ONE: "Valor of Champions" is set for the SM Mall of Asia Arena in Manila this Friday (April 24, 2015) and is headlined by a welterweight title fight between undefeated champion Ben Askren and Brazilian challenger Luis Santos. The card also features the promotional debut of Mark Striegl who is currently the best pound-for-pound fighter in the Philippines.
In total there will be eight fights on the card which also sees the return of Filipino flyweight Geje Eustaquio, who will be looking to bounce back after the disappointment of coming up short in a title shot against Adriano Moraes at the tail end of 2015.
Here is my preview for the first half of the card:
Wang Ya Wei vs Tsu Notto
Two names which might not mean much to the international audience but Wang Ya Wei (1-1) looked very promising when he made his ONE debut last December, finishing runner-up in a four man 145-pound tournament in China. He comes from a strong wrestling background which gives him a similar skill set to Tsu Notto.
Notto (2-0) has experience in kickboxing, Sanda, and Muay Thai and is a southpaw whose gameplan revolves almost entirely around taking opponents down. I think the fighter whose wrestling proves most effective will probably win this fight, but both these featherweights are well rounded and have the potential to become well established on ONE Championship's 145-pound roster.
Nicholas Lee vs Liu Xiao Yang
This flyweight fight is a late addition to the card and sees Singaporean teenager Nicholas Lee (3-2) return to the ONE cage for the second time to take on China's Xiaoyang Liu (1-2). The 19 year old has won a title fight in Indonesia since losing on his promotional debut last July and spent time training in Thailand and Indonesia.
Lee will be dropping down to the flyweight division but Yang fights out of the X'ian Sports University and trains every day alongside some of the top fighters in China. He also has a very high level of Sanda and has competed in the sport multiple times so his striking skills might just give him the edge.
Amir Khan vs Shannon Wiratchai
This is an exciting featherweight fight between two of the top prospects in the region. Amir Khan (2-1) is six years the junior of Shannon Wiratchai (3-1-0-1), but the Thai made his pro debut nearly four years ago and will be stepping inside the ONE Championship cage for the fourth time.
Wiratchai is a southpaw with dangerous striking who twice knocked Mitch Chilson out with soccer kicks, although one of these wins was subsequently changed to a no contest. He is a southpaw with a dangerous right hook but Khan is a veteran of multiple Muay Thai fights with a blue belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ), making this a very well matched and even contest.
Edward Kelly vs Jimmy Yabo
This all-Filipino affair pits Wushu specialist Edward Kelly (5-2) against Taekwondo black belt Jimmy Yabo (4-0-0-1). I could only find about 10 seconds of footage on the former but was impressed by what I saw, because it showed him knocking an opponent out cold with a combination of hooks in the tenth minute of a round.
Kelly has come up short on both his ONE Championship fights to date but has decent Wushu style striking and solid takedowns. Yabo's four wins have all been by KO due to a punch or punches, so I expect he will want to keep it standing. Given how much power he possesses, the promotional newcomer could be a name to keep an eye on.
ONE: "Valor of Champions" is set for the SM Mall of Asia Arena in Manila on Friday and the entire card can be purchased for $9.99 from: http://www.onefc.com/livestream.html