After failing to reach the pinnacle in mixed martial arts in 2022, Garry Tonon is out to put things right in 2023.
“The Lion Killer” is wasting no time in returning to the ONE Championship Circle in 2023, opening his account against Johnny Nunez at ONE Fight Night 6 this Friday, January 13.
Tonon fell short in his last MMA bout against then-ONE featherweight world champion Thanh Le at ONE: Lights Out last March.
Soon thereafter, the 31-year-old switched to his bread and butter, as he returned to the grappling arts for a unique challenge.
The elite Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt welcomed Tye Ruotolo into ONE’s submission grappling world, putting on a thrilling contest before getting caught with a slick D’Arce choke from the 19-year-old phenom.
While the results may not have favored the American, his love for competition never faded. “The Lion Killer” even went to battle in the first round of the 2022 ADCC World Championships last September.
With an active calendar year behind him, Tonon – ONE Championship’s No. 2-ranked featherweight MMA contender – is dead set on reminding everyone why he is one of the most dangerous fighters in the division.
“It still feels great. I’m glad I’m still held in this regard. I do believe that I’ve worked very hard to get to where I’m at in both grappling and mixed martial arts. I consider myself deserving. It feels good that they still like me,” he said.
“I’m happy to still be close to the top spot. I obviously have a little bit more work to do to get another opportunity for the title. Who knows, maybe two or three more [wins], we’ll see how it goes. I’d love to get back in there and fight for the title as soon as possible.”
The man standing across from him this Friday, Nunez, faces arguably the toughest test of his own MMA career.
“Johnny Boy” feels his years on the wrestling mat will prove enough to stop the veteran submission grappler in his tracks. However, “The Lion Killer” believes his American countryman’s level and overall lack of competition makes him the right opponent to kickstart the new year.
“Johnny’s been fighting for a long time, but he has a sparse record. He’s fought very few times, in my opinion. I started fighting in 2017 or 2018, and I have as many fights on my record, almost,” Tonon assessed.
“He looks to win decisions most of the time, but it appears to me, based on his behavior, I would say that the TKO is just kind of situational. On the feet, he’s dangerous. He could definitely hit you with a hard punch, but he’s not precise. Unless I get hurt, I don’t see that as being a big problem for me.
“I don’t think he’s anywhere near my level in terms of my submission offense versus his submission defense.”
Being removed from MMA competition for ten months, Tonon feels many observers may doubt the credentials needed to rank him at the #2 spot in the featherweight division.
However, the New Yorker feels a landmark knockout of Nunez will be enough to justify his place in the weight class, and he thinks such an outcome could lead to the fights he really wants in the future.
“I would love to TKO this guy,” Tonon said.
“A knockout would be awesome, just because I’ve never done it before. I think that’ll bring me back to the roots of having a dominant grappling [game], mixed with striking performance.
“I’d love to fight Martin [Nguyen]. I’d love a rematch with Thanh. I obviously want to fight for the fucking title. So you know, whoever happens to be there. When it’s time for me to fight for the title, I want to fight. It doesn’t particularly matter.”
ONE Fight Night 6: Fight Card
- Superbon Singha Mawynn (c) vs. Chingiz Allazov – for featherweight kickboxing title
- Superlek Kiatmoo9 vs. Daniel Puertas – for vacant flyweight kickboxing title
- Mikey Musumeci (c) vs. Gantumur Bayanduuren – for flyweight submission grappling title
- Stamp Fairtex vs. Anissa Meksen – mixed rules bout (Muay Thai/MMA)
- Aung La N Sang vs. Gilberto Galvao
- Rodtang Jitmuangnon vs. Jidupo Yibu – kickboxing bout
- Garry Tonon vs. Johnny Nunez
- Anna Jaroonsak vs. Ekaterina Vandaryeva – Muay Thai bout
- Kim Jae Woong vs. Shoko Sato