset Japanese veteran Shinya Aoki (45-9, one no contest) to take the belt last May.
But he has brushed them aside as easily as he did the challenge of the previously unbeaten Lapicus (14-1), and the TKO was called with 2.19 gone on the clock.
What a moment, he said inside the Circle, and what a moment it was to announce that – just like his sister and ONE atomweight queen Angela Lee (10-2) – he’d soon be welcoming his first child into the world, alongside his wife Katie.
“I feel amazing,” he said. “It’s amazing to be back in Singapore, my second home. I had an amazing time. This victory is 100 per cent thanks to my dad and my coach [Ken Lee].
“I wouldn’t be anything without him. I certainly would not have this belt around my shoulder if not having my dad with me every step of the way.
“My beautiful wife is waiting at the hotel for me and we’re also going to be having our first baby and I’m so proud to share that with the world.”
Both fighters had been promising fireworks across Fight Week and Lee took the initiative at the bell, rushing forward and throwing Lapicus to the mat, while getting clipped on the way in.
Lapicus returned the favour as soon as they rose and it was two takedowns within 15 seconds and the wonder of just how frantic this one was going to get.
That question was asked quickly as Lee took Lapicus down, they squirmed for a few seconds like snakes in the bag, and then the Hawaii-based phenom got on top and rained the blows down as Lapicus turned turtle.
It was a quick call but the replays show a score or more on unanswered blows had landed – and Lapicus looked to be going nowhere fast.
“The way I train, the way my team trains, we go for the finish,” Lee said in the Circle afterwards. “We don’t play it like a game, man, we go in there to kill, and that’s exactly what I did. I had a little bit of early trouble but stuck to the game plan and that’s what led me to the victory.
“I was prepared to take this fight wherever it went. As the champion I’m not scared of anybody. I was prepared to bring the fight to him and he was prepared to bring the fight to me. He caught me with his best punch. I was able to take it.”
The Italy-based Moldovan had carved up 14 straight opponents before coming into the title fight, securing the number one ranking with an early finish (via rear naked choke) of former featherweight champ Marat Gaurov (17-3) at ONE: Warriors Code back in February.
That served notice that he was the real deal. Although 13 first-round finishes should have made that abundantly clear. He looked hard, and fast, from the bell but once Lee had his back it was all over.
There are plenty of possibilities ahead for Lee – including the looming shadow of American former UFC champ Eddie Alvarez (30-7, one no contest).
But for the moment the young star can hit the flight back home to Hawaii, plan for the new arrival, and for a future that looks about as bright as one can get.
“I could fight again tomorrow,” said Lee. “The lightweight division is not cleared out yet so there’s still work to be done.”