On Saturday, 5 August, Bibiano “The Flash” Fernandes is scheduled to defend the ONE Bantamweight World Championship for a record-setting seventh time against Andrew Leone at ONE: KINGS AND CONQUERORS, live from the Cotai Arena in Macao.
Fernandes, a five-time BJJ World Champion, holds a remarkable 20-3 professional record with seven submission wins and a pair of KOs. He has defeated some of the world’s best, and most recently, the 37-year-old edged out Reece “Lightning” McLaren at ONE: AGE OF DOMINATION this past December.
However, the challenger Andrew Leone is no pushover. After 17 months away from the cage recuperating from injuries sustained in training camp, Leone is set to make his return in the flashiest of ways. The American, who co-owns Bali MMA, is a former collegiate wrestler who owns an 8-2 professional record, with several high-profile wins in his career.
This is slated to be an intense battle between two elite athletes, and the stakes could not be any higher. With that in mind, some of ONE Championship’s top experts weigh in with their thoughts surrounding this bantamweight showdown.
Rich Franklin, Mixed Martial Arts Legend And Former Middleweight World Champion
The defining factor for this match may be the difference in experience between Fernandes and Leone. Both of these athletes can keep a good pace, but the path of least resistance for Fernandes is bringing the match to the ground – both of Leone’s losses are via submission. But it may be a challenging task dealing with Leone’s wrestling.
Keep in mind, 75 per cent of Leone’s victories come by decision, so we know he has the cardio to compete in the championship rounds. But Fernandes has also proven stronger in later rounds. If Leone is to win this match, he must have a solid game plan, and finish before the final bell sounds.
Mark Sangiao, Filipino Martial Arts Pioneer and Team Lakay Head Coach
Fernandes is already tested, given that he has already defeated several world-class athletes and champions. He made a name for himself doing this. Leone, on the other hand, is known for his strong wrestling game, and has maintained a good record.
Fernandes is truly the best in the world, and his previous fights exhibit this. Experience and his record alone equip him with the upper hand. This fight will require double the effort from Leone. He will have to train more, prepare more, and he will have to bring forward a skilful and tactical game plan.
Mitch Chilson, Former ONE Athlete And Broadcast Analyst
Fernandes could be one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in ONE Championship. His grappling game is practically a superpower. He moves very well, both on his feet and on the ground.
He uses his reach to land crisp, clean strikes to keep his distance and time the takedown. If Fernandes wants to continue his domination of the bantamweight division, he needs to keep Leone guessing. For example, using the jab to break Leone’s rhythm and set up the takedown. Leone excels in the top position, and is rarely outwrestled. If Fernandes can get on top and control where this fight takes place, “The Fernandes Era” just may keep rolling.
When Fernandes fought Reece McLaren, he was pushed to the limit by an explosive striker with a strong ground game. It laid out a vague blueprint on how to take down the bantamweight king. Leone will need to be active on the feet, using fast hands to out-strike the champion, and punctuating each exchange with leg kicks to slow Fernandes down in the later rounds.
If Leone chooses to take this fight to the ground, he needs to win the scrambles — constantly moving and trying to stay on top. This is the biggest fight of Leone’s career. I would bet he comes in top shape, and he will need it. He needs to push the champion into the later rounds and wear him out. If he can do all of that, we may see the crowning of a new bantamweight king.