The latest (and, so far, most promising) claimant to the Asian mixed martial arts (MMA) throne, ONE Fighting Championships, held its fourth show today in Kuala Lumpur, filling the card top-to-bottom with recognizable names and promising talent. Their dedication to building a solid roster paid off with an excellent show.
After a finish-filled undercard, the main card kicked off with impressive efforts from lesser-known talents, with France's Arnaud Lepont snatching victory from the jaws of defeat with a late rear-naked choke of Brian Choi, Eric Kelly fending off the Judo prowess of Bae Young Kwon for a decision, and Adam Kayoom surviving a brutal first round to take a decision over a fading Gregor Gracie.
The first real "name" on the card was the "Ashikan Judan" himself, Masakazu Imanari, who was facing Evolve MMA's Leandro Issa. Despite Imanari's impressive credentials, the fight was essentially a rout, with Issa's hard punches and vicious leg kicks keeping him at bay standing en route to his earning a unanimous decision. He even willingly hopped into Imanari's notoriously-lethal guard and battered him from there, perhaps to just prove a point.
Consider it proven.The second international notable to grace the stage was Roger Huerta, fighting at welterweight against fellow lightweight Zorobabel Moreira (the fight was contested at 170-pounds because Huerta was booked to face Phil Baroni before the latter was knocked out by Chris Holland). "El Matador" looked to snap his three-fight losing streak and finally claw his way out of an abysmal slump dating back to 2008.
While he had his moments, using pure aggression to back the 6'3" Moreira up and land solid punches, the length and power of "Zoro" soon took command of the fight. After battering Huerta with leg kicks and knees from the clinch, Moreira landed a hard right straight that seemed to suck all the life out of him, and while Huerta did get up, he continued eating punch after punch until, after getting easily rebuked on a takedown, Moreira viciously soccer kicked him for a knockout, further establishing him as one of the bigger prospects in MMA.
The scary part? He's also a match for Aoki on the mat.
The main event featured well-traveled veteran Renato Sobral facing Tatsuya Mizuno, one of Japan's finest big men. Mizuno instantly took Sobral down and landed a solid punch from guard, but "Babalu" just as quickly turned the tables, locking in an armbar and forcing a tap barely 30 seconds in.