Timofey Nastyukhin was on top of the world. Coming off a devastating KO win against former UFC lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez the Russian was just days away from a semi final bout with Honorio Banario.

Then, during a training session at Tiger Muay Thai, disaster struck. Nastyukhin suffered an injury which would keep him out of action for the rest of the year,

“On the last week of preparation for Banario, I tore my knee ligaments and had to move to Russia for surgery,” he said.

The surgery was a success and Nastyukhin feels refreshed after the time off,

“It was done very well, and I got back to training after three months. I spent much time with my family and took some rest. My body recovered completely.”

Signature win

After scoring a signature win over Alvarez he was never going to be offered an easy fight on his comeback. Instead Nastyukhin has been matched with one of the top contenders in the division.

At ONE: ‘Inside the Matrix’ Part II tonight he faces Pieter Buist and Nastyukhin knows exactly what to expect from the tall Dutch fighter,

“My opponent is a good striker at range and he has good kicks, knees and good timing. His plan will be to keep the fight on the feet,” he says.

They have an opponent in common. But while Nastyukhin announced himself to Asian fans with a devastating KO over Eduard Folayang on his promotional debut in 2014 Buist needed a split decision to squeeze past the Filipino last year.

Given the five year gap between those fights Nastyukhin doesn’t read too much into those results. But he has been studying Buist’s recent fights,

“His fight with Folayang was close but it went as Buist wanted it to and he managed to get the victory. I studied him and worked a lot with tall sparring partners.”

Very attentive

His comeback would have happened a lot sooner had it not been for the Covid-19 pandemic. Nastyukhin has been ready to fight since the start of the year but had to wait until ONE Championship got permission to fly in international fighters to Singapore,

“You can find positive things even during an injury. Now I am ready to get back. I am hungry and healthy, actually I have been ready to fight since January.”

Nastyukhin normally prepares for bouts at Tiger Muay Thai in Phuket. This time he has been training in Russia where he found plenty of sparring partners who could emulate Buist’s style,

“I worked a lot in Dagestan with different sparring partners. His timing, reach and striking experience are his strong points (and) I shall be very attentive to them.”

Career defining

Nastyukhin is coming off that career defining KO while Buist has been the distance in his last two bouts. The Russian has some big finishes on his record but warns he will not be throwing caution to the wins in this bout,

“I never give a prediction on results but it will be a smart fight, a chess match. Both of us will be waiting for mistakes.”

With Buist ranked at #3 and Nastyukhin at #4 this has all the makings of a title eliminator. The Russian will be hoping to earn a shot at Christian Lee by scoring his second big win in succession.