ONE Championship Enter the Dragon: Results and Highlights

Upsets abound from a superb night of MMA and Kickboxing in Singapore

ONE Championship returned to Singapore on Friday night with a stacked card of MMA and kickboxing bouts.  The event featured two world title fights – the MMA Lightweight title fight between defending champion Shinya Aoki and young Singapore / American fighter Christian Lee, and the Kickboxing Lightweight title fight between Dutch fighters Regian Eersel and Nieky Holzken.

Also on the card was the quarter finals of the Kickboxing Featherweight World Grand Prix, with eight of the world’s top kickboxers competing.  ONE Championship CEO had injected some added spice to the evening by announcing earlier in the week that the eventual winner of the Grand Prix would win a US$1 million prize pot.

The event also featured the debut of former UFC fighter and ONE Championship new signing, Sage ‘Super’ Northcutt.

It was – however – a night of upsets as the two favourites to win the Grand Prix Yodsanklai Iwe Fairtex and Giorgio Petrosyan were eliminated from the competition, Aoki lost his lightweight belt to 20-year-old Christian Lee and Sage Northcutt was knocked out in only 29 seconds.

Christian Lee def. Shinya Aoki by TKO (Strikes) in round 2 (MMA: Lightweight title fight)

It felt like the passing of the mantle from one generation to another as the young fighter Lee (11-3-0) defeated his senior teammate Aoki (43-8-1).  This was the fight that Aoiki had asked for when he won the Lightweight belt only two months ago.  It was an unusual request, as to date Lee had been fighting in the promotion’s Featherweight division.  It also seems to be destiny (or careful planning) that a Lee should win an event called ‘Enter the Dragon.’

Aoiki dominated the first round showing the grappling skills he is so renowned for.  The Japanese fighter took the fight to the floor early and then dominated Lee from a high mount position, before locking in a tight armbar.  Lee looked to be at serious risk, but somehow managed to escape.

Round 2 saw Lee attacking from a standing position, landing a flurry of strikes against his opponent.  Backed him into the corner, Aoiki fell to the floor and took some more strikes before the referee stepped in to stop the fight giving the win to the young US / Singaporean fighter.

Lee may not have long to enjoy the belt.  He will most likely be called upon to defend it against the winner of the Lightweight Grand prix.  This will be a tough call against some extremely powerful fighters in either Lowen Tynanes, Saygid Guseyn Arslanaliev or Timofey Nastyukhin.

Regian Eersel def. Nieky Holzken by Unanimous Decision (Kickboxing: Lightweight title fight)

This was a tough five round battle between the two experienced Dutch kickboxers.  35-year-old Holzken (97-14-1) looked strong in the first round, but it was clear from the outset that the younger Eersel (53-4-0) was going to give as good as he got.  Holzken seemed to tire in the third and fourth rounds, before getting some renewed energy back in the fifth.  The taller Eersel used his height to his advantage, landing jumping knee after jumping knee to his opponent.  In the end, the judges determined that Eersel had done enough to win, earning the unanimous decision and the inaugural Lightweight belt.

Petchmorakot Petchyindee Academy def. Giorgio Petrosyan by Split Decision (Kickboxing: Featherweight World Grand Prix Quarter-final)

In perhaps the biggest upset in a night of upsets, Thai fighter Petchmorakot (158-34-2) handed Italian Kickboxing sensation Giorgio Petrosyan (99-2-2) the third loss of his glittering career.  The first round saw the Italian’s trademark clinical technique that has earned him the nickname ‘The Doctor.’  However, the Thai fighter found his pace in the second and put on a strong performance in the third, even managing to knock down the Italian.  Split decisions are always controversial and Petrosyan was clearly not happy to be knocked out of the contest he was a favourite to win – a loss all the worse considering the $1million prize up for grabs.

Samy Sana def. Yodsanklai Iwe Fairtex by Unanimous Decision (Featherweight Kickboxing World Grand Prix Quarter-final)

Samy Sana (133-9-1) looked like a man on a mission from the opening bell and it was clear that the Frenchman was not going to let the decorated Thai veteran Yodsanklai (202-71-4) control the pace of the fight.  Throughout the bout, both men exchanged brutal headshots that could have been match ending to lessor opponents.  Yodsanklai gave his all, but in the end, it was Sana that was the better fighter and will progress to fight Dzhabar Askerov in the semi-final.

Cosmo Alexandre def. Sage Northcutt by Knockout in round 1 (MMA: Welterweight)

The debut of Super Sage Northcutt (11-2-0), the former UFC wonder-boy and karate world champion did not go according to plan.  Up against Muay Thai specialist Cosmo Alexandre (MMA record 7-1-0), Sage succumbed to the first punch earning a 29 second knock out, sending twitter into meltdown in the process.  This was not the way Sage wanted to make his debut, but he paid the price for a poor defence.

Saygid Guseyn Arslanaliev def. Amir Khan by Knockout in round 1 ONE (MMA: Lightweight World Grand Prix Semi-final)

Saygid ‘Dagi’ Guseyn Arslanaliev (7-1) has been dominating his opponents in the Lightweight division of ONE Championship and he did the same to hometown favourite Amir Khan (11-5-0) with another first round knock-out – the 7th in 9 fights.  The Russian / Turkish fighter is a well-rounded fighter, with wushu, grappling and striking background.  This win sees him progress to the final of the Lightweight grand prix against either Lowen Tynanes or Timofey Nastyukhin – a fighter he knocked out in their last meeting.

For Amir Khan, the difficult question is what comes next having lost his last three fights.  The ONE Championship Lightweight division has a plethora of top talent.  The 24-year-old will need to work hard to make his way back into the top echelons of this division.

