It seems like every time ONE Championship comes to Bangkok, something special happens. This weekend made it two spectacular shows in a row now. ONE: WARRIOR KINGDOM went down last Saturday, 11 March, as the promotion made its triumphant return to the iconic Impact Arena for another evening of world-class mixed martial arts.
A handful of Thailand’s finest mixed martial artists absolutely wowed the crowd, accentuated by the best in international MMA talent led by none other than Asia’s top women’s MMA star Angela Lee.
Of course, every card is a mixed bag of results and in MMA, there are always winners and losers. Let’s take a look at what’s next for some of the winners of ONE: WARRIOR KINGDOM.
“Unstoppable” Angela Lee
What a terrific evening it was for the reigning ONE Women’s Atomweight World Champion, “Unstoppable” Angela Lee. She not only returned to the ONE Championship cage and defended her belt successfully, but also revealed a new facet of her game that many people has previously criticized her for.
Fans know Lee is a tremendous grappler. With five submissions out of six total wins entering Saturday night’s main event bout, Lee has proven as much. However, many of her critics remarked about how she lacked the striking ability to truly hang with the top female fighters in the world.
Japanese MMA veteran Mei Yamaguchi tagged Lee with quite a punch in her previous bout and it seems to have taught her a valuable lesson. That’s why the champion spent her time away from the cage wisely tightening the holes in her striking game.
As a result, her Muay Thai and boxing skills were sharper than ever, and it was challenger Jenny Huang who got an initial taste of Lee’s newfound skills. Lee completely wrecked Huang, who had nothing more to offer aside from a few rare counter right hands here and there. It was all Angela Lee all night, and the 20-year-old champion took the fight right to her opponent until the inevitable TKO conclusion.
Things are obviously looking up for Lee, who stands tall as the champion in a division with plenty of talent. The competition will have to come even more well-prepared now to deal with the reigning queen.
Brazil’s Istela Nunes, who defeated Yamaguchi last August via split decision, is most likely next in line. She would certainly pose more of a challenge now, having seen just what Lee is capable of at this stage of the game.
Shannon “OneShin” Wiratchai
It was only a matter of time before the division took notice, but Shannon Wiratchai continued to take care of business. The Bangkok Fight Lab mainstay is now 5-1 for ONE Championship after posting a spectacular victory over Filipino combatant Richard Corminal, who made his ONE Championship promotional debut last Saturday.
Corminal was expected to give Wiratchai a stiff challenge, but instead it became the Shannon Wiratchai show, as the Thai fighter put his self-developed “OneShin Striking System” on full display.
Wiratchai entered the ONE Championship cage loose and relaxed like he always does, and reminded fans in attendance that when he’s not walking out to the cage in funky costumes, he’s one of the most dynamic and dangerous strikers in all of Asian MMA.
With enigmatic and unpredictable movement, Wiratchai stifled Corminal with unorthodox angles and blistering fast power shots that the Filipino was just unable to handle. The way Wiratchai unloaded his bombs and then sidestepped out of range was a thing of beauty.
After the fight, Wiratchai called for a shot at the ONE Lightweight World Championship, currently held by the Philippines’ Eduard Folayang. It was probably the most humble “call-out” in MMA history because Wiratchai remained polite, and even told everyone listening that he may not even really deserve a shot at the title, but just wanted to ask for a shot anyway in case fans wanted to see a fun fight.
Regardless of what’s next for Wiratchai, there is no denying that he has steadily improved with each appearance inside the ONE Championship cage. While a title shot may not be immediately on the table, he’s certainly long overdue for a big-name opponent.
Surefire action-packed duels with Rob Lisita and Adrian Pang first come to mind, as well as a solid scrap against former ONE Featherweight World Champion Honorio “The Rock” Banario, who has been on a career resurgence of late.
The Filipino youngster continues to impress, and he has clearly learned a lot from his last fight. 21-year-old Joshua Pacio went up against former ONE Strawweight World Champion Dejdamrong Sor Amnuaysirichoke, and it was a clash between an old veteran and a rising hotshot.
Pacio, who challenged reigning champion Yoshitaka Naito in his previous outing, faced a completely different foe this time around. While Naito was more focused on taking matters to the ground, Dejdamrong was intent on keeping the fight standing. Knowing that Dejdamrong possessed an advantage in striking as a multiple-time Lumpinee Stadium champion and Muay Thai legend, Pacio knew he had to avoid trading strikes with him at all costs.
The Filipino used well-placed shots and insistent single leg takedowns to take matters to the canvas, where he enjoyed a tactical advantage. Pacio did well to keep Dejdamrong on the mat, nullifying the Thai fighter’s striking advantage. On the ground, it was all Joshua Pacio as he grinded out the former champion.
Although Dejdamrong came alive in the third and lit up the youngster many times over five minutes, Pacio defended well, and in the eyes of at least two of the judges, that was enough to earn him the split decision nod.
Many fans believe Pacio has earned another shot at the ONE Strawweight World Championship, but Pacio said it best right after he lost in his first ever world title bid — he is in no hurry to get back into the cage with the champ.
He may be right, as there’s no reason for Pacio to jump back into the cage against Naito at this time. Most enticing would probably be Alex Silva of Evolve MMA. Silva has defeated four Filipino fighters in a row now, and Pacio would serve as a good representative to get revenge for team Philippines.