Iuri Lapicus (14-1) has long been considered one of the most dangerous fighters at lightweight, and his move up to welterweight could have a massive impact on the division.
The Moldovan star will begin with a tough test when he faces former ONE welterweight world champion Zebaztian Kadestam (13-7) at ONE on Prime Video 1, which airs live in North American primetime on Friday, August 26.
On paper, this matchup at the Singapore Indoor Stadium should be an absolute barnburner.
Kadestam has five wins in ONE Championship – all of which came by knockout – so this will be a baptism by fire for the divisional newcomer. At the same time, it's a perfect opportunity for Lapicus to establish himself as a serious threat at 185 pounds.
Ahead of fight night, here are five reasons why the former ONE Lightweight World Title challenger could immediately shake up ONE's welterweight MMA landscape.
1. He owns a well-rounded style
Lapicus is the quintessential mixed martial artist who combines overwhelming striking with a punishing ground game.
His ONE Championship debut against Thai veteran Shannon Wiratchai was a textbook example of using superb wrestling and brutal submission grappling. Lapicus first utilized his elite ground-and-pound before pouncing for a tight rear-naked choke to emphatically announce his arrival.
The Moldovan's second appearance featured more of the same, but it was over even sooner. He rag-dolled former ONE featherweight world champion Marat Gafurov before securing another submission via first-round choke.
However, Lapicus is more than a ground wizard. He owns four career knockouts and is more than happy to trade shots on the feet.
2. He's a certified finisher
Amazingly, Lapicus has never needed the judges to earn any of his professional MMA victories.
The 26-year-old owns a sparkling 14-1 record in his career to date, with 10 submission finishes alongside those four KOs.
Moreover, his stoppages have come from a variety of moves, including rear-naked chokes, armbars, a guillotine choke, a triangle choke, and powerful strikes.
Lapicus is a highlight reel waiting to happen, and he will look to add more victims with his move to welterweight – a division that's already stacked with killers.
3. He's the kickboxing GOAT's protege
They say that iron sharpens iron, and Lapicus has been forged with an anvil from one of the legends in combat sports.
The Moldovan is a member of the famed Team Petrosyan in Italy, where he develops his striking under the watchful eyes of ONE Championship superstar Giorgio Petrosyan – widely considered the greatest kickboxer of all time.
Just like his mentor, Lapicus displays a menacing calm during his standup sequences before exploding for earth-shattering strikes.
And although he favors his grappling when hunting for finishes, Lapicus utilizes his striking to soften up opponents before locking in chokes that send them to the shadow realm.
4. He is strength personified
Martial arts have always been built around technique, but it also helps when a fighter possesses pure and brute strength.
In this case, Lapicus complements his technical wisdom with raw power that is nearly impossible to stop.
The best showcase of this feature was his match against Gafurov. While the Russian is one of the most feared submission specialists in ONE, he fell victim to Lapicus' strength in their February 2020 matchup at "ONE: Warrior's Code."
After the athletes got tangled up near the ropes, Lapicus threw Gafurov to the ground as if the former featherweight king was a piece of paper. He then took his foe's back, and within a couple of seconds, the bell was ringing to signal a finish.
5. Welterweight looks to be a natural fit
At 5-foot-11, Lapicus was considered big for the lightweight division, and his move up to welterweight might put him in a more natural position.
He could certainly wreak havoc if he maintains his trademark explosiveness and adds even more strength to his frame.
Either on the feet or on the ground, the Moldovan has shown unbelievable grit and a desire to shoot for memorable finishes that will be replayed for years to come.
If the 185-pound class really is a true fit, then the welterweights of ONE Championship should prepare for a serious threat within their ranks.
This story first published at ONEFC.com.