After spending the past year capturing two belts, the time has come for Aung La N Sang (22-10, 1 NC) to make his first World Title defense.
The Myanmar hero is ready to ignite the home crowd inside Yangon’s Thuwunna Indoor Stadium with yet another marquee performance, but his Japanese challenger is confident he can spoil the party with a stunning performance.
The Road To Yangon
Aung La N Sang has had an unbelievable 12 months.
Almost exactly one year ago to the day, “The Burmese Python” defeated Vitaly Bigdash via unanimous decision in front of his countrymen inside the Thuwunna Indoor Stadium.
In addition to winning the ONE Middleweight World Title, he also became Myanmar’s first World Champion in sporting history.
Aung La N Sang followed that feat with accomplishments that were literally bigger. First, he submitted Alain Ngalani in the promotion’s first-ever Open Weight Super-Bout in November, and then knocked out Alexandre Machado in a record-setting 56 seconds to claim the vacant ONE Light Heavyweight World Championship in February.
The Myanmar sports hero is not the only middleweight in Yangon who has defeated athletes from heavier weight classes. His opponent has made a career of it.
Hasegawa became known for his finishing ability after he won his first eight bouts in the heavyweight and openweight divisions. Along the way, the third-degree judo black belt claimed the DEEP Openweight Championship in February 2013.
Following a few successful title defenses, he relinquished the belt to compete at his more natural weight class.
He made stops at light heavyweight, middleweight, and even welterweight before settling in his current division. In the process, he added to his impressive résumé.
Now ranked as the top middleweight in Japan, he brings his skills to the global stage to challenge for the ONE Middleweight World Championship.
The Bout-Winning Strategies
Aung La N Sang has made huge improvements to his game while training at Hard Knocks 365 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
To prepare for his clash with Hasegawa, he returned to the facility for another eight weeks to further hone his abilities.
“The Burmese Python” is training alongside several other top-level athletes, and is constantly sharpening his striking and grappling. Because of that, he is confident he will be able to dominate the challenger in all areas for a full 25 minutes.
“Everything is feeling sharp and on point. I feel strong, my training camp is going great, and I have really good training partners,” he says.
“There is nothing Ken can do that I have not seen in training, and I am going to be able to deal with everything he throws at me. I am feeling confident, and I am ready to put on a good show.”
Taking on Aung La N Sang in his home country is an intimidating challenge, but Hasegawa is looking forward to the opportunity.
He has surrounded himself with some of Japan’s finest mixed martial artists, including his grappling coach Sotaro Yamada.
Though Hasegawa is secretive about his game plan, he has revealed exactly how he plans to end the bout. He believes he has all the tools necessary to be the first person to stop Aung La N Sang in ONE.
“I prefer to not reveal my game plan, but I am looking to set the pace with the striking, and I would like to finish Aung La N Sang with a rear-naked choke,” he says.
Mitch Chilson, Broadcast Commentator And Former ONE Athlete
What excites me most about the upcoming match-up between Ken Hasegawa and Aung La N Sang is that they have similar styles. Both have good stand-up and some serious submission skills.
Aung La N Sang’s boxing has improved since winning the world championship. He has shown an increase in punching volume, and he has heavy hands and good submission skills.
Hasegawa has never been into the championship rounds, and Aung La N Sang thrives in deep waters.
As for Hasegawa, he is a quick finisher. He can jump on you from the word ‘go.’ He has speed, and will need to use it to cut angles and break Aung La N Sang’s rhythm.
He uses his judo to keep matches on his feet. If he can stop Aung La N Sang’s takedowns and out-work the champion on the feet, we could crown a new middleweight king.
Michael Schiavello, ONE Championship Lead Commentator
Aung La N Sang is tremendously strong at this weight, but his real strength comes from the crowd behind him. They say one in every three people in Myanmar watches Aung La N Sang compete on TV. He could run for president and probably win, he is that huge!
You do not only face Aung La N Sang in Myanmar – you face him and an entire nation in his corner.
On paper, Hasegawa has all the tools to win, and passing him at breakfast the other morning, he has size and looks super strong. He is the DEEP Openweight Champion – that means he has beaten opponents at all weights. That’s scary.
Hasegawa has knockouts and he has submissions. He is an all-rounder in every sense. He is a mega dangerous opponent for Aung La N Sang, and is the most well-rounded opponent Aung La N Sang has ever fought.
Alain Ngalani, ONE Championship Star
I’m looking forward to seeing this bout. I am here, and I am not going to move while it goes on.
First, Hasegawa has to beat the crowd. He has to push that aside, because if you don’t pay attention, you are going to get swallowed by the atmosphere. Everything is about Aung La N Sang in Myanmar, and the atmosphere is electric.
As much as Hasegawa is well-rounded, Aung La N Sang is, also. Standing up or on the floor, he will be comfortable, so that is why I think this match will be very exciting. They both can stand and trade, and both can go down and continue the match on the floor.
I was prepared for my bout with Aung La N Sang. They call him “The Burmese Python,” so we worked on how to escape all his chokes and leg locks, and he still managed to get me with one of his chokes.
I can’t really say who will win. I am wishing for five rounds. I want to see it going on, and on, and on.
Yangon | 29 June | LIVE and FREE on the ONE Super App: http://bit.ly/ONESuperApp | TV: Check local listings for global broadcast