Shinya Aoki choked out Kotetsu Boku in the second round at the Singapore Indoor Stadium on April 5 to become the new ONE FC World Lightweight Champion. It was a dominant performance from the Japanese submission specialist who was able to take "No Face" down and keep him down.
Boku, who won the belt by stopping Aoki's Evolve MMA team mate Zorobabel Moreira last October, defended submission after submission during a one-sided first round. The second round began in identical fashion with Aoki securing an immediate takedown and this time he was able to find a fight-finishing submission, locking in a rear naked choke which forced the champion to tap.
Speaking after the fight an emotional Aoki said,
"The fight went according to the gameplan that the Evolve MMA coaches set out for me. I won easily but the training was hard, sparring with Attachai Fairtex was scarier than the actual fight! I fight alone in the cage but it is a team effort and I cried afterwards because I was so happy."
The ONE FC Bantamweight Grand Prix final is set for Manila on May 31st and will be contested between Masakatsu Ueda and Kevin Belingon after both scored second round stoppage wins in their semifinals. The Japanese fighter submitted Jens Pulver with a D'Arce choke while the Filipino scored a technical knockout win over Thanh Vu.
Belingon lost his first two ONE FC fights but has been resurgent of late and followed up his first round KO win over Yusup Saadulaev last October with another very impressive performance against Thanh Vu. He was too quick for the Vietnamese Australian and landed very hard kicks all through the fight.
In round two, Belingon continued to control the striking and two hard head kicks followed up by a flurry of knees and punches left Vu dazed and disorientated and the referee sensibly stepped in to prevent him from taking further punishment.
Pulver is a former UFC lightweight champion but must surely be coming to the end of his career after being choked out by Ueda. It was always going to be an uphill struggle for the 37 year old against an elite level bantamweight who is still very much in his prime.
The American acquitted himself well in the early exchanges but ended up underneath his opponent midway through the second round and Ueda was ruthless in working his way into a position to sink in the choke which forced Pulver to tap.
Eddie Ng's encounter with Arnaud Lepont has been a year in the making and the Hong Kong fighter made up for the time lost after injuring his shoulder with an armbar win towards the end of the second round of a highly entertaining affair.
The French fighter has a reputation as a tenacious competitor and this was a back and forth contest in which both men had moments where they appeared to be in the ascendancy. Ng got an early takedown and enjoyed positional superiority in the opening round, but Lepont was able to weather the storm.
In the second stanza, it was Lepont who instigated the takedown and proceeded to do some damage from top position, roughing the Hong Kong native up with some short elbows. Ng was able to reverse the position and after seeing numerous submission attempts stuffed, finally succeeded in an armbar attempt with less than 15 seconds remaining in the round.
It was a very good night for Evolve MMA whose five fighters all registered wins with Leandro Issa showcasing some very impressive striking skills to outpoint Yusup Saadulaev. The first round was very competitive with some fast scrambles but after that the Brazilian took over and his superor Muay Thai skills were the story of the fight.
Saadulaev was unable to close the distance in order to get close enough to his opponent to use his Sambo skills and Issa kept landing low kicks, a couple of which knocked the Russian clean off his feet. The jiu-jitsu black belt is very much back in the mix in the 135-pound division after this dominant decision win.
Melvin Manhoef's middleweight match up with Brock Larson was a curious mixture of frantic action and long periods without anything occurring. The American's respect for his opponent's legendary kickboxing was obvious and he was reluctant to engage, but the Dutchman was also far too willing to wait and threw very few strikes.
See the GIF here.
At one point in the second round, Larson was effectively running for his life as Manhoef chased him around the cage which amused the crowd who had been voicing their frustration. His patient approach ultimately paid off as he was able to take the fight to the ground in the final round and unleash ground and pound for the remainder of the contest, making him the clear winner under the "PRIDE style" scoring system.
ONE FC: "Kings & Champions" was the first time that Asia's biggest MMA promotion has been broadcast live across Asia by Star Sports and Victor Cui feels this was a notable landmark,
"Tonight ONE FC was the only live sport on television throughout Asia. The response is great, our live window was supposed to end at 11pm but they said 'Hell no you're extending' and they extended the window until the fights were done so that's always a good sign, because the deal was from eight to 11 and the fights went on a little longer."
Cui also had the following to say about his promotion which is rapidly establishing itself as the main global challenger to the UFC,
"Our next event is May 31st in Manila at the SM Mall of Asia Arena and the next event after that is going to come very fast and it's going to surprise everybody. We've been working on something which we will announce in the next week and after that our calendar is already set, we are back in Singapore and then Jakarta, Malaysia and we're looking at Korea (South presumably!), Hong Kong and Taiwan."
ONE FC: 'Kings & Champions' Singapore Indoor Stadium, April 5th
Shinya Aoki beat Kotetsu Boku by Submission (Rear-Naked Choke) at 2:01 of round two
Brock Larson beat Melvin Manhoef by Decision (Unanimous) at 5:00 of round three
Masakatsu Ueda beat Jens Pulver by submission (Brabo Choke) at 3:52 of round two
Kevin Belingon beat Thanh Vu by TKO (Punches) at 1:00 of round two
Eddie Ng beat Arnaud Lepont by submission (Armbar) at 4:45 of round two
Leandro Issa beat Yusup Saadulaev by decision (Unanimous) at 5:00 of round three
Jake Butler beat Swain Cangco by TKO (Punches) at 2:52 of round one
Yun Ting Chen beat Ronald Low by TKO (Punches) at 3:58 of round one