When Aung La “The Burmese Python” N Sang squared off against undefeated ONE Middleweight World Champion Vitaly Bigdash earlier this January, he accepted the title bout on less than two weeks’ notice after Bigdash’s initial opponent was forced to pull out due to injury.
The Myanmar hero was understandably not at his best, and that’s not a good thing against the Russian titleholder, who was in peak physical condition. Bigdash ultimately cruised his way to a unanimous decision victory despite the change in opponent.
Now, with both competitors dedicating full training camps specifically focused on the other, fans should expect to see an even more thrilling bout when these two clash in a title rematch on Friday, 30 June, at ONE: LIGHT OF A NATION.
As the two gear up for the epic battle at the Thuwunna Indoor Stadium in Aung La N Sang’s hometown of Yangon, Myanmar, the top martial arts analysts in Asia give their take on the main event.
Rich Franklin, Mixed Martial Arts Legend And Former Middleweight World Champion
I did not believe Aung La N Sang had a good chance of winning their first match, because he came in as a late replacement. Couple that with Bigdash’s 100 per cent finishing rate prior to the match, and it could have meant a short night for an ill-prepared athlete.
Much to my surprise, Aung La N Sang came out patient, calculated, and well-conditioned. Even though Aung La N Sang was caught with a head kick in the third round, he stayed poised and took Bigdash to his first decision when most athletes would have been finished.
Keep in mind, Aung La N Sang got caught in the third round, and sometimes that is unavoidable. Obviously it is key for him not to let that happen again. Having a full camp to study Bigdash’s tendencies could be the difference maker.
I like the patient, poised game plan he used in the first match, but I would study Bigdash’s bout with Svirid and implement more calculated pressure.
As for Bigdash, he needs to do the same thing he did last time — come in prepared and stay tight. He has more time to study his opponent for this match, and make sure he understands Aung La N Sang’s patterns.
Mark Sangiao, Filipino Mixed Martial Arts Pioneer And Team Lakay Head Coach
From my personal perspective, I would say that Aung La N Sang was not content with his performance during their first match, considering he was notified about it just two weeks before. But this time, he has been given a second chance to prove that he is a worthy title contender.
As a martial artist, I know for a fact that sufficient preparation and training, both physically and mentally, is very essential. So I expect an action-filled performance this time. If Aung La N Sang can compensate for the power and conditioning of Bigdash, he has a big chance to own the World Title.
If Bigdash is able to overpower Aung La N Sang and maintain his conditioning, he will keep the title. I know that Bigdash has good striking skills, and we’ve all seen what he can do.
The Yangon crowd is of course Aung La N Sang’s crowd, so this will be a big help to boost Aung La N Sang’s morale and confidence.
Brian Ebersole, Retired Mixed Martial Artist And Evolve MMA Head Coach
A rematch is interesting, because the last fight was very competitive. Either athlete could have made good improvements in skill or athleticism, and either athlete also has the chance to change their game plan for this next fight.
Bigdash may have some nervousness because his opponent now has a full training camp, and a good idea of what he is up against. Aung La N Sang should have confidence coming in, as he will undoubtedly feel better prepared.
A hometown crowd can also help Aung La N Sang. Many fighters use emotion as a fuel, and fighting at home can provide an abundance of that fuel. But it could also cause some nervous tension. So we will see if Aung La N Sang is fast and loose, or tight and slower from the atmosphere.
Mitch Chilson, Broadcast Analyst And Former ONE Championship Athlete
The opening two rounds in their first meeting were close, but in the third round Bigdash caught Aung La N Sang with a head kick, and the fight shifted in favor of Bigdash. BIgdash finished the fight in the top position, controlling with takedowns and ground and pound.
Aung La N Sang showed tremendous heart by hanging in there until the final bell. I think we will see more of those first two rounds in the rematch, with heavy, fast exchanges and plenty of action. Both fighters are entering the contest in top form, and confidence will be high in both camps.
Aung La N Sang needs to move. He cannot stand in one spot and allow Bigdash to set up those huge shots. Aung La N Sang has good boxing. He has been working a lot with his striking coaches on setting up multiple shot combinations. He will need to mix combinations with takedown attempts. He also has a good grappling game, and he is strong on both bottom and top.
However, when Bigdash is on top, he is able to control most positions. If the fight goes to the floor, Aung La N Sang will need to create scrambles and get back up to his feet.
BIgdash is riding a nine-fight win streak, so I do not think he needs a confidence boost, but when you win the first encounter, there is always an added benefit of increased confidence heading into the rematch.
The key for Bigdash to retain his middleweight strap is exactly what happened in the first fight — he needs to control the striking exchanges and threaten takedowns. If he gets on top and delivers his ground and pound, it could be a long night for the hometown hero.