ONE FC: "War of Nations" is set for Stadium Negara in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on Friday night (March 14, 2014) and will be headlined by a welterweight title fight between Nobutatsu Suzuki and Brock Larson with significant match-ups also taking place in the flyweight and lightweight divisions.
The 10-fight card features some of ONE FC's top fighters including Kamal Shalorus, Shinichi Kojima, Yasuhiro Urushitani and Adriano Moraes as well as local favorites Peter Davis and Saiful Merican.
This is my preview of the first five fights on the card.
Saiful Merican vs Khim Dima
This is a rematch of a fight which took place under Kun Khmer (Cambodian kickboxing) rules in Cambodia a few years ago. Saiful (2-1) took a count in that bout en route to losing a unanimous decision and there is no doubt that Dima (0-1-0-1) has a clear advantage in striking terms, as well as being the taller of the two.
Saiful is coming off a win over Dima's team mate Tok Sophon which came courtesy of some successful takedown attempts at key stages of the fight. I think the Malaysian will need to put the Kun Khmer veteran on his back if he wants to register his second ONE FC win.
In the past, stamina has been an issue for Saiful who has paced himself well but I think he might struggle against an opponent who applies constant pressure. Dima has been working with the Cambodian wrestling team and if he can keep the fight standing I expect him to dominate and possibly score a stoppage win.
Sherilyn Lim vs Ann Osman
These two met at ONE FC: "Total Domination" last October and Lim (1-0) took a controversial split-decision victory despite spending virtually the entire third round on her back, as Osman (0-1) was able to mount her but couldn't capitalize with any significant strikes or submission attempts.
In the first fight, Osman repeatedly bullrushed Lim so they ended up clinching against the cage where the Singaporean scored with repeated knees to the midsection of her Malaysian opponent. Both come from a Muay Thai background and if the rematch is anything like the last encounter then whoever gets the better of the clinching will have a clear advantage.
Osman was more relentless in pursuit of takedowns in the first fight although Lim also looked to get the fight to the ground at times. Tactically speaking, it will be interesting to see if either fighter decided to employ a drastically different gameplan, as there was nothing to separate them after that first 15 minutes inside the ONE FC cage and the rematch looks too close to call.
Harris Sarmiento vs Herbert Burns
The difference in terms of experience between Sarmiento (36-25) and Burns (2-0) is staggering but not all mixed martial artists are created equal and the Brazilian is a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt and No Gi grappling world champion so he is not necessarily outmatched by a seasoned opponent who has been in fights with the likes of Nick Diaz, Gilbert Melendez and Josh Thomson.
Sarmiento, who comes into this fight as the most recent PXC lightweight champion, has been submitted nine times in his career which should give his opponent confidence. Burns trains out of Evolve MMA so will have been working intensively on his Muay Thai but will surely want to get this fight to the floor where he can put his grappling credentials to good use.
Sarmiento has over a decade of MMA experience under his belt despite being just 30 years of age and will be determined not to succumb to an opponent who has such little experience, so motivation definitely won't be an issue for the Hawaiian. Burn's two appearances in the cage have been too brief to make informed predictions but I expect this one to be close.
Peter Davis vs Waqar Umar
Davis (7-3) is established as a firm favorite with the Kuala Lumpur crowd but you never know what to expect from this Malaysian lightweight. Sometimes his striking looks world class, other times he will shy away from stand-up exchanges and appear desperate to get fights to the floor but whatever tactics he employs entertainment is virtually guaranteed.
Umar (3-0) comes into this fight as a late replacement but the Pakistani won a fight only last month and was already in fighting shape. He comes from a Wushi background but all his MMA wins are by way of submission and I'm told he's on the small side for a lightweight.
Davis is very solid on the ground and it's going to be difficult for an opponent with only a few years of grappling experience to submit him. Umar is very much an unknown quantity but I would expect the Malaysian to win and potentially add to his personal portfolio of highlight reel knockouts.
Kotetsu Boku vs Arnaud Lepont
Two lightweights who have provided their fair share of entertainment over the years are potentially fighting for their ONE FC futures here after back-to-back defeats. Boku (20-9-2) is the former 155-pound champion and has been around long enough that we know what to expect, he will use his fast footwork to circle out and look to launch right hand bombs in the general direction of the French fighter's chin.
Anyone who has been following the career of Lepont (10-3) since his DARE days will testify that the French fighter has a huge heart and you can never write him off but a strategic approach will be required here as I don't see him winning a striking contest with Boku.
If Lepont can implement a wrestling based gameplan and keep Boku guessing he could win a hard fought decision, as it's going to be difficult for him to finish the Shooto veteran. If the Japanese fighter is able to establish a rhythm and keep things standing, then he could find a finish to rival the one against Zorobabel Moreira which won him the belt.
Stay tuned later in the week for part two of our ONE FC: "War of Nations" preview.