When a martial artist's chances to succeed are written off, it takes courage for that athlete to step up and silence the critics.
But ONE Championship's stars have shown time and again that they have the fortitude to win at all costs – even when they're the underdog. In fact, plenty of underdog stories have played out inside the ONE Circle, which has given fans some of the greatest moments in combat sports.
Considering that, here are three athletes that earned career-defining victories when the cards were stacked against them.
Timofey Nastyukhin spoils an American icon's ONE debut
Eddie Alvarez entered ONE Championship with multiple world championships to his name, and his plan was to race toward the lightweight gold in his new promotional home.
"The Underground King" debuted against Timofey Nastyukhin at "ONE: A New Era" in March 2019, where it became clear that he would not have an easy road to the top of the division.
Coming in off a loss to Saygid "Dagi" Arslanaliev, the Russian's back was against the wall, but he never looked fazed as he traded blows with the American great.
Nastyukhin repeatedly found a home for his hammering right hand until one of the blows sent "The Underground King" reeling backward.
The Russian sensed his chance and plowed forward with hurtful punches. Alvarez slumped to the canvas to signal the end of the battle at 4:05 of the opening round.
Christian Lee overcomes his mentor to become lightweight king
Shinya Aoki will go down in history as one of the greatest lightweight MMA fighters of all time, and Christian Lee started his own run toward that status when he defeated the Japanese icon at "ONE: Enter the Dragon" in May 2019.
The young Singaporean-American stepped up a division to take on Aoki – a man who had been an inspiration to him when they trained together at Evolve MMA – and Lee left with the ONE lightweight world championship.
It didn't come without a fight, however, as "Tobikan Judan" looked close to a finish with a wince-inducing armbar in the opening round.
Lee gritted his teeth and escaped, giving himself the chance to get back into the contest in round two. "The Warrior" wasted no time in going after the win. He roared back and pummeled Aoki with punches to get the TKO victory just 51 seconds into the second frame.
This signaled Lee's switch from apprentice to master, and he's been the most dominant force in the lightweight ranks ever since.
Lee will now go for gold in a second division when he faces Kiamrian Abbasov for the ONE welterweight world title at ONE on Prime Video 4 on November 18.
Joseph Lasiri breaks a Thai legend to win muay Thai world title
If there's one man who showcases the power of perseverance in ONE, it's Joseph Lasiri.
The Moroccan-Italian lost five times in his first six fights in The Home of Martial Arts, but after deciding to drop down in weight to a division he felt more physically suited to compete in, he went on a roll.
After back-to-back wins, Lasiri faced Prajanchai PK.Saenchai for the ONE strawweight muay Thai world title at ONE 157 this past May. Still, his resume was dwarfed by that of his heavily favored rival, a Rajadamnern and Lumpinee Stadium muay Thai world champion.
Prajanchai had just defeated Sam-A to win the gold, and many expected the Bangkok resident to claim another win in his first defense against "The Hurricane."
When they came to blows, though, Lasiri flipped the script. He blasted the Thai with furious punch combinations for three rounds, forcing him to quit on his stool before the fourth round.
Now a ONE World Champion, Lasiri will return to his old division to challenge Rodtang Jitmuangnon for the ONE flyweight muay Thai world title at ONE on Prime Video 4.
This story first published at ONEFC.com.