Christian Lee
Christian Lee ONE Championship photo


  • ONE 161 is set happen on Thursday, September 29 in Singapore
  • One of the undercard fights is a lightweight tiff pitting Zhang Lipeng against Saygid Izagakhmaev
  • The winner of the bout could get a shot at Christian Lee's lightweight championship

Over a month into Christian Lee's second reign as the ONE lightweight champion, names of possible contenders to challenge him for the coveted world title have surfaced.

As Lee waits for his next worthy foe to step up to the plate, there is one lightweight mixed martial arts bout booked for ONE 161 on Thursday, September 29 that could guarantee the winner a shot at the intricately-crafted hardware.

UFC veteran Zhang Lipeng is slated to duke it out against No. 5-ranked lightweight Saygid Izagakhmaev on the undercard of the aforementioned live event, which takes place at the 12,000-capacity Singapore Indoor Stadium.

On the heels of a dominant run in the China-based Kunlun Fight promotion where he became a two-division titleholder, Zhang somehow managed to translate his regional success when he joined ONE Championship in 2021.

Saygid Izagakhmaev
Saygid Izagakhmaev ONE Championship photo

Zhang turned heads when he defeated former ONE lightweight kingpin Eduard Folayang via unanimous decision in his August 2021 promotional debut and then opened his 2022 campaign by knocking out Ruslan Emilbek Uulu with a counter left hand in 32 seconds this past January.

An imminent entry into the organization's lightweight rankings is what seemingly awaits Zhang if he can pull off another stunning victory at ONE 161, but as the old saying goes, it is easier said than done.

The winner of The Ultimate Fighter: China lures a Russian opponent who has been highly regarded by fans and pundits alike as a talented prospect that could follow in the footsteps of retired lightweight great Khabib Nurmagomedov.

Mentored by Nurmagomedov himself, Izagakhmaev holds a stellar professional record of 20-2 with a 90% finishing rate.

Izagakhmaev put everyone on notice in his maiden appearance last January, submitting ex-welterweight title challenger and then-lightweight newcomer James Nakashima in the second round with a wrenching Brabo choke.

That win alone earned Izagakhmaev a spot in the Top Five of ONE Championship's lightweight division.

With the fearsome credentials and growing statures of both men in the stacked weight class, it makes the most sense that the winner of their clash could get a future date with Lee inside the cage.

In fact, Lee has fought and won against the majority of the ranked lightweights in the current Top Five such as Ok Rae Yoon, Saygid "Dagi" Arslanaliev, Timofey Nastyukhin and Shinya Aoki.

There is a possibility that the Singapore-based outfit's matchmaking team could opt for a fresh face to be Lee's next opponent.

In a recent interview, Lee shared his thoughts on the matchup and picked Izagakhmaev to prevail over Zhang.

"I think Saygid is going to win that fight. Lipeng, he's a veteran of the sport, but I think Saygid brings a special skill set to the division. I think it's going to take someone special to really stop his run, and I see him working his way up to a title shot real soon," he stated.

Although he feels that Izagakhmaev will walk out victorious, "The Warrior" believes that the Russian stalwart needs to beat a top contender in order to be next in line for a crack at the gold-plated belt.

"Saygid has fought once in ONE Championship. Even though he's got a good record outside of ONE, this will be another fight against somebody outside of the rankings, and I feel like there's a ranking for reason. It really shows who's the Top Five in the division," he mentioned.

"So, I think that there's a good chance that he's going to win that fight, and then I'd like to see him fight anyone in the Top Five, which would definitely give him a shot at the title."

ONE 161 will air live on and ONE Championship's YouTube channel at 6:00 PM (6:00 AM ET in the United States) on Thursday, September 29.

Zhang Lipeng
Zhang Lipeng ONE Championship photo