Sweden’s Zebastian ‘The Bandit’ Kadestam came into ONE: DYNASTY OF HEROES on Friday, 26 May, with nothing to lose.
Delighted to take the opportunity to compete for ONE Championship, it was the warrior mentality of ‘anyone, anytime’ that saw him agree to face Luis “Sapo” Santos at the Singapore Indoor Stadium.
He had much less experience than his Brazilian foe, a former ONE Welterweight World Title contender, but most fighters in mixed martial arts also fall into that category. At 63-10-1, 1 No Contest, Santos’ record dwarfed that of his 9-3 Swedish opponent.
In this sport, however, the numbers do not necessarily mean a thing, and Kadestam shocked the world with a stunning third-round knockout.
“I do not think I have ever fought like that before,” the Stockholm resident says. “I was waiting and waiting because I could feel his power, especially in the first two minutes. He had power in everything. He was fast in his hands and knees. My plan was to attack a lot more, but I could also see him gas early.”
As the first round got underway, the experience difference seemed to tell. Santos looked comfortable from the opening bell, attacking “The Bandit” with punishing, heavy kicks. Kadestam appeared to be feeling the nerves of the big stage and the bright lights, and could only react to the Brazilian’s offense as he shook the tension out of his arms.
The moment of the frame was a well-timed low kick that swept the former Muay Thai competitor off his feet, and BJJ and judo black belt Santos followed his man to the ground to control the position for the remainder of the stanza.
In the second, Santos’ pace appeared to slow. Although he was still the dominant force, the speed was dissipating and the power faded. He allowed the Swede into the fight by taking his foot off the gas, potentially wary of issues with his own energy levels. The American Top Team product hit takedowns to continue racking up the points, but his output was noticeably less intense.
Kadestam was faced with a do or die situation coming out for round three. He had to finish the match if he wanted to win. After absorbing all of the punishment in the first two rounds, the game of possum worked in his favor, as the heavily-muscled Santos appeared drained.
A sloppy takedown attempt made it clear that “Sapo” was running on empty. This allowed “The Bandit” to take advantage, stuffing the shot and getting a dominant position for the first time in the fight.
However, unlike Santos, he was not content to ride the position. This was his opportunity. He drilled three hard knees into the head of his opponent, knocking him out to score a huge upset and stun fans everywhere.
The Swede was all but written off ahead of the contest, but he showed that being willing to step up to the plate can pay off. He handed one of the world’s top welterweights a rare KO defeat, and instantly put himself in the welterweight title picture in one of the biggest upsets in promotional history.