Perhaps because the 20,000 capacity SM Mall of Asia Arena is the biggest venue in the region, ONE FC tends to pull out all the stops for the Manila shows and December 6th is no exception, with a stacked card featuring the top Filipino fighters and plenty of exciting prospects.
The match between Edward Kelly and Major Overall has apparently been nixed, but there are still plenty of big names and exciting match-ups with unbeaten bantamweight Dae Hwan Kim's promotional debut, the lightweight clash between Vuyisile Colossa and Caros Fodor and the heavyweight match-up involving Paul Cheng and Alain Ngalani, among the highlights in the first half of the card.
Here is my preview of the first five fights of ONE FC 13: "Moment of Truth" which takes place this Friday in Manila and will be available for purchase online for $9.99 with the main card screened live on Star Sports and various other broadcasters around the world.
Ruel Catalan vs. Kim Dhima
While on paper this might not look like the most exciting match-up, both fighters come from a pure striking background and vengeance will be on the agenda which could make things more interesting. Kim Dhima (0-0-0-1) did some serious damage to Ruel Catalan's brother Rene when they fought in October but unfortunately, he did it with illegal elbows to the back of the head.
Rene was so badly hurt that he still isn't fit to fight so his brother Ruel (1-3) steps up. He comes from a Wushu background and is determined to resurrect his career and do damage to Dhima to exact revenge for the beating he put on his brother.
Rene didn't get the better of the striking exchanges, but Ruel is significantly taller which might make a difference, although I would expect the Filipino to try and get the fight to the ground while Dhima will try to keep it standing and score with low kicks and (hopefully legal) elbows.
Paul Cheng vs. Alain Ngalani
Alain Ngalani introduced himself to MMA fans with a spectacular spinning wheel kick knockout on his professional debut and the Camerounian kickboxer and Muay Thai champion will be back in action on Friday night. This time around he faced a tougher examination against Taiwanese born heavyweight Paul Cheng.
Cheng (3-1) has pro boxing experience and a reputation for being heavy handed. He is also a fully fledged heavyweight, tipping the scales at close to 265 pounds and has a background in wrestling which almost certainly makes him the more well rounded of the two.
Ngalani (1-0) is also a decorated Judoka but he is a relative newcomer to MMA. If Cheng decided to use his boxing and stand-and-bang, this could be "fight of the night," but if the former CFL star comes in with a wrestling-based gameplan then it is possible the African will struggle.
Geje Eustaquio vs. Eugene Toquero
This all Filipino flyweight clash pits the undefeated Eugene Toquero (4-0) against the inconsistent Geje Eustaquio (4-2). The former made a name for himself beating all comers under the PXC banner while the latter got his ONE FC career off to an impressive start by beating Ale Silva by decision in Jakarta before being outpointed by Andrew Leone in Manila.
Toquero comes from a Muay Thai background and is primarily a striker who is coming off a win over one of Eustaquio's Team Lakay training partners. He won that fight when the doctor called the action off after a round and his four wins have all been stoppages caused by strikes.
Eustaquio comes from a Wushu background and is comfortable fighting on his feet, but is also not afraid to take the fight to the ground. With Toquero coming from a striking background that might be the gameplan although it will be intriguing to see how their different styles match up in the stand up exchanges.
Dae Hwan Kim vs. Thanh Vu
All eyes will be on Dae Hwan Kim (8-0-1) who was a UFC target but ended up with ONE FC and will be making his promotional debut in Manila. Despite coming from a Muay Thai background, the Korean seems to like getting fights to the ground and it will be interesting to see how he matches up against Thanh Vu (3-2).
Given their respective records, the Australian will undoubtedly be an underdog, but he has placed highly at some grappling tournaments and might feel that his best chance of success is to look for a submission. After being well beaten by Kevin Belingon last time out, he is possibly fighting for his ONE FC future here.
Victory for Kim would potentially put him one win away from a title shot and it will be interesting to see whether the Korean has the skill set to match his impeccable record. For Vu, this is a huge opportunity to defeat one of Asia's brightest bantamweight prospects after looking a little out of his depth against Belingon.
Caros Fodor vs. Vuyisile Colossa
On another card, this could easily have been the main event, but ONE FC tends to pull out all the stops for Manila. Caros Fodor (8-3) is a Strikeforce veteran who can count himself extremely unfortunate to have been cut by the UFC after one dubious split-decision defeat.
Vuyisile Colossa (6-4) is a Muay Thai champion who has been in with UFC-calibre opponents and never makes it easy for them. Coming off the biggest win of his career, against Japanese veteran Kotetsu Boku, the South African has also been the distance with Yui Chul Nam (twice) and Eduard Folayang, losing razor thin decisions to both.
If Colossa wants to go from being a fighter who can push the best lightweights in Asia all the way to one who can consistently defeat them this is the fight to do it. Fodor is seasoned, well rounded, experienced and probably won't want any part of his opponent's stand-up. The fight could hinge on how successfully "The Cheetah" defends the takedowns.
Stay tuned tomorrow for part two of my ONE FC 13: "Moment of Truth" preview.