ONE Championship returns to Myanmar on Friday, 30 June, with a rematch that will surely get the Myanmar fans erupting, but also entice fight fans around the world.
The two fought out the full five rounds this past January in Jakarta at ONE: QUEST FOR POWER. But the key with them doing it all over again is that the Myanmar native accepted the contest on desperately short notice, coming to the event’s rescue with just days to spare after the initial challenger, Marcin Prachnio, withdrew due to injury.
That the 32-year-old Aung La N Sang went the full 25 minutes with the all-action champion was impressive enough, but to have done so without a full camp speaks volumes of his remarkable, natural endurance and ability.
This Friday, in front of an always-wild crowd in Yangon, the ethnic Kachin gets a far more legitimate chance to show that he can bring Myanmar to the summit of Asian martial arts, and catapult himself to the upper echelon of belt holders in the ONE Championship stable.
Their first 25 minutes sets us up perfectly for part two. Bigdash, as expected, was just a little bit better in almost every category the first time. This underscores the notion that with the preparation Aung La N Sang lacked in that encounter, they could be almost inseparable should the judges be called upon again.
Bigdash is tremendously big-hearted, but also – from the perspective of fans baying for excitement – joyously vulnerable. He took thrilling shots from Igor Svirid in his championship-winning contest in 2015, dropping to the canvas – as all mortals surely would – but he bounced back with mythical fortitude to provide the Fight of the Year, and perhaps any year in ONE Championship history.
With the powerful and super-strong Aung La N Sang as fit as he can be, a similar contest can’t be too far-fetched.
It’s not only a fitter and stronger “Burmese Python” that we can expect to make a difference. The Myanmar crowd are exceptionally loud, and although they’ve rocked the Thuwunna National Indoor Stadium for their hero before, the noise and passion are likely to be at peak levels with a title on the line.
Myanmar has a rich history in combat sport, but it’s heavily focused on Lethwei, so true mixed martial artists, though developing rapidly, are at something of a premium. Aung La N Sang certainly is a true mixed martial artist and among the best in the world, so the local fans know that he’s their best chance of a big celebratory party come 30 June.
Of his 19 wins, 18 have come inside the distance (11 submissions, seven by KO/TKO) and that effectiveness will be far more obvious in Yangon than it was in Indonesia. Aung La N Sang is the only man to go the distance with Bigdash, and he has every right to expect more this time around.
We know that the Myanmar hero has the durability and submission defence to resist Bigdash for five rounds, even when not at his fittest. So, I don’t expect Bigdash to stop Aung La N Sang this time, either. I do expect, however, the “Burmese Python” to hit harder and provide more extreme torque when looking to stop the fight within the five rounds.
I also expect Bigdash to be in better shape than he was for their first fight. The champion, although fighting fit, had been inactive for 15 months prior to their Jakarta clash, and this time he should be sharper.
This one will be a sure candidate for Fight of the Year. I suspect the winner will come out of this with a razor-thin margin of victory, possibly via split decision, with the edge going to Bigdash.
Steve Dawson is ONE Championship’s lead commentator, a Fox Sports presenter and an author of sporting biographies. He can be found on Twitter & Instagram as @Gulasahi and on Facebook as Steve Dawson.