Christian Lee is the reigning ONE Championship lightweight king. He won’t forget 2019 in a hurry, it was without doubt the best year of his career so far.

At ONE: ‘Enter the Dragon’ he scored a stunning stoppage win over Shinya Aoki to win the lightweight title. Five month’s later he stepped up at very late notice to face Saygid Arslanaliev in the final of the promotion’s lightweight Grand Prix.

Lee won that fight by unanimous decision to solidify his status as the best lightweight on the roster. A fight with Iuri Lapicus was booked for ONE: ‘Infinity’ 2 but that event is on the backburner due to the ongoing coronavirus, or Covid-19 pandemic.

Lee still expects to fight Lapicus. The 22 year old also feels there are no shortage of worthy contenders on the recently released ONE Championship rankings.

He breaks them down here:

Spotless record

The record of #1 ranked Iuri Lapicus speaks for itself. A lightweight title fight has already been offered to the Moldovan and Lee thinks he will be a worthy adversary,

“I definitely feel he’s deserving of that title. He’s currently 15-0 as a professional mixed martial artist, and he’s 2-0 in ONE Championship so far.”

Lapicus has scored stoppage wins over Shannon Wiratchai at ONE: ‘Enter the Dragon’ and Marat Gafurov at ONE: ‘Warrior’s Code’. Lee expects a title bout with the undefeated year old to be a ‘good test’,

“Although he is only two-fights deep in ONE Championship, I feel that because his record is spotless and he is undefeated, that’s what helps put him up there. I definitely feel like he’s going to be a good test.”

Inevitable rematch

Lee knows all about Saygid Arslanaliev. He stepped up on a week’s notice and beat the Turkish based Russian by decision at ONE: ‘Century’ pt I.

It was one of the most impressive performances of Lee’s career and he has plenty of respect for his former opponent,

“Dagi probably would be the #1 contender if I didn’t just fight him last October and beat him, but he has definitely earned his spot up there because he has taken out all the top contenders in the lightweight division and in devastating fashion.”

Before coming up against Lee he was undefeated and the champion expects Arslanaliev to work his way back into contention for a rematch,

“He’s got striking, good wrestling, and a black belt in jiu-jitsu. He’s a very well-rounded fighter. I feel he’s gone through a similar martial arts journey as myself, training as a child. He’s definitely one of the most dangerous contenders in the division. I know he’ll definitely work his way back up to a title shot, and we’ll see each other in the cage again soon.”

Good fighter

Pieter Buist underlined his title credentials with a decision win over Eduard Folayang at ONE: ‘Fire & Fury’. Lee thinks the Dutchman would be deserving of a title shot,

“Pieter Buist is a good fighter also. He’s a tall, lanky kickboxer. He’s got jiu-jitsu, too (and) he looks decent on the ground as well. I think he’s definitely deserving of his spot.”

Lee expects to fight Lapicus sooner or later. But he thinks Buist could be next in line,

“He’s 3-0 in ONE Championship so far, and he’s coming off a good win over Eduard Folayang. Originally, he was wanting a title shot next, and he’s definitely deserving, so maybe after Lapicus, we could see that fight coming up soon.”

Top contender

Timofey Nastyukhin would be higher than #4 if his career had not been badly disrupted by a knee injury. He knocked out Eddie Alvarez in the quarter final of the ONE lightweight Grand Prix.

But the Russian has been out of action for nearly 18 months and lost his spot in the tournament. But Nastyukhin is coming off the biggest win of his career and Lee sees him as a serious contender,

“Timofey is a great fighter. He’s got heavy hands and knows how to go for the finish. He’s definitely a contender (and) I feel like he could even be up higher on this list.”

However Lee notes that Nastyukhin was stopped by Arslanaliev recently which dented his title hopes,

“He did suffer a knockout loss to ‘Dagi’ so he’s definitely underneath him but he’s definitely not someone to look past because he’s always looking for the finish. He is somebody I’ve had my eyes on and any time ONE Championship wants to match us up against one another I’ll be ready.”

Two time champion

Lee has yet to defend the title for the first time. But #5 ranked Shinya Aoki knows exactly what it takes to embark on a long reign as champion.

The Japanese fighter has won the lightweight belt twice and is a veteran of seven ONE Championship title fights. He won five of them, with Lee and Folayang the only fighters to beat him in recent years.

Lee has already beaten Aoki once. But it was a massive upset and he believes the 37 year old will bounce back from that defeat,

“Shinya Aoki is a threat to anybody in the lightweight division. He’s won the belt, and he’s defended the belt. He came back from a loss and still reclaimed his belt.”

Lee believes Aoki is still good enough to beat absolutely anyone in the lightweight division. He considers the former champion to be a serious threat,

“Shinya could finish any of the other contenders on any given day. He’s definitely one of the most dangerous opponents for me.”