ONE Championship lead commentator and Fox Sports Presenter Steve Dawson gives his take on an upcoming clash between two featherweight favorites.
On Saturday night, 14 January, the Jakarta Convention Center hosts ONE: QUEST FOR POWER. But the ongoing quest in mixed martial arts has never really been about power for AJ Lias Mansor.
If Ann Osman is considered a pioneer for women’s mixed martial arts in the eastern hemisphere, then AJ, her coach and mentor, must take credit for being the architect and driving force.
His gym in Kota Kinabalu, Borneo, is a haven for local men and women looking to empower themselves and reach beyond their everyday lives. But perhaps it is how the 41-year-old also uses the environment around him — the local football stadium, the beach, the rugby field, and the park — which generates the understanding among his students that fitness, confidence, vitality, and emancipation are achievable wherever you are, and whatever your resources.
If that will be his legacy, what he has achieved as a lone warrior, one-on-one in the cage with another, should also not be forgotten. His professional debut saw a young Keanu Subba succumb to a unanimous decision back in 2011.
Three losses to high-level fighters based in Asia, Major Overall, my co-commentator Mitch Chilson, and Jian Kai Chee helped further Mansor’s ambitions to test himself, and set examples of spirit and skill for his team mates. Then, what must have been his proudest moment in the cage transpired when he beat Melvin Yeoh to become ONE Malaysia Featherweight Tournament Champion.
After the win, he donated his prize money to the Philippines and its people, who had been so devastated by Typhoon Yolanda just a week earlier.
He now returns to the ONE Championship cage against Anthony Englelen (5-2) of the Netherlands, but who has strong connections to Indonesia and will be regarded as the hometown hero in Jakarta. Engelen’s father is Indonesian.
I asked Mansor by text whether at 41, troubled by back problems and after a three-year break from competitive action, he sees this contest as a last hurrah. As a martial artist, he told me, it is not a matter of having a last fight or looking for another fight.
“It is a journey of always learning, always being ready, and looking for new challenges,” he added.
Englelen is 2-2 in the ONE Championship cage. He fell to young Christian Lee in March of last year, less than a month after having beaten Rocky Batolbatol. But last time out he submitted Sami Amin by rear naked choke in the second round of their August contest in Jakarta.
Although he has 10 years of youth on Mansor, Engelen is also a late starter to the professional game. He too will be looking to build upon his achievements, and craft a legacy that he can be proud of and take home to his own teammates and students.
For Engelen to have been a victim of Lee’s speed and Bruno Pucci’s submission skills are entirely acceptable.
Mansor has not found a way to win a fight inside the distance so far. His best bet will be to use his enormous frame to overpower Engelen. If he cannot do this there will be a constant threat from the Dutchman’s submission skills, as three of his five wins have come that way.
Either way, two personal quests will be on show for our entertainment, and we should watch with that very much in mind.
Steve Dawson is ONE Championship’s lead commentator, a Fox Sports presenter and an author of sporting biographies. He can be found on Twitter & Instagram as @Gulasahi and on Facebook as Steve Dawson.