ONE Championship is bringing a card fit for a king to Macao.
For the second time ever, Asia’s biggest mixed martial arts promotion will storm the Cotai Arena on Saturday, 5 August, for its latest thriller, ONE: KINGS AND CONQUERORS. The main event features ONE Bantamweight World Champion Bibiano Fernandes defending the gold against Bali MMA’s Andrew Leone.
In addition to the headlining bout, the rest of the card is loaded with world-class athletes who provide riveting action, and have a knack for finishing their opponents. They are the conquerors of today, and could very well be the kings of tomorrow.
With that in mind, here are five athletes who could make huge career statements by stealing the show in Macao.
#1 Timofey Nastyukhin
Timofey Nastyukhin is just as talented as his skill set is exciting. The 27-year-old Russian has created several highlight reel moments thus far in ONE, including a six-second blitz of Australian slugger Rob Lisita and a flying knee knockout of Eduard Folayang.
Despite suffering a leg injury against Kotetsu “No Face” Boku at ONE: DEFENDING HONOR last November, Nastyukhin is all healed up, and ready to clash with former lightweight title contender Koji Ando. A definitive win here could lead to an epic rematch against Folayang, who is currently in possession of the ONE Lightweight World Championship.
#2 Michal Pasternak
After making his professional debut in 2012, Michael Pasternak marched to a perfect 10-0 record, knockout out and submitting his way across Eastern Europe.
The 33-year-old Polish ADCC Champion encountered some tough adversaries in ONE, however, being submitted by Roger Gracie for the inaugural ONE Light Heavyweight World Championship in May 2016, and then coming up short in his middleweight debut against current ONE Middleweight World Champion Aung La N Sang. He did, however, post an impressive come-from-behind victory over Rafael Silva.
Pasternak got back to his finishing ways this past May, quickly defeating Sylwester Borys at a Polish event in under two minutes. Now, with that confidence boost, he draws five-time BJJ World Champion Leandro Ataides, and has a chance to impress in his ONE return.
#3 Chen Lei
The “Rock Man” Chen Lei may be a relative newcomer in ONE, but he is a dynamic athlete who is constantly looking for the finish. The 28-year-old Chinese bantamweight is a Shanghai Open BJJ Champion who seemingly has fists of stone, as his nickname implies.
The undefeated Changsha native is at a solid 5-0, and has won by stoppage in all five of his matches to date. That includes his recent ONE debut, where he evaded the grappling attack of Indonesia’s Jeremy “Predator” Meciaz before finishing the Indonesian with ground and pound.
Chen now has the chance to turn into a legitimate “Rock Star” if he defeats Malaysian striker Saiful “The Vampire” Merican. Perhaps this time, he can display those grappling skills that earned him his BJJ medal.
#4 Rob Lisita
Whenever “Ruthless” Rob Lisita enters the cage, people are in for a show. The Australian hard-hitter is a well-rounded combatant who loves to strike, but beyond that, he always gives his all every time he competes. Just look at his 28-second KO of Yusuke Kawanago in 2014, or the three-round war he had with Ev Ting last September, which he lost via unanimous decision.
Lisita has not had an easy schedule in ONE Championship, constantly encountering the world’s best martial artists including Nastyukhin, Eric Kelly, and current ONE Featherweight World Champion Marat Gafurov.
His next challenge against Shannon “OneShin” Wiratchai will not be any easier, but defeating the surging Thai pioneer would be a marquee moment in the Aussie’s career, and could signal the start of a stunning resurgence.
#5 Kotetsu Boku
Kotetsu “No Face” Boku is the most seasoned athlete entering Macao, and this decorated veteran has simply been getting better and better over the past few years. Ever since 2015, Boku has faced increasingly stiff competition, but has still managed to win four of his last five bouts by knockout. In fact, all of his ONE Championship wins have come via KO, proving his immense striking prowess.
The Japanese wrecking ball claimed the inaugural ONE Lightweight World Championship in 2012, but stumbled soon thereafter. However, after dropping down to featherweight, he remains undefeated in the division, and now he has a chance to make a final push towards the featherweight belt by defeating Eric Kelly.