ONE featherweight contender Garry Tonon returns to action at ONE Fight Night 12 in Thailand, as “The Lion Killer” takes on Shamil Gasanov at Lumpinee Boxing Stadium in a bout that could push the American towards a second shot at championship gold.
Tonon’s tilt at the ONE featherweight title ended in a first-round knockout defeat in March 2022, but be bounced back in style with a first-round Kimura finish of Johnny Nunez at ONE Fight Night 6 in January to put himself back in the featherweight mix.
“It kind of went pretty much how I thought in some regards,” Tonon explained.
“It’s not necessarily that I thought it was going to happen that quickly. The way I saw it, he was a tough wrestler and that’s like the way he does things. And I just didn’t see a world where he wasn’t going to find some way to attach himself to me and then that was going to be the end of the fight, because I was going to find some way to submit him off of that, you know?”
Tonon’s next assignment sees him facing 13-0 contender Shamil Gasanov in a bout that could propel the winner into a title fight later this year. It’s a tough test, but one that Tonon appears to have well scouted.
“I look at his game the same way that I look at my game,” he said.
“This guy is trying to look to control and submit people. He may as well be a jiu-jitsu guy. But, ultimately, when you look at this guy’s fights, this is what he does. He wants to get a hold of you, he wants to eventually submit you. And the fights that don’t go that way, it’s not because he was trying to do something else. It just didn’t happen.
“It’s like me and my fight with (Koyomi) Matsushima. I would’ve loved to submit the guy, but you know, it didn’t work out that way. It wasn’t like, ‘Oh, man, I’m going to knock this guy out,’ and that’s why the submission didn’t happen, or whatever the case may be. So that’s pretty much what this guy does.
“I actually think he’s a little different than some of the Dagestani/Russian wrestling types because he tends to favor submitting people over beating them up on the ground, which tends to be more of what those guys do. They submit people, for sure, but it’s usually a byproduct of grinding somebody out and then submitting them. To me, this guy seems much more focused on submitting.
“So, I think it’s a cool stylistic matchup to fight somebody who’s another really tough grappler. He hasn’t been proven in terms of tough grappling in the grappling world, but in the mixed martial arts world, for sure. He’s working his way there. He’s only fought, in my eyes, like one of the absolute best guys in the world in the weight division. But he did very, very well against that guy. So he’s proven himself in MMA, and he’s trying to make a bigger statement by having this matchup with me.”
Tonon clearly sees the matchup as a tussle between two grapplers with very different approaches. And, after assessing the challenge ahead of him, “The Lion Killer” said that the bout should serve up a fascinating contest, with Tonon getting his hand raised.
“I don’t think it’s going to go his way. But it’s a pretty cool matchup in that regard. I think similar to the Johnny Nunez fight, it just leads him to get submitted, because he wants to get a hold of me, right? And it’s going to give me more opportunities to get ahold of him in ways that I can make him quit.”
And, when pressed on his most likely path to a submission victory, Tonon offered a more specific prediction.
“For sure, I’m going to submit this guy. It’s just a question of how,” he stated.
“What’s the most likely way of doing it? Maybe some sort of guillotine.”
If Tonon is successful and gets the victory he’s chasing, the door could well be open to a shot at the featherweight title currently held by China’s Tang Kai. But, rather than simply targeting a title shot, Tonon revealed that he has a more comprehensive plan all laid out that involves matchups against two former ONE champions.
“One thousand percent, you’re going to see me pushing for a title,” he said.
“But you know why you’re going to see me pushing for a title? Because, number one, I make more money. Number two, obviously, it means something in the public eye. It’s representative of you’re the best in the division, whatever the case may be. Right? But after I push for that, the next person I want to fight after I win the title is Martin (Nguyen).
“I still look at Martin as the gatekeeper of the entire division. He’s won multiple titles, held them for very long periods of time against very tough opponents. You gotta win the title and you got to beat Martin. You don’t just do one or the other. Thank God he re-signed again so that I have the opportunity to do that. It would really suck to not have the opportunity. It would still feel somewhat empty to win the title and not have that fight. That’s what’s gotta come next.
“So, for sure, I want to win the title, start making as much money doing this as I possibly can. And then, hey, that Martin fight is going to be close and coming behind. I mean, the dude fights constantly. He’s very successful. There’s no doubt that he’s going to be one of the next guys.
“And then, of course, obviously, I still want to have a rematch with Thanh Le. No doubt. I want that from a selfish perspective. From the perspective of like, ‘Hey, I fought this guy, I lost, and I’d love to get that back.’ It’s just not in the same ballpark in terms of what’s important in this division compared to beating Martin, even though Thanh has beaten Martin.
“I know that sounds weird, but he just hasn’t been the staple in this division, winning multiple championships and holding them for long periods of time. It’s like, yeah, Martin is going to have some losses and setbacks. And his fight with Thanh Le was one of those, but that doesn’t erase the legacy that he had in this division.
“So anyway, long story short, let’s get the title, then let’s fight Martin, and then let’s fight Thanh.”