ONE Fighting Championship: 'Kings & Champions' is set for the Singapore Indoor Stadium this Friday night (April 5, 2013) and will feature 10 fights with a lightweight world title bout between Shinya Aoki vs. Kotetsu Boku at the top of the bill.
This event will be the first to be broadcast live in Asia by Star Sports and will also be available to view online with the first two fights streamed free of charge and the entire show costing $9.99 USD via the ONE FC website. It will be the fourth time that Asia's biggest mixed martial arts (MMA) organization has held a card in Singapore, the country where it is headquartered.
In addition to the title fight, the top half of the card features a middleweight bout between Melvin Manhoef vs. Brock Larson, the semifinals of the ONE FC Bantamweight Grand Prix involving Jens Pulver, Masakatsu Ueda, Kevin Belingon and Thanh Vu, plus a lightweight battle between Arnaud Lepont vs. Eddie Ng.
This is a preview of the first five fights, two of which will be available to view completely free of charge:
With very little fight footage available on either fighter, both enter the cage as relatively unknown quantities. Ronald Low (1-0) made short work of an overmatched Malaysian opponent on his professional MMA debut at Ultimate Beatdown 10 while Chen Yun Ting is unbeaten as an amateur.
The stakes are high for Low because he is the only Singaporean on the card and can expect fervent support from the crowd as well as being guaranteed future fights in the ONE FC flyweight division if he wins impressively. His opponent is Malaysian which brings a bit of national rivalry to this opening fight which probably won't last more than a round.
Jake Butler vs Swain Cangco
Originally slated to face an unknown Indian, the stakes were raised significantly for Jake Butler (1-0) when Swain Cangco (2-0) stepped in as a late replacement. The American is an NCAA division one wrestler whose decision to swap a career on Wall Street for life as a mixed martial artist has captured the imagination of the worldwide media.
Butler made short work of an Indonesian opponent at ONE FC: 'Return of Warriors' earlier this year and if can take Cangco down the former captain of the Princeton University wrestling team probably won't let him back up again. Saipan has a strong mixed martial arts scene and even fighting at two week's notice, Cangco will be no pushover.
This will be the first-ever MMA fight to be shown live all over Asia by Star Sports and it is fitting that it should involve featherweight fighters from two Asian countries with rapidly developing MMA scenes. Shannon Wiratchai (2-0-1) was robbed of a win over Mitch Chilson by the 'open guard' rule which has long since been abolished but showed in that fight he has a well rounded game while Bashir Ahmad (1-0) has a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) blue belt and professional Muay Thai experience.
Wiratchai has a slight tendency to start fights slow but he's been sharpening up his skills with Roger Huerta at Tiger Muay Thai and is a very energetic and aggressive fighter. For Ahmad this is a huge opportunity and he will feel he has the superior ground game, while on the basis of the fight with Chilson, the Thai fighter will probably be the more dangerous in the striking exchanges.
The obvious strategy for Ahmad would be to work for the takedown but Chilson is also a BJJ blue belt and wasn't able to pass Wiratchai's guard, so the Pakistani might prefer to keep things standing. Both fighters are relatively inexperienced and unlikely to employ a patient and methodical approach which could make for a fun first round.
This is a truly intriguing contest because, while neither fighter has a big reputation in the MMA world both are highly decorated martial artists. Rene Catalan, who is making his debut, is a four time Wushu world champion while Alex Silva (1-1) is a BJJ black belt and Copa De Mundo gold medalist.
Silva was outpointed by ONE FC flyweight title contender Geje Eustaquio in Jakarta last February but could potentially have improved immeasurably since as he is working every day with the team of world champion trainers at Evolve MMA. If the Brazilian can get the fight to the ground he should have no problem submitting Catalan but for as long as both men are standing the Filipino is a very dangerous adversary.
Honorio Banario, Eduard Folayang, Eric Kelly, Kevin Belingon and Rey Docyogen are all Wushu fighters but none of them have credentials which are as impressive as Catalans so, personally, I am excited to see what sort of tricks he has in his bag -- but if he wants to win -- it is absolutely imperative that he avoids getting taken down.
This is a fight which could easily have wound up headlining a ONE FC card had Leandro Issa (10-3) succeeded in winning the belt last October and Yusup Saadulaev (9-2-1) won the Bantamweight Grand Prix, something which many people tipped him to do.
Instead, after suffering surprise losses, both find themselves a bit further down the card and fighting to get back into title contention. Saadulaev is from Dagestan and has outstanding Sambo style wrestling, I definitely give him the edge in that department but Issa is a BJJ black belt who has won gold medals at the Mundials so, on paper at least, his ground game should be superior.
Saadulaev has never been known for his striking and Issa's Muay Thai is solid so I think the Brazilian has the superior striking. For me, that makes Issa the favorite going into this fight because he has more ways to win but Saadulaev has the capability to slam opponents into the mat so hard they lose consciousness (see here) so you can never write him off.
Stay tuned for part two of my ONE FC: 'Kings & Champions' preview coming later this week...