Yoshitaka “Nobita” Naito was shocked last December, when Brazilian jiu-jitsu world champion Alex “Little Rock” Silva staggered him with a sharp striking game to ruin his spotless record, and take the ONE Strawweight World Title away from him.
However, it was the Japanese athlete who surprised Silva on Saturday, 12 May.
The two met in a world title rematch in the main event of ONE: GRIT AND GLORY in Jakarta, Indonesia, but Naito used his smothering grappling expertise to avenge his lone blemish, upset Silva, and reclaim the coveted title.
“I was worried the fans in Jakarta were not going to remember my name, but they did,” Naito said in his post-bout interview with Mitch Chilson. “There were some dangerous parts, but I showed some good grappling, and I was able to get [the win].”
Once the opening bell rang, Silva looked to pick up where he left off in their first encounter, as he reverted back to throwing the leg kicks that were so successful five months ago.
This time, however, Naito was better prepared, and appeared more aggressive on the feet.
Within moments, the Japanese competitor started shooting for takedowns, and brought “Little Rock” to the canvas to begin his suffocating ground attack.
In the second and third rounds, Naito, a decorated wrestler in Japan, continued to test the mat against Silva, a BJJ world champion. For the majority of the contest, it was Naito who relentlessly hunted for opportunities to attack his Brazilian adversary on the ground, and he gained more confidence as the bout wore on.
Although Silva remained a constant threat with his back to the canvas, making multiple submission attempts whenever he had the chance, Naito gave the Evolve MMA standout little to no room to operate. As a result, “Little Rock” spent most of the bout trying to scramble out of the Japanese athlete’s smothering wrestling.
Much of the same action ensued in the championship rounds, but by the final frame, it was obvious Silva’s corner had instructed him to turn up the aggression. The Brazilian let his hands go in the final five minutes. He had a few brief moments of success, where he tagged “Nobita” with stinging right hands.
Naito, however, was not going to be denied this time around, and opted to continue with a ground battle. While Silva threatened with a pair of heel hooks in the final moments of the bout, the strawweight challenger popped right out, and returned to pummeling the Brazilian with his pesky ground-and-pound.
In the end, the Japanese competitor did just enough to pull away with the win, and the title, via razor-thin split decision. With the victory, he improves to 13-1.
Naito’s victory evens out their spirited rivalry at one win apiece, with the talented wrestler capturing the ONE Strawweight World Championship for the second time in his career.