ONE Championship: Enter the Dragon preview

A stacked card of MMA and kickboxing goes down in Singapore on 17th May

ONE Championship’s marketing department has had a field day with the promotional material for ONE: Enter the Dragon, going all out with the vintage kung Fu themed posters.  They’ve clearly been saving the name for a special event and the stacked card to be held in Singapore on 17th May looks to be an occasion worthy of Bruce Lee himself.

There is so much to look forward to on this card it is tough to know where to start.

Shinya Aoki vs. Christian Lee – MMA Lightweight World Championship fight

The main event features Japanese grappling legend Shinya Aoki (43-8-1) put his lightweight belt on the line less than two months after his first-round submission victory over Filipino Eduard Folayang in ONE Championship’s launch event in Tokyo.  Following that win, the 35-year-old surprised everybody by calling out the 20-year-old favourite of ONE Championship matchmakers, Christian Lee (11-3-0).  Both fighters represent Singapore’s Evolve MMA, making them officially teammates, although they both do the bulk of their training in their hometowns – Aoki in Tokyo and Lee in Hawaii.

Lee is moving up a weight class from Featherweight for this bout.  This fight is Lee’s second attempt at a ONE Championship title, following a decision loss to Martin Nguyen in the Featherweight title fight in May last year.  At that event, Lee seemed overwhelmed by the occasion and failed to do enough to convince the judges to score in his favour after a fairly lacklustre performance from both fighters.  Having since won his last two fights, the question will be whether he has gained enough confidence to defeat the more experienced Aoki.

Stylistically, Aoki and Lee favour grappling.  Both men are BJJ Black Belts, although Lee also holds a Black Belt in Taekwondo and Aoki a Black Belt in Judo.  Aoki’s submission skills are legendary.  Nicknamed ‘The Grand Master of Flying Submissions’, throughout his career he has consistently surprised opponents with his creative ground game.   Although a capable grappler in his own right, one would imagine Lee would be cautious about testing his skills on the ground against Aoki.  Expect a fascinating match up!

Lightweight Grand Prix Semi-final: Amir Khan vs Saygid Guseyn Arslanaliev

Singapore’s Amir Khan (11-5-0) has received a second shot at the Lightweight grand prix, replacing Ariel Sexton – the man who submitted him in the first round of their fight in February.  Sexton broke his arm in training forcing him to withdraw.  Khan will face Dagestan’s Arslanaliev, a formidable striker who is on a 3-fight win streak.  The winner of this fight will go on to face either Lowen Tynanes or Timofey Nastyukhin – the man who defeated Eddie Alvarez in Japan in March.  The winner of the grand prix is likely to be pitted against the prevailing Lightweight champion – the winner of Aoki vs Lee!

ONE Championship debut of “Super” Sage Northcutt

Northcutt (11-2-0) is the latest of a string of big-name signings from the UFC over the past year.  The 23-year-old Karate champion is known for his athleticism and striking and is an exciting fighter to watch.  For his first fight in Asia, he has been matched up against Brazilian Muay Thai artist Cosmo Alexandre.  Alexandre has previously only fought bouts in ONE Championship under their Muay Thai and kickboxing rulesets, losing his last fight to Regian Eersal (also on this card).  He has fought MMA in the past, although not for a few years and holds an MMA record of 7-1-0.  This is an interesting striker vs striker match, although it does seem to be a relatively safe introduction for Northcutt.

Featherweight Kickboxing World Grand Prix Quarter Finals

ONE has signed some of the best Muay Thai and Kickboxing stars on the planet to compete in their Super Series bouts, and May 17th will see 8 kickboxing superstars fight it out for a place in the Featherweight Kickboxing Grand Prix semi-finals.  All of these bouts look set to be hard fought contests.  Expect explosive world class kickboxing from the likes of Giorgio Petrosyan, Andy Souwer and Yodsanklai Iwe Fairtex.

Lightweight Kickboxing World Championship – Nieky Holzken vs Regian Eersel

A battle between the two Dutch kickboxers in the co-main event will determine who wears the inaugural ONE Championship Kickboxing belt.  35-year-old Holzken (92-14-0) is the more experienced than 26-year-old Eersel (53-4-0), but both men look to be in top condition based on recent outings.  Expect more world class kickboxing!

Garry Tonon returns!

The US grappling champion’s switch to MMA has seen him fight – and win – 4 times in the past year, finishing his opponents every time.  Not content to only grapple, Tonon (4-0) has clearly been working on his striking, winning two of his fights by knockout.  His opponent for this match is Japanese fighter, Yoshiki Nakahara (12-4), who is appearing for the second time in ONE Championship.  Tonon is certainly a fighter to watch at Featherweight, having improved consistently with each fight.  A member of John Danaher’s fabled ‘Death Squad’, a win on this card will propel Tonon’s rise even more and I predict this will be his last appearance on the prelims.


Check out the full card – 17th May 2019, Singapore


Martial arts fan and writer based in Singapore

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