When Ilya Freymanov arrived in ONE Championship, his debut performance saw him immediately enter the featherweight rankings by dominantly dispatching Martin Nguyen last October at ONE Fight Night 2.
And last Saturday, 10th June, Freymanov’s stock soared even higher when he overcame a tricky adversary in Shinechagtga Zoltsetseg on the main card of ONE Fight Night 11: Eersel vs. Menshikov.
The Russian had some early hardship to overcome in their featherweight mixed martial arts battle, however, as Zoltsetseg utilized his frightening power to send him to the canvas inside the opening 30 seconds.
But Freymanov quickly regained composure and roared back to score a submission win over his Mongolian foe via a rear-naked choke at 2:18 of the first round.
His performance gave fans the opportunity to see what he is truly made of, following his one-sided promotional bow.
So, with Freymanov’s position in the division now solidified, what’s next for the No. 3-ranked featherweight contender?
While he left the ring relatively unscathed on Saturday and would likely be ready to compete again soon, the majority of the other top-5 fighters in the division are otherwise involved.
Freymanov has already defeated No. 4-ranked Nguyen, and second-ranked Garry Tonon is set to battle #5-ranked Shamil Gasanov at ONE Fight Night 12 on Saturday, July 16, meaning they’re out of the running.
But a possible foe may lie further up the rankings. Former ONE featherweight world champion and current top-ranked contender Than Le was scheduled to rematch reigning king Tang Kai in the main event of ONE Fight Night 12 before an injury forced Tang out.
The American is likely to wait for the Chinese world champion to recover before stepping into action, but a clash with Freymanov could make for an interesting affair.
It would give Le a chance to further separate himself from the pack of hungry contenders behind him, and it would comfortably be the biggest challenge of Freymanov’s career.
It is a hypothetical meeting for now, but if both stars want to stay active, they could do no better than squaring off against each other in the hopes of pouring more fuel on the fire that is the ONE featherweight MMA division.