Last Friday, 23 February, ONE Championship brought another action-packed evening to Yangon, Myanmar. The promotion hosted ONE: QUEST FOR GOLD at the Thuwunna Indoor Stadium, and the event contained quite a few golden moments.
In the main event, Myanmar’s own Aung La N Sang captured the ONE Light Heavyweight World Title to become the organization’s second-ever dual world champion. Also, a pair of contenders continued their ascension up the lightweight ranks, and local talent shined on the global stage.
Now, it is time to look ahead. We take a peak into what could be next for the biggest winners from ONE: QUEST FOR GOLD.
Aung La “The Burmese Python” N Sang
It was a scintillating performance from Aung La N Sang who, after knocking out Brazil’s Alexandre Machado in a record-setting 56 seconds with a head kick, vowed to defend both his ONE Middleweight and Light Heavyweight World Championships.
The Myanmar hero’s victory was as captivating as it was significant for the history and prestige of his home country. Now, it is time for the 32-year-old to defend both the honor of his nation and his world titles.
As far as middleweight world title challengers go, two immediately come to mind.
First, you can’t find fault in a trilogy match against former titleholder and previously-unbeaten kingpin Vitaly Bigdash, who lost the belt to “The Burmese Python” via unanimous decision in June 2017. Also, five-time BJJ world champion Leandro Ataides is surging ahead on a two-bout win streak, and is refocused on his title aspirations.
Ev “E.T.” Ting
Former lightweight world title challenger Ev Ting entered his match-up against Ariel “Tarzan” Sexton with a huge chip on his shoulder.
The Malaysian felt many fans and observers had written him off even before he stepped into the cage. Some expected a momentous return for the Costa Rican “Tarzan,” but the 28-year-old “E.T.” spoiled the party, and left the cage with a split decision victory.
“E.T.” is moving closer and closer to a second world championship opportunity, but may need another victory or two to get his desired title shot. There are still a handful of elite talents hovering at the top of a stacked lightweight division, like Russian grappler Rasul Yakhyaev, who defeated Thailand’s Shannon Wiratchai in Bangkok last December.
Also, showdowns with former ONE Lightweight World Champions Shinya Aoki and Eduard Folayang could make for fireworks, and would certainly make for entertaining scraps. But perhaps the most obvious choice for a next opponent would be another lightweight contender who was victorious earlier in the night — the man listed below.
Russia’s Timofey Nastyukhin looked spectacular this past Friday. In his 15-minute clash with Amir Khan, the 28-year-old was patient and methodical in his offensive approach. He displayed a controlled aggression, he dictated much of the action, and he overwhelmed the Singaporean with constant pressure and power-packed strikes.
With a convincing unanimous decision victory over a premier talent, Nastyukhin finds himself once again atop the lightweight division. He could very well face-off against Ting next, which would conceivably serve as a title eliminator. Or, perhaps, he could be the one to take on the aforementioned Yakhyaev.
Another compelling challenge for Nastyukhin is a rematch with the man he beat in his promotional debut a few years ago, Eduard “Landslide” Folayang, who himself is looking to recapture his beloved ONE Lightweight World Championship.
Phoe “Bushido” Thaw
While Aung La N Sang is Myanmar’s biggest star, it appears as if Phoe Thaw is not far behind. The 33-year-old Yangon hero has continued to impress each and every time he steps inside the ONE cage.
This past Friday, the lethwei-based martial artist had his first taste of international competition in his battle with Sor Sey. He wreaked havoc on the Cambodian, and knocked out his rival with a stunning push kick to the chin in under two minutes.
“Bushido” is an exciting talent who loves to strike, and it would be interesting to see him clash with another exhilarating striker next.
A bout with Muay Thai legend Sagetdao “Deadly Star” Petpayathai, also unbeaten inside the ONE cage, would be absolutely epic. Another test for Phoe Thaw would China’s Xie Chao, who poses a stylistic threat as a capable grappler and a bonafide finisher.
“The Underdog” Li Kai Wen
Li Kai Wen is all about forward movement, both figuratively and literally.
The Chinese featherweight left the memories of his unfortunate disqualification loss to Ahmed Mujtaba in the rearview mirror, and displayed harnessed power and relentless forward-pressure in his victory over the Philippines’ Roel Rosauro last Friday.
The 22-year-old Tianjin, China native is talented beyond his years, and has a litany of options for his next contest.
For instance, pitting “The Underdog” against Emilio “The Honey Badger” Urrutia would be an exciting showcase of two hungry athletes with nonstop motors. Also, fireworks would be guaranteed in a bout with Edward “The Ferocious” Kelly. Whether it is Urrutia, Kelly, or someone else, Li will bring the action.