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Khabib Nurmagomedov protege Saygid Izagakhmaev prepares to fight James Nakashima at ONE: Heavy Hitters. Photos: ONE Championship

ONE Championship 161: Khabib Nurmagomedov protégé Saygid Izagakhmaev returns against Chinese veteran Zhang Lipeng

  • Highly regarded Khabib student returns against 47-fight veteran Zhang at ONE 161, slated for September 29 in Singapore
  • Russian already holds the No 5 spot in ONE’s lightweight rankings, and could be in range of a title shot if he is victorious

Khabib Nurmagomedov protégé Saygid Izagakhmaev will soon return to the ONE Championship Circle for a fight with streaking Chinese veteran Zhang Lipeng – and the winner will be in prime position for a lightweight title shot.

The bout, which was recently revealed by the promotion, will land on the main card of the event, slated for September 29 in Singapore.

The 27-year-old Russian Izagakhmaev, who trains under the former UFC lightweight champion Nurmagomedov in Dagestan, debuted in ONE in January, submitting former welterweight title challenger James Nakashima with a second-round Brabo choke.

Saygid Izagakhmaev looks to submit James Nakashima at ONE: Heavy Hitters.

The victory was impressive enough to push Izagakhmaev (20-2) into the No 5 spot in the ONE lightweight rankings, from which point a crack at the division’s reigning champion Christian Lee is likely only a win or two away.

Izagakhmaev will look to take another big step in that direction when he takes on China’s Zhang at ONE 161.

Zhang (33-11-2), is not currently a part of ONE’s lightweight top five, but with five wins and a draw behind him, is on the cusp of earning a ranking spot himself.

Zhang Lipeng celebrates a decision victory over Eduard Folayang.

The 32-year-old Chinese veteran, who is one of the most experienced mixed martial artists currently competing in ONE, has gone 2-0 since joining the promotion in mid 2021.

He made a splash in his debut, picking up a decision win over two-time lightweight champion Eduard Folayang, and followed that up with a stunning first-round knockout over Kyrgyzstan’s Ruslan Emilbek Uulu.

ONE 161 will be headlined by a featherweight Muay Thai title fight between champion Petchmorakot Petchyindee and challenger Tawanchai PK Saenchai, both of Thailand.

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The event was originally expected to be headlined by a heavyweight title fight between undisputed champion Arjan Bhullar and interim champion Anatoly Malykhin, but that plan fell through due to a Bhullar injury.

The card will also feature a crucial atomweight MMA clash between long-time ONE stars Ritu Phogat and Tiffany Teo, and the return of former flyweight title challenger Yuya Wakamatsu, who will lock horns with China’s Wang Shuo.