Whereas the bottom half of the ONE FC: "War of Dragons" card consists primarily of bouts involving local fighters, the final five fights are of a much higher caliber with multiple match ups which will have implications for the title picture culminating in the featherweight fight between Rob Lisita and Eric Kelly.
The co main event sees undefeated lightweight Rafael Nunes make his ONE FC debut against recent Legend FC 155-pound champion Rafael Nunes and there is also a big bantamweight bout between former Shooto champion Koetsu Okazaku and the resurgent Yusup Saadulaev.
Here's my preview of the top half of the card, to read a preview of the first five fights click here.
Paul Cheng vs Mahmoud Hassan
Matt Hume has been prolific with making new signings of late but Paul Cheng might just prove to be the best of them. The Taiwanese born heavyweight has been a huge hit with the local media who aren't accustomed to seeing a 250-pound human being speaking Mandarin.
Cheng used to play defensive tackle in the CFL and has pro boxing experience and a solid wrestling base. His mixed martial arts (MMA) record stands at 4-1 and he hits hard but is well rounded and confident on the ground. Mahmoud Hassan is 1-3 and the Egyptian has some punching power but that's about it.
If Cheng decides to test his boxing skills against Hassan this could be the "fight of the night," but the sensible thing for the Taiwanese born heavyweight would be to get the fight to the ground where his opponent is likely to be completely outmatched.
Jake Butler vs Mohamed Ali
It's no secret that clean-cut American light heavyweight Jake Butler is popular with the ONE FC matchmakers but coming off his first ever loss, he's been handed a tough comeback fight. Mohamed Ali is a seasoned fighter who has traveled all over Europe and the Middle East to compete and is used to being the underdog.
Butler (3-1) wrestled at an NCAA Division-1 level but his knockout loss at the hands of Sylvain Potard must have raised some questions as to his punch resistance. Ali (9-6) holds a recent TKO win over Potard and the American will want to stay away from his opponent's big right hand.
Butler's wrestling is on a completely different level to Ali's and if he uses it effectively I expect him to dominate the fight, but if the Egyptian can turn it into a striking match, he has a real chance of winning by KO.
Koetsu Okazaki vs Yusup Saadulaev
Saadulaev has now won four straight (including the last win which was changed to a no contest because the promotion in question didn't want to admit the local fighter had lost) and could be close to a ONE FC title shot if he can get past Okazaki.
Okazaki (9-3-1) has already been well beaten by Bibiano Fernandes once so it's unlikely anyone would want to see them fight again, but the former Shooto champion is coming off an impressive win over Josh Alvarez and will be looking to recapture the form which had him rated as one of the best prospects in Japan during the start of his career.
Saadulaev (13-3) was recently awarded his Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) black belt and without doubt will want to use his Sambo skills to get this fight to the floor. Okazaki has excellent submission defense but will try to keep it standing and use his reach to execute a boxing orientated striking strategy.
Rafael Nunes vs Koji Ando
Rafael Nunes (10-0) has a perfect professional record and has beaten some seasoned opponents in Brazil, even if none of them were particularly big names. Koji Ando (9-3-2) won the Legend 155-pound belt in his last bout and is a patient southpaw with a strong Judo background.
Nunes believes he is well rounded and he does know how to land a leg kick but first and foremost he is a grappler who holds a brown belt in BJJ and is most comfortable on the ground. His wrestling is solid, not spectacular, but has been good enough to take down most of the opponents he has fought so far in his career.
I think the Brazilian might have a harder time putting Ando on his back and although the Japanese lightweight is not particularly aggressive in the striking his timing is excellent and I think he definitely has the edge in terms of standup.
This is a really interesting match up which will tell us a lot about the title prospects of both fighters. It could all hinge on whether Nunes can get the takedown because he almost certainly has the superior ground game, but Ando might just be better than him everywhere else.
Eric Kelly vs Rob Lisita
The demise of Legend FC has opened up the possibility of some really exciting fights and there can be no better example than this featherweight title eliminator. Rob Lisita ( 14-5) is in the form of his life and riding a four-fight winning streak.
The outspoken Australian exudes confidence and that has been reflected in his recent performances with back-to-back stoppage wins over top Japanese featherweights. Eric Kelly (10-1) has only seen about a minute of competitive action in the past 18 months and has been very erratic in terms of his performances. Some fights he looks a world beater, but others he has been distinctly underwhelming.
Stylistically, this is a good match up for him because he loves to counter strike, working off the back foot and leaping forward to land Wushu-style strikes, and Lisita is an aggressive fighter who will walk forward from the moment the bell sounds.
I could see Kelly enjoying some success in the striking, but Lisita is the much more powerful and that could be a problem for the Filipino who got tagged a couple of times by Jens Pulver. The Australian can finish the fight with just one punch and that's exactly what he will want to do.
Lisita has evolved from being a fairly one dimensional wrestler to a truly well rounded mixed martial artist who is good everywhere, while Kelly has nine submission wins despite his Wushu roots and is very good with trips and tosses -- although he has been known to give up his back when going for them.
It will be interesting to see whether either fighter wants the takedown or if they are both happy to test their striking skills. If Kelly has the fitness to continually circle out and pick Lisita apart from the outside, then he could have some success, but if the Australian succeeds in closing the range and landing his power punches, it's probably going to be a bad night for the URCC 145-pound champ.
The first three fights of the night at ONE FC: "War of Dragons" will be available to view online free of charge while the main card is being shown by various broadcasters including Star Sports and the entire event can be purchased for $9.99. For more information visit http://www.onefc.livesport.tv/.