ONE Championship brought their most beloved martial arts heroes to the Singapore Indoor Stadium on Friday, 18 May, for its most historic event yet, ONE: UNSTOPPABLE DREAMS.
The card featured three compelling world title bouts that left fans on the edge of their seats. Also, there was a stacked undercard full of legends, world champions, and emerging title contenders.
Let’s take a look at what could be next for some of the night’s biggest winners.
The question for “Unstoppable” Angela Lee is no longer who is next, but rather, who is left?
While the 21-year-old Singaporean has triumphantly faced all-comers, there is another contender who has recently emerged: Gina “Conviction” Iniong.
Iniong, a six-time Philippine national wushu champion who trains out of Team Lakay, is coming off a dominant unanimous decision victory over former world title challenger Jenny “Lady GoGo” Huang, and could truly test Lee’s striking.
Also, another possible clash for Lee could be a superbout against ONE Women’s Strawweight World Champion “The Panda” Xiong Jing Nan, which “Unstoppable” had previously expressed interest in pursuing.
After challenging for thee world titles over the past nine months, two-division ONE World Champion Martin “The Situ-Asian” Nguyen defended his featherweight world title for the very first time, and was successful.
The Vietnamese-Australian was able to put Christian “The Warrior” Lee to sleep in their first tilt back in August 2016. But on Friday, in their rematch, he edged out the Singaporean teenage sensation via a strategically-contested split decision.
Nguyen is ready for another challenge, but the question is against whom, and in which weight class?
Prior to the showdown with Lee, Nguyen referred to former featherweight world champion Marat Gafurov as the true number one contender. In April, the Dagestani tapped out surging featherweight Emilio Urrutia via arm-triangle in the first round, so a trilogy bout between him and the “Situ-Asian” would make a world of sense.
However, if “The Situ-Asian” were to defend his lightweight world title next, then perhaps the challenger would be explosive Russian striker Timofey Nastyukhin, who snapped Amir Khan’s six-bout win streak back in February.
Former ONE Lightweight World Champion Shinya “Tobikan Judan” Aoki restarted his journey back to the gold in grand fashion.
The 35-year-old Japanese icon proved against Chechen jiu-jitsu and combat sambo champion Rasul Yakhyaev that his world-class grappling was on another level. He quickly got Yakhyaev to the ground, and submitted him in the first round with a slick triangle choke.
Aoki, a true legend of the sport, will always have top contenders waiting to challenge him.
One such athlete could be Renzo Gracie black belt Ariel “Tarzan” Sexton. They are two of the lightweight division’s best grapplers, and could captivate fans with a strategic battle.
Also, perhaps now is the time to see the rematch with the man who took the title from him, Eduard “Landslide” Folayang. Both athletes have evolved since their initial encounter a year and a half ago, and both are hungry to reclaim the lightweight world title. That added motivation could bring out the best from each martial artist.
In his first match back since losing the ONE Lightweight World Title to Nguyen, the Filipino hero handily defeated Russian newcomer Kharun “Predator” Atlangeriev via unanimous decision.
Folayang did well to control the previously-unbeaten 11-0 Russian for three rounds, but this is just the first step back to world title contention for the Baguio City native. He will undoubtedly meet a top contender next, and there are two who could be possible options.
A rematch with Aoki is a real possibility, especially since both are in the title hunt. “Landslide” knocked out the Japanese icon when they first met in November 2016, and could very well do it again.
However, he could get a fresh opponent in Shannon “OneShin” Wiratchai. After getting his six-bout win streak snapped in December, the Thai superstar returned to form last March with a 21-second knockout of Rahul Raju. Not only would this be an enthralling battle among fan favorites, but it could very well be a “Bout Of The Year” contender.
Khan overcame a tremendous challenge from NAGA No-Gi Grappling Champion Sung Jong Lee on Friday night.
The Singaporean Muay Thai Champion avoided the South Korean jiu-jitsu wizard’s attempts to engage in a ground battle, and instead relied on his striking to get a second-round TKO.
Now, the Evolve MMA product is looking to rebuild some momentum following his decision loss to Nastyukhin in February, and there are a couple of names who would provide a stern test for the 23-year-old talent.
Team Lakay standout and former ONE Featherweight World Champion Honorio “The Rock” Banario has been rising up the lightweight ranks, and has kept an eye on Khan. The Filipino is currently on a five-bout win streak, having most recently defeated Adrian Pang via split decision.
Since both Banario and Khan are climbing the ranks, and each holds a recent win over the hard-hitting Aussie, it would make sense to see these two throw down.