Rivalries: Adriano Moraes

By: Brian Knapp
Jul 4, 2021

Shares in Adriano Moraes stock continue to soar across the globe.

The current One Championship flyweight titleholder has established himself as one of the sport’s premier lighter-weight competitors, having linked arms with the Singapore-based promotion in 2013. Moraes, 32, owns a 10-3 record inside One Championship—all three of his losses resulted from split decisions—and finds himself in the midst of a second reign atop the 135-pound weight class. A Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt under Ataide Junior, the American Top Team representative has delivered 13 of his 19 career victories by knockout, technical knockout or submission.

As Moraes awaits word on his next title defense, a look at some of the rivalries that have helped shape his career to this point:

Yusup Saadulaev

Saadulaev succeeded where nine others before him had failed. A steady diet of takedowns and mild ground-and-pound carried Saadulaev to a split decision over the previously unbeaten Moraes in the One Fighting Championship 12 “Warrior Spirit” main event on Nov. 15, 2013 at the Putra Indoor Stadium in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Saadulaev delivered takedowns in the first and second rounds, attacking with strikes from the top once he secured a dominant position. Moraes scrambled out of danger on more than one occasion. The promising Brazilian prospect did his best work late in Round 2 and into Round 3, where he maneuvered into top position and unleashed some ground-and-pound of his own. Alas, the effort was not enough for Moraes to avoid defeat for the first time. Saadulaev escaped full mount in the third round, settled in top position and punctuated his victory. It remains the only unavenged defeat on the Moraes resume.

Geje Eustaquio

“Black Diamond” laid claim to the inaugural One Championship flyweight crown when he submitted Eustaquio with a guillotine choke in the second round of their “Rise of the Kingdom” headliner on Sept. 12, 2014 at Koh Pich Theatre in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Moraes drew the curtain 3:54 into Round 2. After a mostly uneventful first round, the two men traded punches in the second. Moraes connected with the more impactful blows, and stunned the Lakay MMA rep with a pair of right hands. Eustaquio escaped to his feet after being taken down, only to find himself in the clutches of a Moraes guillotine. The Filipino standout did what he could to extricate himself from the choke but ultimately raised the white flag in surrender. The encounter touched of a three-fight series between the two. Eustaquio exacted a measure of revenge in their “Pinnacle of Power” rematch on June 23, 2018, as he eked out a split decision over Moraes to capture the undisputed One Championship flyweight crown. His reign lasted just 210 days. Moraes reclaimed the title on Jan. 25, 2019, when he took a unanimous decision from Eustaquio and completed their trilogy at One Championship “Hero’s Ascent.”

Kairat Akhmetov

Akhmetov entered his One Championship debut at “Dynasty of Champions 4” with a perfect 19-0 record and exited the cage as the promotion’s undisputed flyweight champion after he eked out a contentious split decision over Moraes on Nov. 21, 2015. The Brazilian outstruck Akhmetov across a majority of their 25-minute confrontation at the Olympic Sports Center Gymnasium in Beijing, utilizing an active kicking game and a punishing jab that was enhanced by a discernible reach advantage. It was not enough to sway the judges entirely. Akhmetov controlled the center of the cage from his southpaw stance, leaned in the with few left hands and incorporated takedowns in the second, third and fifth rounds. Though his efforts resulted in far more positional dominance than damage, “The Kazakh” was handed a victory on two of the three scorecards in a decision most considered highly debatable. Moraes provided his response in their rematch a little less than two years later, when he took a unanimous decision from the Kazakhstani grappler in the “Kings & Conquerors” co-feature. The Brazilian carved up Akhmetov with crisp standup for the better part of 25 minutes and punctuated his triumph with a late takedown.

Demetrious Johnson

Moraes retained the undisputed One Championship flyweight title in a career-defining performance, as he wiped out “Mighty Mouse” with a perfectly timed knee strike in the second round of their One on TNT 1 main event on April 7, 2021 at Singapore Indoor Stadium in Kallang, Singapore. Johnson met his end 2:24 into Round 2, as the Madisonville, Kentucky, native was finished for the first time in 35 professional appearances. Moraes spent the first round proving he belonged in the same cage with an all-time great. The Brazilian made Johnson uncomfortable with evasive lateral movement, shrugged off a few takedowns in the second round and clipped the Matt Hume protégé with a right uppercut. The impact knocked the former Ultimate Fighting Championship titleholder off-balance and provided Moraes with the opening he needed. He swarmed with punches, then delivered the fight-ending knee to the dazed Johnson’s exposed face, necessitating an immediate stoppage.
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