After hosting a successful first event in Bangkok, Thailand, last year, ONE Championship returns to the Thai capital on Saturday Night, 11 March. The organization will stage its second event in the country, ONE: WARRIOR KINGDOM.
The show will be headlined by an inspiring women’s title bout featuring a pair of undefeated heroines, and they will be supported by a stellar cast of future title contenders and some of the most promising Thai mixed martial artists to come out of the Southeast Asian country.
For many of the dynamic athletes who will be competing at this event, the stakes are high. There is much to gain, and perhaps even more to lose. Let’s examine what is in store for some of the fighters at ONE: WARRIOR KINGDOM.
Angela Lee is one of the brightest superstars, and unquestionably the most beloved female athlete, in ONE Championship. The 20-year-old has lived up to her nickname and has been “Unstoppable” on her path to capturing the inaugural ONE Women’s Atomweight World Championship at ONE: ASCENT TO POWER last May, nearly one year after she made her professional debut.
The well-rounded martial artist, who splits her time training at United MMA and the Singapore-based Evolve MMA, absolutely tore through her first five opponents. If she showed any vulnerability, it was in the aforementioned title fight, where former DEEP JEWELS champion Mei Yamaguchi floored her with a massive right cross and brought her into the deep rounds.
Lee recovered, was able to go the full twenty five minutes, however, and never seemed to run out of energy with her takedowns, her striking, or her relentless submission attempts. The “Unstoppable” fighter has heart, and as a result, she also has the belt.
Now that she’s the champion, that does not mean she is perfectly fine coasting to a decision. On the contrary, she wants to finish every tilt moving forward as quick as humanly possible, and that starts with Jenny Huang. Lee wants to have a dominant reign and establish a legacy, but that can only happen if she comes away with a win.
Jenny Huang’s martial arts journey is the complete opposite of the champion’s. While Lee grew up in a family that bonded over the martial arts, Huang’s parents were vehemently against their daughter learning it. Her father even forced her to quit taekwondo when she went to class with her little brother.
However, her craving to learn was inevitably satisfied. First through middle school via judo, followed by Brazilian jiu-jitsu and MMA when she traveled to America and Singapore in her 20s. By the time she returned home to her native Chinese Taipei, the judo black belt was hooked.
She followed her instincts and decided to take her talents to the professional level. So far, the career move has paid off. Ever since making her debut in 2015, she has won all five of her fights, the last three by impressive submission.
For Huang, who now trains with the China-based Tianjin Top Team, she has a tremendous amount to gain from this fight. The 26-year-old has the chance to extend her undefeated record, win the most prestigious women’s title in the sport, become the first MMA Champion from Chinese Taipei, and gain the admiration and respect from her parents that she always sought after.
Shannon Wiratchai has the opportunity to make a grand statement. The man known as “OneShin” is quickly becoming a fan favorite for his entertaining style, both inside the cage and out.
The last time we saw the Bangkok Fight Lab veteran was at ONE: UNBREAKABLE WARRIORS in September, where his unforgettable entrance featured him playing off the popular Pokemon GO craze, and was followed by an even more exciting bout where he bested Malaysian hero Peter Davis in his hometown.
Currently holding a 6-1 record and riding a four-fight win streak, Wiratchai claims the home court advantage for his upcoming bout against Richard “Notorious” Corminal. Based in Malaysia, Corminal is a boxing and Muay Thai specialist who carries a respectable 4-1 record, and has finished every opponent who has stood across the cage from him with strikes.
Wiratchai should have a more diversified skill set, and at 28, he is just now entering his prime. If he could make a definitive statement by soundly defeating Corminal, then “OneShin” could easily be fighting a lightweight contender in his next match.
Sagetdao Petpayathai may be making his MMA debut at ONE: WARRIOR KINGDOM, but he has the potential to become the biggest mixed martial artist that Thailand has ever produced. Those are big words, but he could very well back them up.
Known by his nickname “Deadly Star,” the aggressive Petpayathai is one of the most decorated Muay Thai champions of the past ten years. He has held the Lumpinee Stadium Championship on four occasions, in addition to the Rajadamnern Stadium Championship and WBC Super Lightweight Title, amongst others.
He decided to learn the various disciplines of MMA shortly after relocating to Singapore in 2014. Now, only 30 years old and rounding out his game with the various world champions at Evolve MMA, he will have a chance to see how his skills translate inside the cage.
Petpayathai’s first test will be against another promotional debutante in Kelvin “Ice Man” Ong. The Malaysian featherweight prospect trains with the likes of AJ “Pyro” Lias Mansor and Ann Osman at Borneo Tribal Squad MMA, has competed in various martial arts competitions, and won his first and only MMA bout last July.
This is a big showcase for both competitors, but Petpayathai’s unbelievable Muay Thai experience makes this a must-see fight. It will be interesting to see how well his talent translates inside the cage. If successful, then “Deadly Star” could soon become a “superstar.”
Dejdamrong Sor Amnuaysirichoke And Joshua Pacio
This is a critical moment in the career paths of both the former ONE Strawweight World Champion Dejdamrong Sor Amnuaysirichoke and ex-title challenger Joshua Pacio. The two combatants desperately want a rematch against the current titleholder, Yoshitaka “Nobita” Naito, who gave both of these warriors the only blemish on their otherwise spotless records.
The two strawweights are meeting at the proverbial fork in the road. A win will send one of them towards that desired title bout, while a loss will undoubtedly eliminate the other from contention for the foreseeable future.
Pacio, who holds an 8-1 record, has youth on his side. The 21-year-old Filipino possesses a phenomenal wushu striking background, which was on full display when he battered Naito in their headlining contest at ONE: STATE OF WARRIORS last October.
Though he succumbed to a rear-naked choke in the third round, Pacio illustrated a sharpened ground game in the past, and has submitted five of his previous opponents. Also, he is armed with the brilliant game-planning of Team Lakay mastermind Mark Sangiao, who recently orchestrated the rise of ONE Lightweight World Champion Eduard Folayang.
Amnuaysirichoke, quite arguably, has more to lose. The Evolve MMA product lost the belt in front of his compatriots last May at ONE: KINGDOM OF CHAMPIONS, and at 38 years old, he could be coming towards the end of his career. If anything, he is more motivated than ever to get back on the winning track in his native country, and he has the ability to do that.
The Thai, who owns a 6-1 record, has the striking advantage as he is a multi-time Lumpinee Stadium Champion. Even in his defeat at the hands of Naito, he was stuffing his opponent’s takedowns before fatigue set in. If it stays on the feed, he should have the edge against his Filipino opponent.