Earlier this week ONE Championship announced arguably its biggest free-agent signing ever as the Asian-based MMA promotion inked former UFC lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez to a lucrative new contract. Alvarez is one of the top-five lightweights on the planet and his signing is a massive coup for ONE, who are clearly looking to show the UFC, PFL and Bellator there is another home for fighters to compete in. Alvarez’s ONE debut has not been revealed yet but an official announcement is expected soon, and below are several of the options for Alvarez’s debut fight in ONE.
Without a doubt, the fight that makes the most sense for Alvarez’s debut is a matchup against one of ONE’s top lightweights in Shinya Aoki. The reason this fight is so compelling is that it would be a trilogy fight between the two long-time rivals, who have split their first two bouts. Aoki tapped out Alvarez with a heel hook in DREAM back in 2008, and then Alvarez returned the favor with a TKO win in Bellator in 2012. With Aoki coming off of three straight wins under the ONE banner, he has some momentum coming into a potential trilogy fight against Alvarez. No doubt Alvarez would be favored to win the third fight between these two, but the fact Aoki has defeated Alvarez in the past makes a trilogy fight an easy sell.
Another potential opponent for Alvarez would be Martin Nguyen, who is the ONE lightweight and featherweight champion right now. Nguyen has tried to become a three-division champ twice but has lost both times at bantamweight, so it’s doubtful he goes back to 135lbs for his next fight. He seems much better suited for 145lbs or 155lbs. ONE loves Nguyen and has put a lot of its promotional muscle behind him. Even though Alvarez is coming off of a KO loss to Dustin Poirier in the UFC, if anyone was deserving of a title shot coming off of a loss it’s him. Alvarez vs. Nguyen for the lightweight title makes a lot of sense and would be a very exciting matchup.
If ONE doesn’t want to give Alvarez a title shot right away, then Eduard Folayang would be ideal. Folayang is the former ONE lightweight champion and has had a tremendous run in ONE with a 10-4 record in the promotion all-time. Folayang is coming off of two straight wins and has won six of his last seven fights, including a TKO win over Aoki that won him the lightweight title back in 2016. He may have lost the belt to Nguyen, but Folayang is still a very solid fighter, and would be a great introduction to Alvarez’s ONE career.
Finally, an option that is more of a pipe dream at this point would be Alvarez taking on Ben Askren in a matchup between former Bellator champions. Askren is undefeated in his MMA career at 18-0, 1 NC which includes a stellar 6-0, 1 NC record in ONE. He’s still the promotion’s welterweight champion though he has hinted at retirement unless he gets a big fight. A matchup against Alvarez would certainly qualify as a big fight. Of course, the biggest sticking point for this matchup would be weight classes as Askren is a welterweight and Alvarez is a lightweight. But if there’s any way to make this fight, even at a catchweight, then ONE should definitely consider it. If ONE wants to make some noise in the U.S., this would be the right fight to make.
Who should Eddie Alvarez fight in his ONE Championship debut? Leave a comment below with your favorite potential opponent.