ONE FC: "Dynasty of Champions" represents the promotion's first foray into mainland China and the card consists mainly of local fighters which, with another show already booked in the country for February 6th, is probably a sign of things to come.
It seems ONE FC is going to enter China with a very specific strategy, tailored for the local market and that means there will be some names on the cards which are unfamiliar to the international audience and that's definitely going to be the case at the Olympic Sports Centre Gymnasium on Friday night.
However, while the fighters in the two tournaments might be relatively unknown, the main event is one of the biggest match ups to have taken place between two Chinese fighters in many years because, in a country where stars are often given handpicked opponents, the top two bantamweights are being thrown in together.
Xian Ji was the Legend FC 135-pound champion at the time the promotion went under while Song Yadong was the leading bantamweight contender for Ruff before signing with ONE FC and at the age of 20 is probably the most exciting prospect in the country.
The winner of this match up will find himself rubbing shoulders with the likes of Kevin Belingon, Mark Striegl, Fransino Tirta and Bibiano Fernandes at the top of the ONE FC bantamweight rankings as well as being able to call themselves the top 135-pounder in China.
Here's my preview of the non-tournament fights on the card, I'm not familiar enough with the rest of the fighters to be able to write about them:
Michal Pasternak vs Rafael Silva
Michal Pasternak (10-0) has a very impressive record but has never been in with an opponent from outside Eastern Europe and some of the fighters he has beaten do not have good records. It's fair to say he faces a step up against Portugese submission specialist Rafael Silva (39-14) who have Tatsuya Mizuno a hard time on his ONE FC debut.
Silva lost that fight but showed that, for a fighter with 21 submission wins, he has pretty solid striking. Pasternak looks to be predominantly a grappler or wrestler, he's quite static in the stand-up department and doesn't throw much presumably because he prefers to be on the ground.
From what I have seen Silva looks to have an advantage standing up although Pasternak throws so little it is difficult to gauge just how good his striking is. One thing is clear, the Portugese is much more experienced and has been in with better opponents and for me that makes him the favourite.
Ariel Sexton vs Anvar Alizhanov
Ariel Sexton (8-3-0-1) was originally supposed to be facing Willy Ni but the Dutchman pulled out and has been replaced by Anvar Alizhanov (3-0) a Russian wrestler who hails originally from Dagestan but has been based in China for many years.
Sexton is a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) black belt under Renzo Gracie and pushed Kamal Shalorus all the way in his most recent outing, many felt he won that fight, when the Costa Rican was able to repeatedly tag the ONE FC title challenger with upper cuts.
While Alizhanov comes from a wrestling background he holds a purple belt in BJJ and trains extensively in boxing and Muay Thai. He's an aggressive fighter who likes to come forwards and use strikes to set up takedowns but he took this fight at a week's notice and usually competes at 145 pounds so Sexton's size and strength might prove to be too much.
Adrian Pang vs Vincent Latoel
Adrian Pang (20-8-2) makes his long awaited ONE FC debut and the Australian has the potential to be a match for anyone in the division. He's 37 and has only fought intermittently in the last few years but made an emphatic comeback 18 months ago and is more than capable of repeating the trick.
The signature win for Vincent Latoel (15-15-2) was against Eddie Ng and the Dutchman is a seasoned lightweight who brings a well rounded skill set. It will be interesting to see how he copes with Pang's aggression because the Australian applies constant pressure to opponents and is particularly dangerous with his elbows.
Pang's style has made for some very entertaining fights over the years and this promises to be a fast and furious affair. The Australian has beaten WEC veterans and opponents who would go on to sign with the UFC, he only lost to reigning ONE FC 145-pound champion Jadambaa Narantungalag by split decision and I feel he is a higher caliber fighter than Latoel.
Xian Ji vs Yadong Song
This could be the biggest MMA fight to ever take place on mainland China because it is extremely rare for two Chinese fighters in their prime to face one another. Xian Ji (11-2) was the Legend FC bantamweight champion when the promotion folded and has beaten opponents from all over the world, always by submission.
Yadong Song (4-0-0-1) is seven years the younger of Ji and the 20 year old has burst onto the scene in the last couple of years while fighting for Ruff. He holds a purple belt in BJJ but has a good level of striking, although he tends to swing slightly wildly which could leave him open to the takedown.
Ji has much more experience in MMA terms and won a gold medal at the ADCC Asian Trials back in 2011. He supposedly comes from a Sanda background but there's not much footage of him striking and he tends to look for takedowns right from the opening bell.
Three of Song's wins have been by decision, whereas all 11 of Ji's wins have come courtesy of a submission so the former Legend FC champ is the more likely to finish the fight but but he's also had issues making 135, his ONE FC debut was cancelled when he missed weight, so it will be interesting to see if he has the stamina to fight for 15 minutes.
Ji has the advantage in terms of both size and experience but Song is at an age where he is likely to be improving rapidly and he's fought five times since his opponent last tasted competitive action which could well be a factor. The former Legend FC champion is a seasoned MMA competitor and comes into this as clear favourite but don't write off the young contender because he has what it takes to cause an upset.