KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia – After falling short in his bid to become a world champion last November, former flyweight title challenger Danny “The King” Kingad reinserted his name into the winner’s column, picking up a hard-earned victory at the expense of Bulgarian martial artist Sotir Kichukov.
The 22-year-old Baguio City native duked it out with short-notice opponent Kichukov on the undercard of ONE: VISIONS OF VICTORY in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on Friday, March 9. Kingad bounced back from his defeat to ONE Flyweight World Champion Adriano Moraes to secure the ninth win of his professional career.
Kingad’s match with 20-bout Bulgarian veteran Sotir “The Trouble” Kichukov was his first contest outside of the Philippines, but he looked equally at home in the Axiata Arena.
Kingad was originally scheduled to lock horns with Malaysia’s Gianni Subba on the aforementioned card, but the latter was called up to the main event to face Reece McLaren after Moraes withdrew from the defense of his flyweight crown against the Filipino-Australian dynamo.
It was a sigh of relief for Kingad that Kichukov accepted the offer to face him inside the ONE Championship cage.
“It happened a little less than two weeks before the bout, so it was certainly nerve-wracking,” he admitted. “I am happy that he stepped up to take this bout. My preparations for my return to action will not be futile,” Kingad said before the bout.
Despite the last-minute change in opponent, Kingad admitted that he made necessary adjustments in his game plan as he seeks to walk out of the newly-renovated Axiata Arena triumphant.
“It’s a different opponent, so there are definitely some things you have to change up. But anything can happen in a bout and that’s always my outlook on it. You go into a match, [and] you have to adapt inside the cage. Surely, I will exert a great effort to win this bout,” he said.
A former Max Fight bantamweight titleholder, Kichukov owns 20 pro matches and has competed in three bouts under the ONE Championship banner.
“The King” started the bout fast, securing a near-instant takedown on Kichukov before moving into side control. Though best known for his wushu striking, Kingad showcased his ground game in impressive fashion. He used Kichukov’s attempt to stand up as an opportunity to swiftly move to the Bulgarian’s back.
Kichukov recovered his composure after that initial flurry on the floor and scrambled back to the top position before the bout eventually returned to the feet for the end of the round.
The second frame started with “The Trouble” putting Kingad in big trouble, as the Filipino’s takedown attempt resulted in Kichukov locking up a tight guillotine choke. Kingad remained calm and managed to escape, and then returned to his bread and butter — his wushu striking.
He landed some spectacular strikes and looked to impose himself on his more experienced opponent, but Kichukov matched “The King,” and ended the stanza with another guillotine attempt.
The third round began with the result of the contest still in the balance. Both men looked to establish dominance over the other, with Kichukov initiating an early scramble on the mat.
Kingad looked to keep the bout on the feet, but “The Trouble” caught the Filipino catching his breath against the cage. He took the chance to take “The King” to the canvas, moved to back control, and went to work on a rear-naked choke.
With both men battling all the way to the scorecards, it was left to the judges to determine the victor after a hugely competitive encounter. And after the scorecards were collated, all three judges were in agreement as Kingad’s hand was raised.
Kichukov may have had more career wins than Kingad had bouts, but the result proved that, at just 22, “The King” already has the grit, determination, and maturity to battle toe-to-toe with a seasoned martial arts veteran and come out victorious.
With a host of contenders queueing up for opportunities at the top end of the ONE flyweight division, Kingad is expected to be involved in another high-level matchup when he returns to action later this year.