The next few weeks in ONE Championship are going to be extraordinary, with a back-to-back weekend of blockbusters fast approaching. First, ONE: CONQUEST OF KINGS hits Surabaya on 29 July, with ONE: KINGS & CONQUERORS to follow on 5 August in Macao.
Although both will be headlined by huge title bouts, the rest of the cards are packed with enticing matchups featuring competitors with more on the line than just their records.
Of particular interest are these five hot prospects, who could each one day become their respective division’s next contenders, as well as national heroes in their home countries.
#1 Danny Kingad
Undefeated wushu champion Danny Kingad has become the most electric flyweight prospect in the organization. Ever since his arrival in ONE back in April 2016, the Team Lakay warrior known as “The King” has looked simply phenomenal. He even has an inspirational life story to go along with his perfect 5-0 record.
The 21-year-old Filipino overwhelmed Muhamad Haidar and Eugene Toquero en route to first-round victories, and recently edged out the “Jungle Cat” Muhammad Aiman in their energetic three-round thriller via unanimous decision. If Kingad defeats China Top Team’s Hexigetu at ONE: CONQUEST OF KINGS, his next challenge could well be a ranked contender.
#2 Hayato Suzuki
Hayato Suzuki may be a promotional newcomer, but he is potentially one win away from a shot at the ONE Strawweight World Championship. The 31-year-old Japanese combatant, who trains out of the storied BRAVE Gym in Tokyo, is unbeaten at 16-0-2, and held the Grachan Flyweight Championship for three years before coming to ONE.
The decorated wrestler draws a former title challenger in Team Lakay’s Joshua Pacio for his debut at ONE: KINGS & CONQUERORS. With Pacio fresh off a win over former titleholder Dejdamrong Sor Amnuaysirichoke, a win for either is highly likely to lead to a showdown against ONE Strawweight World Champion Yoshitaka “Nobita” Naito.
#3 Rika Ishige
Rika Ishige (2-0) has had an incredible start to 2017. Since making her professional debut at ONE: WARRIOR KINGDOM this past March, “Tinydoll” quickly defeated both Audreylaura Boniface and Nita Dea in the first round. She has since become a massive fan favorite in her home country of Thailand, due to her sparkling personality, highly-entertaining walkouts, and thrilling displays of skill.
The 28-year-old Bangkok native will now look to elevate her record, and her profile, with a victory over promotional newcomer Jomary Torres at ONE: KINGS & CONQUERORS. If she does prevail and keep her undefeated streak going, there’s no telling how high her star could soar.
#4 Stefer Rahardian
Carlson Gracie brown belt Stefer Rahardian was forced to delay his mixed martial arts career for two years due to an unfortunate leg injury, but when the Indonesian grappler made his professional debut in 2015, he did so with conviction. He won his first two bouts in dominant fashion, before joining ONE and rear-naked choking his way to the ONE Flyweight Indonesian Tournament Championship in August 2016. Since then, he has only gotten better.
Rahardian built upon his jiu-jitsu skills at both Jakarta and Bali MMA, extended his record to a perfect 6-0, and will get his toughest challenge yet in Singaporean prospect Niko Soe at ONE: CONQUEST OF KINGS. An impressive win there would undoubtedly move the unbeaten Jakarta native into the upper echelons of the flyweight division.
#5 Niko Soe
Niko Soe may just have a single ONE Championship appearance to his name so far, but he definitely has all the tools to succeed at the next level. The 24-year-old Singaporean, who trains at Impact MMA, rocks a solid 3-1 record, with two wins coming by submission and another one via TKO. Last November, he made an impressive ONE debut by tapping out Muhamad Haidar via armbar in just 77 seconds.
Although it is highly doubtful he will be able to submit Rahardian that quickly at ONE: CONQUEST OF KINGS, he will be sure to engage in what is shaping up to be a thrilling battle. After all, the soft-spoken Soe prefers to let his actions do the talking, promising all-out action in his bout against Rahardian.