Adrian Pang steps into the ONE Championship cage for the first time in a year, when he meets Amir Khan this Friday at ONE: IMMORTAL PURSUIT.
After dropping close and competitive decisions to Eduard Folayang and Roger Huerta, Pang — an ultra-tough opponent known for giving his all in bruising battles — is in danger of becoming a stepping stone for up and coming lightweights.
Indeed, that is precisely what he will be if Khan gets the win at the Singapore Indoor Stadium. Almost four years after making his debut, Khan has been accumulating experience at a breakneck pace, learning his craft, completing his National Service, and beating just about every opponent he’s faced.
His 8-2 record helps him stand out in the division. It’s fair to say that Shannon Wiratchai, the only man who’s beaten him in the ONE Championship cage, is ahead of him in the queue for a shot at the new ONE Lightweight World Champion Martin Nguyen, but Khan isn’t far behind.
Lightweight has been one of the organization’s most stacked divisions, but it’s fair to say that other than Wiratchai, Khan hasn’t really been tested as a martial artist.
Pang poses the greatest threat the young lion has faced to date, and a win for the Singaporean will catapult him onto the fast track to a title shot.
Anybody who beats Pang (22-10-2) deserves that recognition, and this will be a very tough ask for the 23-year-old Evolve MMA product.
Khan must have a disciplined game plan, and stick to it with military precision. If not, he can look to Pang’s 43-second destruction of Peter Davis as an example of what might await him.
Since the Wiratchai fight, Khan has won all five contests inside the distance, four of them coming in the first round. In fact, he owns the most knockouts in ONE Championship history at seven.
However, it’s been 14 years since Pang has been stopped, and frankly, if Folayang couldn’t do it, it’s hard to see Khan succeeding where the former world champion failed.
Khan has only been the distance once, and that was against Wiratchai, which he ultimately lost by split decision. His best chance would be to keep the fight at a distance, avoiding the Australian’s brawling style and significant strength, before picking his moment to test Pang’s submission defense.
A decision seems the most likely scenario for a Khan win, but just as likely is a bustling performance from Pang that grinds down the Singaporean for a late stoppage, probably via elbows or knees.
Without a doubt, Nguyen will be watching, and waiting.
Steve Dawson is ONE Championship’s presenter and commentator, a Fox Sports presenter and public-speaking coach. He can be found on coachsd.com and on Facebook as Steve Dawson.