ONE FC: 'Rise to Power' is set for the 20,000 capacity SM Mall of Asia Arena in Manila on Friday night (May 31, 2013) making it the biggest card in the history of Asia's most prestigious mixed martial arts (MMA) promotion and, stacked from top to bottom with exciting match-ups, it might well also be the best.
The first three fights of the night will be available to view online totally free of charge and the rest of the card will be available for $9.99 USD and will also be shown live across Asia on Star Sports and broadcast by a number of other channels worldwide including The Fight Network in Canada.
In total there are 10 fights on the card which features the likes of Honorio Banario, Kevin Belingon, Eduard Folayang, Bibiano Fernandes, Masakatsu Ueda, Kamal Shalorus and Tim Sylvia and here is my official MMAmania.com preview of the first five.
Tim Sylvia vs Tony Johnson Jr. (Heavyweight)
Despite being the first fight of the night, this is match-up which potentially has huge implications for the ONE FC heavyweight division. Tim Sylvia (31-8-1) is a former UFC champion while Tony Johnson Jr. (6-1) has long been tipped as a future UFC champion.
At this stage of his career there is little for us to learn about Sylvia, he's an experienced veteran who is truly enormous and even at the age of 38, rarely loses a fight. The same could not be said of Johnson, he brings world class wrestling credentials into the ONE FC cage and no one doubts his potential, the only question is whether the 26 year-old will be able to fulfill it.
Sylvia's never been renowned for his speed so this is an opportunity for Johnson to showcase the athleticism which had NFL scouts salivating during his days as an Iowa State fullback. Of course, the two time UFC champion will be desperate to derail Johnson's hype train and, with the winner rumored to be in line for a ONE FC title fight against Rolles Gracie, it could be a while before a heavyweight fight of this magnitude finds itself on a free to air undercard again.
Since stopping Ole Laursen in the second round of their fight at ONE FC: 'Battle of Heroes' in Jakarta, Felipe Enomoto (6-5) has not exactly been given an easy ride by matchmakers. He's been thrown in with Zorobabel Moreira and Eduard Folayang and things won't be getting any easier when he takes on Lowen Tynanes (4-0).
Tynanes is a Hawaiian state wrestling champion whose career has taken off since he stopped Folayang in a surprise win in Manila last December. Since then he's beaten Vuyisile Colossa at ONE FC: 'Return of Warriors' in Kuala Lumpur and won the King of the Cage Light Middleweight Title in California.
He is a powerful wrestler with devastating ground and pound as Folayang discovered to his cost but there are question marks over Tynanes' striking and stamina. Enomoto is very well rounded, he doesn't excel at any one aspect of MMA but he is good at everything and has no obvious weaknesses.
If Tynanes can impose his wrestling game to put Enomoto on his back and go to work with ground-and-pound he has the potential to secure an early stoppage but the Swiss/Japanese fighter is extremely durable, should have a clear advantage in the striking exchanges and probably has superior cardio, so the outcome of this fight is far from a foregone conclusion despite the contrast in their respective recent records.
An injury to Leandro Issa has given Yusup Saadulaev (9-3-1) an immediate opportunity to bounce back from his recent decision loss to the Brazilian by replacing him in this fight with Ryan Diaz (13-13). The Canadian, who is actually half Filipino, hasn't fought since 2010 but is a former KOTC champion and Canadian national Muay Thai champion.
Diaz also has outstanding submission skills, 10 of his 13 wins have come that way, and in 26 fights he's only been the distance twice. He's an explosive and exciting fighter but at the age of 34 it will be interesting to see whether he can recapture his best form after a three-year layoff.
Saadulaev's Combat Sambo is world class but his striking is limited, a point that the recent loss to Issa demonstrated emphatically. The Russian will want to close the distance, keep away from his opponent's power and use his Sambo skills to toss Diaz around, wear him out and hopefully finish him.
There is no doubt that Diaz has more ways to win, he's hard hitting and dangerous with submissions but if Saadulaev can survive the opening round then the pendulum could swing in his favor because the KOTC and Strikeforce veteran has never won a decision and after so long away from the cage he could fade badly if the fight goes the distance.
This first fight of the PPV has been in the making for months, if not years and features two of the top flyweights in South East Asia. Geje Eustaquio (4-1) made an impressive ONE FC debut in Jakarta last February and showed some solid submission defence against jiu-jitsu black belt Alex Silva en route to winning a clear cut unanimous decision.
Against Andrew Leone (5-2) it will be Eustaquio's takedown defense which is under the microscope because the American was a state wrestling champion during his high school days in New York. He's also well known on the regional grappling circuit and has won numerous competitions and tournaments.
Despite having lived in Thailand for three years, Leone is not renowned for his striking and Eustaquio, who is one of five fighters on the card from Team Lakay, has excellent Wushu. If the Filipino can keep the fight standing he will be a strong favorite but he will have to work very hard to prevent his opponent out-wrestling him.
If Eustaquio wins he will probably be in pole position for a shot at Shinichi Kojima and the inaugural ONE FC flyweight title. Leone is coming off a loss to Kyung Ho Kang, a fighter he had previously beaten, but a win would thrust him immediately into the title picture.
Eduard Folayang vs Kamal Shalorus (Lightweight)
It is a testament to the calibre of the card that such a significant fight is not even in the top half. Eduard Folayang (12-3) is the most popular mixed martial artist in the Philippines but 2013 has been the worst year of his career as he has suffered a series of setbacks.
He was penciled in to face Zorobabel Moreira for the ONE FC 155-pound belt last October but the URCC insisted he fight Tynanes for them instead. Folayang lost that fight and with it his chance to become the first ever lightweight champion of Asia's biggest MMA organization.
He learned an important lesson from the loss to Tynanes, when he was outwrestled and outgrappled, and traveled to the U.S. to work on becoming a more well-rounded fighter. Folayang is taking on another accomplished wrestler in the shape of Kamal Shalorus (7-3-2) and will need to show that he picked up enough tricks on his travels to be able to keep this fight standing.
Shalorus showed he can mix it with the best by beating Dave Jansen and drawing with Jamie Varner during his WEC days and has a reputation as a brawler. If the fight stays standing that should make for fireworks because Folayang has a lot of faith in his Wushu and will never back down from a striking exchange.
If Shalorus can win this fight he will have his sights firmly set on putting together a run of wins which will end with a shot at the division title currently held by Shinya Aoki. For Folayang, a second successive defeat would be devastating, the stakes are high and this bout has "Fight of the Night" written all over it -- but stuffing the takedowns of the Iranian will be absolutely key if the hometown hero is to send the Filipino fans home happy.
Stay tuned for part two on Thursday. For more information on ways to watch ONE FC: "Rise to Power" visit: www.onefc.com.