ONE Championship was absolutely electrifying on Saturday, 5 August, as Asia’s best martial artists took to the cage to showcase their incredible talents.
ONE: KINGS & CONQUERORS was the biggest ONE Championship card to date, with 12 compelling bouts thoroughly entertaining a packed Cotai Arena at The Venetian Macao.
It was undoubtedly a historic evening, and one that produced a handful of thrilling results. Let’s take a look at what could be next for the biggest stars who claimed wins in Macao.
Bibiano “The Flash” Fernandes
Reigning ONE Bantamweight World Champion Bibiano Fernandes has never looked as fearsome. The bantamweight kingpin handily dispatched challenger Andrew Leone, submitting the American in just under two minutes following a furious barrage of relentless striking.
At 37 years of age, Fernandes is as crisp and sharp as he has ever been, as he remains the longest-reigning ONE world champion by far with a record seven successful title defenses.
Fernandes has defeated every challenger put in front of him, and has proven himself to be an all-time great. However, there are still a few new names at bantamweight that could give Fernandes a good run for his money, as well as a couple of top contenders who would love another crack at the title.
Reece “Lightning” McLaren, who gave Fernandes his toughest fight ever last December, was very close to an upset, falling on the wrong side of a split decision. The Philippines’ Kevin “The Silencer” Belingon also feels he wasn’t able to give a good account of his skills, in his short bout against Fernandes in January of 2016. McLaren and Belingon are set to do battle in Kuala Lumpur on 18 August, and the winner could very well get another shot at Fernandes.
Aside from McLaren and Belingon, veteran Yusup “Maestro” Saadulaev, who is on a four-bout winning streak, would surely also answer the call. Saadulaev recently defeated Jordan Lucas last October with an impressive modified rear naked choke.
Adriano “Mikinho” Moraes
With a dominant showing over previously-unbeaten rival Kairat Akhmetov, undisputed ONE Flyweight World Champion Adriano Moraes turned in one of the most complete performances in his career.
Moraes overpowered Akhmetov in both striking and grappling over the course of five rounds to earn a unanimous decision, erasing the painful sting of defeat to the same man nearly two years ago.
It certainly hasn’t gone over well with Akhmetov, however, as the Kazakh warrior will most likely lobby for a third and final bout to settle the score once and for all.
With both competitors having one win apiece, a rubber match would definitely spark a lot of interest, and could end up being ONE Championship’s first trilogy series.
If Moraes-Akhmetov III isn’t in the cards just yet, then there are still a number of flyweights who match up well with the humble Brazilian champion.
Malaysian star Gianni Subba would definitely be high on that list, provided he gets past Japanese veteran Riku Shibuya on 18 August at ONE: QUEST FOR GREATNESS. It won’t be an easy task, as Shibuya is also a solid contender, and a former world title challenger who has fought Moraes before.
One of the biggest questions heading into ONE: KINGS & CONQUERORS was whether Timofey Nastyukhin would look his old self, having spent the past several months in rehabilitation of a leg injury he suffered in a bout last November. Against Koji Ando, the Russian showed no ill effects of the broken shin that threatened to end his career.
It certainly wasn’t easy, but in the end, Nastyukhin emerged with the judges’ nod. Over the course of three rounds, Nastyukhin showcased his inherent power, attacking Ando with his familiar forcefulness.
The Russian stalwart also kicked with his right leg just fine, and never seemed to worry. Any hesitation on Nastyukhin’s part was due to Ando’s distinct ability to negate his opponent’s offense with the constant threat of takedowns.
Even before the bout, Nastyukhin was lobbying for a title shot against the Philippines’ Eduard Folayang, now the reigning ONE Lightweight World Champion. Nastyukhin scored a highlight-reel stoppage of Folayang in his ONE Championship debut in 2014, finishing the Filipino off with a flying knee, so it might be a distinct possibility.
However, the lightweight division is teeming with talent, and a long list of potential challengers awaits, both for Folayang and Nastyukhin.
Shannon “OneShin” Wiratchai
Shannon Wiratchai has repeatedly stopped any foe put in front of him. Operating behind his unique OneShin Striking System, Wiratchai made quick work of India’s Rajinder Singh Meena, needing only 29 seconds to author the quickest finish of his career.
A great part of Wiratchai’s success stems from his incredibly fluid striking, which is one of the best in the promotion. With his victory last Saturday night, Wiratchai currently rides a six-bout winning streak, and is in perfect position to break into the top ten of an extremely stacked division.
Given his ability to handle powerful strikers, Wiratchai needs to be tested against a high-level grappler before he can even begin to think about a title shot – grapplers the likes of Koji Ando, who competed on the same card.
With Wiratchai moving up in the ranks, it opens up a lot of compelling matchups at lightweight, and it will be interesting to see if the Thai warrior can truly come into his own and become his country’s next big superstar.
Hayato Suzuki made a huge statement with quick submission victory over Team Lakay’s former world title challenger Joshua “The Passion” Pacio.
Young Pacio is best remembered for his near upset victory over reigning ONE Strawweight World Champion Yoshitaka Naito last October, in a bout the Filipino dominated before getting submitted in the third and final round.
Suzuki however, would take Pacio down quite easily in their bout, and finished off the youngster with a slick rear-naked choke. As a result, Suzuki could quite possibly head straight into an all-Japanese title tiff with Naito in the immediate future, given how impressive his victory was on Saturday night.
Former world champion Dejdamrong Sor Amnuaysirichoke is also in the mix, and a possible opponent for Suzuki should the Japanese not be ready just yet for a shot at the title.