In typical Eddie Alvarez fashion, he found a way to battle back -- in more ways than one -- and make the ONE lightweight grand prix final.
Alvarez, the former UFC lightweight champion, defeated former ONE champ Eduard Folayang by rear-naked choke submission at 2:16 of the first round Friday in Manila, Philippines. The bout was the semifinals of the ONE lightweight grand prix. Alvarez will now meet Saygid Guseyn Arslanaliev in the finals Oct. 13 in Tokyo.
Folayang troubled Alvarez early on the feet and seemed to badly damage Alvarez's left leg with a kick in the opening minutes. Alvarez dropped to the floor favoring his leg and Folayang pounced with big punches on the ground. Alvarez managed to sweep Folayang and get into top position. He then quickly got mount, took Folayang's back and cinched in the choke for the comeback win.
"We've seen this," Alvarez said afterward. "We've seen this in my head. We persevered, we deal with adversity and we pulled out the 'W.'"
Alvarez (30-7, 1 NC) lost in the opening round of the grand prix back in March by TKO. That was his ONE debut. But injuries in the tournament, including to the man who beat him, Timofey Nastyukhin, allowed Alvarez to return to the bracket. Alvarez, 35, left the UFC as a free agent last year. The Philadelphia native has held titles in the UFC, Bellator, Japan's Dream and more.
Another former UFC champion also won Friday in ONE. Demetrious Johnson beat Takamitsu Wada by unanimous decision in a tough bout in the ONE flyweight grand prix semifinals. With the victory, Johnson advanced to the final against Danny Kingad on Oct. 13 in Tokyo.
Wada had Johnson's back for most of the first round and was a game foe. But Johnson, one of the top pound-for-pound fighters in MMA history, came back with his wrestling and grappling in the second and third rounds. He took Wada down, did damage from top position and controlled the bout.
Johnson (29-3-1) held the UFC's flyweight title over the course of 11 successful defenses, a promotion record. The Washington native won the belt in 2012 and did not lose until he was defeated by Henry Cejudo at UFC 227 in August 2018. Johnson, 32, beat Yuya Wakamatsu in March in his ONE debut to reach the grand prix semifinals.
"Mighty Mouse" left the UFC as part of a trade with ONE last October. The UFC acquired Ben Askren, the former ONE welterweight champion, in exchange.