It was a terrific night for the victors of ONE: QUEST FOR GREATNESS, who with their performances, certainly set themselves up for bigger and better things to come.
The blockbuster was another magical evening in Malaysia’s bustling capital, filled with exciting finishes and compelling drama, as the ONE Featherweight World Championship changed hands in a shocking upset.
Let’s take a look at what could be next for the biggest winners who turned in the performance of their lives in Malaysia.
With a spectacular performance that left the packed Stadium Negara crowd roaring in approval, Martin “The Situ-Asian” Nguyen did what he said he was going to do, and that was to seize the moment against one of the promotion’s most dominant world champions, and claim his place in the spotlight.
In the end, Nguyen’s vaunted overhand right, the very same punch that has felled many an opponent, ended Marat Gafurov’s reign at the top of the featherweight ranks. Nguyen promised fans he was going to survive Gafurov’s signature rear-naked choke, and that he did – twice.
As soon as the former champion realized he wasn’t going to submit the 28-year-old, the Russian appeared frustrated. That’s when the overhand right came perfectly-timed to counter a sloppy leg kick by Gafurov, ending matters in an instant.
What’s next for the newly-crowned ONE Featherweight World Champion? For his first defense, there are a slew of willing challengers. Japan’s Kotetsu Boku, a former ONE Lightweight World Champion who now competes at featherweight, is certainly looking for another shot at gold. There is also former featherweight titleholder Narantungalag Jadambaa, provided the Mongolian can get past Tetsuya Yamada this September.
It was a huge victory for former world title challenger Ev “E.T.” Ting, who is still on the hunt for another shot at ONE Lightweight World Champion Eduard Folayang. Ting called out the Filipino champion immediately after dealing with Japanese veteran Nobutatsu Suzuki, finishing the former welterweight titleholder with a barrage of strikes midway through the first round.
Although Ting’s performance was absolutely stellar, it may not yet be enough to warrant a crack at the lightweight belt as of now. The great thing about ONE Championship’s lightweight division is that there is no shortage of talent, and Ting has a load of options to further make his case.
Ting matches up well with practically anybody. The Malaysian’s potent combination of striking and grappling skills is enough to deal with the likes of Adrian Pang, who would definitely be up for the challenge.
More importantly, Timofey Nastyukhin, who recently routed Koji Ando, should be ready if he gets the call. And then there is former lightweight champion and martial arts legend Shinya “Tobikan Judan” Aoki, who is still waiting at his chance for redemption.
There is absolutely no one like Kevin Belingon at bantamweight. The Filipino striking ace is perhaps the most fearsome striker in the division, and one of the most dangerous in the entire promotion. He proved as much against Toni Tauru last April, and did so once more against one of the division’s best grapplers in Reece McLaren.
McLaren, who gave reigning ONE Bantamweight World Champion Bibiano Fernandes his toughest test to date, was absolutely flattened by Belingon, finished in just over one minute into the very first round. It was another jaw-dropping performance as Belingon once again showcased his devastating power, catching McLaren with a right hook to drop him to canvas before unleashing relentless ground and pound.
By defeating both Tauru and McLaren in thrilling fashion, as well as top prospect Muin Gafurov, Belingon has certainly done enough to earn another shot at Fernandes. Fans are expecting Belingon to get the call for his second opportunity at the bantamweight title, and with Fernandes looking to compete again this year, it is a possibility.
Young Singaporean prospect Christian Lee definitely proved his mettle in a highly-anticipated clash against Malaysia’s Keanu Subba. The two top featherweight prospects had long been on a collision course, and they finally settled matters on 18 August. In the end, it was Lee who came out victorious, scoring a comprehensive submission victory.
Lee, who attacked Subba relentlessly from the opening bell, showed incredible toughness and grit to take Subba’s best shots before powering through to close distance. Lee’s primary strength is his grappling, especially his ability to stifle opponents with unorthodox transitions and creative submissions, and once he had Subba on the ground, Lee went on to dominate the bout.
With the victory, Lee has broken into the top tier of the division, and is ready for a sharp step up in competition. Newcomer Emilio Urrutia, who was victorious against the highly-regarded Edward Kelly of Team Lakay on the same card, is a distinct possibility.