Geje Eustaquio def. Kim Kyu Sung by Unanimous Decision (MMA: Flyweight World Grand Prix Alternate)

Former Flyweight champion Geje Eustaquio (11-7-0) displayed Team Lakay’s trademark wushu style with plenty of spinning back kicks to win the victory over Korean Kim Kyu Sung (9-2-0).  26-year-old Sung was making his debut in ONE Championship.  For Eustaquio, this victory means he is on standby as a replacement should any of the current fighters in the Flyweight grand prix are injured.  The Flyweight grand prix semi-finals will see Eustaquio’s team-mate Danny Kingad (10-0) fight Kairat Akhmetov (23-3) and Demetrious Johnson (28-3) take on Tatsumitsu Wada (21-10-3).

Miao Li Tao def. Dejdamrong Sor Amnuaysirichoke by Knockout in round 1 (MMA: Strawweight)

Dejdamrong ‘Kru Rong’ (10-4-0) is a local Singapore favourite, being a well-respected Muay Thai instructor at Singapore’s Evolve MMA.  The multiple time Lumpinee Stadium Muay Thai champion has switched to MMA late in his career and now at 40 years old struggled against the powerful younger Chinese fighter Miao (1-1).  26-year-old Miao secured the early take down in round 1, before rattling Kru Rong with some ground and pound.  Kru Rong struggled back to his feet, but a powerful left hook saw him hit the canvass for the KO.

Prelims:

Smokin’ Jo Nattawut def. Sasha Moisa by TKO in round 3 (Kickboxing: Featherweight Kickboxing World Grand Prix Quarter-final)

Jo Nattawut (69-7-2) dominated the fight against the taller Ukrainian fighter Moisa (39-7-0).  Nattawut was originally scheduled to fight Andy Souwer, who had to pull out at the last minute due to an eye problem.  Nattawut showed some beautiful combination flurry – leg kick attacks in the first and second rounds, causing damage to his opponent.  Two knock downs in the third round followed by an all-out assault on Moisa saw the referee step in and call the fight for a TKO victory for Nattawut.

Nattawut will now progress to the semi-finals of the Featherweight grand prix and will face fellow Thai striker Petchmorakot Petchyindee Academy.

Yoshitaka Naito def. Alex Silva by Unanimous Decision (MMA: Strawweight)

This fight was the third time these two fighters have met, and prior to this it was one fight each.  Both previous fights had gone all the way and this time was no different.  Silva (7-3-0) and Naito (13-3-0) spent the majority of the fight on the ground, switching position back and forth.  However, it was the Japanese fighter who controlled the pace of the fight and after three rounds, the judges unanimously called the fight in his favour.

Garry Tonon def. Yoshiki Nakahara by Submission (Heel Hook) in round 1 (MMA: Featherweight)

“Garry Tonon is no longer a prospect in MMA” said Tonon (4-0) in his post-fight interview, and this is certainly the case.  Having established an all finish record in his first 4 MMA fights, this fight against the experienced Japanese fighter Nakahara (12-4) was on paper the most difficult yet.  Tonon made short work of his opponent, securing the victory in 55 seconds with a heel hook.  Tonon is certainly on a tear and arguably the most exciting up and coming fighter in this stacked division.

Dzhabar Askerov def. Enriko Kehl by Unanimous Decision (Kickboxing: Featherweight Kickboxing World Grand Prix Quarter-final)

Askerov (107-35-2) showed dominance throughout the fight to get the win over former K1 champion fighter Kehl (48-14-2).  Askerov increased the theatrics in round 3 with some spinning kicks and strikes, eventually securing the unanimous decision.

Askerov will progress in the Featherweight grand prix and will face Samy Sana of France.

Mei Yamaguchi def. Laura Balin by Submission (Armbar) in round 1 (MMA: Atomweight)

Mei Yamaguchi (19-11-1) may have secured herself another shot at the Atomweight belt with her third straight victory since her last title attempt against Angela Lee in May 2018.  The Japanese fighter took her time working her ground position to secure victory by arm bar over Argentinian Laura Balin (10-4-0).

Iuri Lapicus def. Shannon Wiratchai by Submission (Rear Naked Choke) in round 3 (MMA: Lightweight)

This was the Moldovan fighter Lapicus’ (12-0-0) debut performance in ONE Championship, and he added another victory to his perfect record in the process.  Thai fighter Wiratchai (9-4-1) didn’t make it easy, demonstrating excellent resilience by taking Lapicus past the first round for the first time in his career.  The Team Petrosyan fighter dominated the Thai eventually securing victory by Rear Naked Choke in the third round.  Lapicus looks like an exciting new prospect in the lightweight division.

Daniel Dawson def. Brown Pinas by Split Decision (Kickboxing: Featherweight Kickboxing World Grand Prix Alternate)

Dawson (53-14-0) is an Australian kickboxer, who also holds a 40-3 boxing record.  Dutch two-time European Kickboxing champion Pinas (26-9-1) took this fight at only one-week notice.  Dawson showed his boxing skills throughout the fight with effective use of body shots to wear down Pinas.  Pinas used his height advantage landing knees and leg kicks in a closely fought match.  The split decision eventually went to Dawson.

Rahul Raju def. Richard Corminal by Submission (Rear Naked Choke) in round 1 (MMA: Lightweight)

Indian fighter Raju (4-4-0) trains in Singapore and so had the home crowd advantage for this fight.  His opponent Corminal (4-4-0) is a Filipino fighter who trains out of KL.  This was a well-matched fight on paper, but on the night, Raju was the more dominant fighter, making the most of Corminal’s defensive errors.  Raju finished the fight in the first round with a Rear Naked Choke.

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Martial arts fan and writer based in Singapore

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