With an expanded schedule, a new world title, and a growing roster of world-class talent, 2018 was set to be the most exciting year in ONE Championship history.
From the moment the first strike was thrown at ONE: KINGS OF COURAGE to the final decision rendered at ONE: IRON WILL, our athletes have certainly put on the performances of their lives.
Now a quarter of the way through the year, it’s plain to see the action has gotten better than ever. New world champions have been crowned, divisional kingpins extended their illustrious reigns, and a host of thrilling martial artists have risen up the ranks with championship gold in their sights.
There have been many incredible bouts so far in 2018, but here is our pick of the five best contests of the past three months.
#1 Bibiano Fernandes VS Martin Nguyen
The main event of ONE: IRON WILL on Saturday, 24 March, in Bangkok, Thailand, featured world champion versus world champion in a historic super-match with records on the line.
ONE Featherweight and Lightweight World Champion Martin “The Situ-Asian” Nguyen challenged ONE Bantamweight World Champion Bibiano “The Flash” Fernandes in a bid to become an unprecedented three-division world titleholder in the cage.
On the other hand, the Brazilian kingpin had designs on extending his dominant record-breaking run as ONE Championship’s most dominant martial artist in history.
As you may have expected from two world-class athletes, the bout was incredibly close. The pair went back and forth over a tactical five-round battle, which showcased the elite skills of both warriors.
Both men proved they had the other well scouted, as Nguyen showed superb takedown defense to nullify the Brazilian’s submission threat, while Fernandes’ footwork and movement effectively took the sting out of the Vietnamese-Australian’s famed punching power.
There could only be one winner, however, and when the bout went all the way to the scorecards, it was Fernandes who eked out the split decision. “The Flash” claimed victory in his eighth straight world title defense, and extended his winning streak to 14 in a row. It also gave the Brazilian the most wins in ONE history at 10.
#2 Xiong Jing Nan VS Tiffany Teo
The year started with a new queen crowned in the first-ever bout for the ONE Women’s Strawweight World Title. On 20 January, at ONE: KINGS OF COURAGE, we saw a true watershed moment for martial arts in China.
“The Panda” Xiong Jing Nan produced a tremendous performance of power and tenacity, stopping Singapore’s Tiffany “No Chill” Teo to become the inaugural ONE Women’s Strawweight World Champion. In the process, she made history as the first-ever China-born world champion in the cage.
Xiong overpowered the rangy Teo, as she systematically broke down her opponent over the course of their title bout in Jakarta, Indonesia. She eventually forced the TKO stoppage midway through the fourth round.
After the bout, “The Panda” said she was honored to represent her nation as its first-ever ONE World Champion.
“I want to thank ONE Championship for this chance to show what China, and what women, can do. I am happy to represent China, and take a lot of pride in that.”
#3 Ev Ting VS Ariel Sexton
Two of the very best lightweight contenders in the organization went head-to-head at ONE: QUEST FOR GOLD in Yangon, Myanmar, and produced as close a contest as you could wish to see between two world-class martial artists.
The contrast produced a thrilling contest. Both men had their successes over a thrilling three-round affair at the Thuwunna Indoor Stadium, and unsurprisingly, had the judges split regarding the winner at the bout’s conclusion.
Ultimately, though, it was Ting who claimed the victory over Sexton, and moved one step closer to another shot at the ONE Lightweight World Title.
#4 Timofey Nastyukhin VS Amir Khan
Nastyukhin holds the record for the fastest KO in the promotion’s history at six seconds, but he showed great maturity against the tricky Singaporean counter-striker, who holds the record for most knockouts in ONE history.
The Russian knockout artist maintained consistent forward pressure to outwork Khan over three well-contested rounds, and earned the unanimous decision nod on the judges’ scorecards.
That victory pushed Nastyukhin into world title contention. His heavy hands and impressive gas tank will undoubtedly pose a major test for whoever steps into the cage to face the Russian star in his next bout.
#5 Geje Eustaquio VS Kairat Akhmetov
The old adage goes: “If at first you don’t succeed, try again.” Filipino star Geje “Gravity” Eustaquio certainly seized his second opportunity, and finally became a world champion on his second attempt.
After an incredibly close bout against former world champion Kairat “The Kazakh” Akhmetov in September 2017, the two rematched for the ONE Interim Flyweight World Title at ONE: GLOBAL SUPERHEROES in Manila, Philippines, on 26 January.
With his second chance to get a win over Akhmetov and claim a world title, Eustaquio produced the performance of his lifetime to comprehensively outpoint “The Kazakh,” and claimed gold.
Eustaquio was simply faster and stronger than Akhmetov in all areas during the bout, beating him to the punch and negating “The Kazakh’s” elite wrestling over all five rounds. It was a masterclass in all aspects of the game, and showed that when he is at his best, “Gravity” is an overwhelming force to be reckoned with.