Asia's biggest mixed martial arts (MMA) promotion is putting on back-to-back events with two shows in the space of eight days. After last Friday's card in Singapore, next up is ONE: "Dynasty of Champions" in Beijing on Saturday night and there are two huge title fights.
In the main event, Marat Gafurov and Naruntungalag Jadambaa will finally meet in what is now a featherweight unification match while Adriano Moraes faces the toughest test of his career to date when he defends his flyweight belt against undefeated newcomer Kairat Akhmetov.
I'm not familiar with some of the Chinese fighters on the card so this preview will just cover the international fights:
170 lbs.: Jeff Huang vs Trestle Tan (available to view on facebook)
Jeff Huang was initially scheduled to face Dae Ryeong Kim but the undefeated Korean pulled out last week with an unspecified injury so Trestle Tan was drafted in to replace him in what will be a rematch of a fight that took place at Pro FC in May.
Huang (5-2) has been expected to win that match comfortably so it came as a major surprise when Tan (3-4) knocked him out in just nine seconds. The Taiwanese welterweight will be looking for revenge in Beijing and he has solid Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) so a more composed gameplan should see him prevail against the Filipino journeyman.
170 lbs.: Burenzorig Batmunkh vs Nikolay Aleksakhin
These two welterweights are both making their promotional debut and bring incredibly difficult to spell names with them into the ONE cage. Burenzorig Batmunkh (3-1) is a Mongolian kickboxer who coincidentally has a 2010 win over Jadambaa on his record and supposedly has eight wins to his name.
Nikolay Aleksakhin (15-3) looks like a slightly higher calibre of welterweight. He has wins over some very experienced opponents and beat a 51 fight Brazilian veteran in August. This matchup puts the kickboxing of the Mongolian against the Combat Sambo of the Russian and I would expect the European fighter to prevail, probably by timing his opponent's striking attacks and shooting for takedowns.
125 lbs.: Wang Ya Wong vs Li Wei Bin
Li Wei Bin (2-0) was just 18 when he won the first ONE 125-pound tournament in Beijing last December and looked a solid prospect. His opponent is also coming off a ONE win and is six years his senior, Wong is also moving down two divisions after having fought as a featherweight in June.
They are both the same height so the size difference shouldn't be significant. Bin looked very well rounded at ONE Championship's first card, good on the ground but not afraid to engage on the feet and the teenager will be the favourite here.
125 lbs.: Adriano Moraes vs Kairat Akhmetov (for Moraes' 125-pound title)
ONE Championship has snapped up some quality fighters in the last couple of years including Ben Askren, Marat Gafurov and Mark Striegl but the signing with the most impressive record of all is Kairat Akhmetov. He hails from Kazakhstan, just like former 185-pound champion Igor Svirid, and has won all 22 of his pro fights to date.
Adriano Moraes (13-1) would also be undefeated were it not for a controversial split decision loss to Yusup Saadulaev in a catchweight bout. The Brazilian holds a BJJ black belt and has been increasingly reliant on his submissions and ground game to win recent fights, although he is also very competent on his feet.
Akhmetov (22-0) does not look quite as versatile. He comes from a Greco-Roman wrestling background and is very takedown orientated. He's also four inches shorter than Moraes and if he can't get the fight to the ground the Brazilian's range could give him some problems.
The sole defeat of Moraes' career came in a fight where he was taken down repeatedly by Saadulaev. Akhmetov, who trained for this fight at Jackson Wink in Albequeque, will probably come in with a similar strategy and has good enough wrestling to expose any weaknesses in the Brazilian's takedown defence.
However Akhmetov does look quite one dimensional. He's a southpaw whose strategy seems to consist of either throwing overhand lefts or shooting for takedowns, sometimes using the former to set up the latter. His signature win was over Tatsuya Watanabe and he is also coming off a victory over Artemij Sitenkov, one of only two men to ever beat Conor McGregor.
Moraes has more tools at his disposal and has faced better opponents. I would expect the Brazilian to successfully defend the title and cement his status as one of the top flyweights in the world but if his takedown defence isn't on point Akhmetov could punish him.
145 lbs.: Narantungalag Jadambaa vs Marat Gafurov (145-pound unification bout)
This is my favorite ONE Championship title fight of all time. You have the defending champion who is coming to the end of his career but continues to put on age defying performances taking on an undefeated interim champion who looks unstoppable.
Narantungalag Jadambaa (10-3) turns 40 in December and hasn't fought for over a year, but if you look back at his career, he barely fights once a year anyway and there has been no sign of him declining in his late thirties, despite having dropped down a division.
No odds are available for this fight but Marat Gafurov (12-0) was a strong favorite going into the postponed September matchup. I'd have it dead even because the Russian is a BJJ black belt who should have the advantage on the ground but Jadambaa is extremely well rounded and has no obvious holes in his game.
Gafurov did drop Rob Lisita with a head kick but striking is clearly not his strong point and if he can't get Jadambaa down he will be in trouble. Given his age and the time he has spent sitting on the sidelines the Mongolian might struggle against one of the world's best featherweights, but that doesn't mean he will and I think the Russian will need to put in the performance of a lifetime if he wants to preserve that perfect professional record.
The main card will be broadcast live on Asia by FOX Sports while the entire event can be purchased for $9.99 from here.