ONE: "Warrior's Quest" is probably the second best card in this history of Asia's biggest mixed martial arts (MMA) promotion with only the star studded event in Dubai that featured three title fights ahead of it. This Friday night's (May 22, 2015) card at the Singapore Indoor Stadium is headlined by a lightweight title bout between Shinya Aoki and Koji Ando and also sees Dejdamrong Sor Amnuaysirichoke and Roy Doliguez go head-to-head for the 115-pound belt.
The lightweight matchup between Lowen Tynanes and Kuat Khamitov and the featherweight fight which pits Marat Gafurov against Ev Ting could both be title eliminators and there will also be another chance to see Russian knockout artist Timofey Nastyukhin and popular Hong Konger Eddie Ng.
Here is my preview of the first six fights on the 11-fight card:
Aya Saeed Saber vs Angela Lee
Saber (3-5) will be dropping down a division as she looks to score her first ONE win at the third time of asking. The Egyptian is tough and has decent kickboxing but is likely to be outclassed by debutant Angela Lee who brings amateur experience and a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) purple belt into her professional debut.
Lee is half Singaporean and is a veteran of amateur MMA who has won numerous Pankration-style tournaments. She comes from a family of martial artists and unless the sense of occasion somehow overwhelms her she should have too much for Saber.
Jianbing Yang vs Ali Yaakub
A very high percentage of ONE's events this year are likely to be in China and there are likely to be at least a couple of Chinese fighters on all future cards. Jianbing Yang (3-0-0-1) joins the growing exodus of Ruff fighters and this undefeated flyweight will probably put on a grappling masterclass against Ali Yaakub (0-1).
Yaakub comes from a strong Muay Thai background and has high level striking, but his MMA experience is minimal and that could well prove a problem as he takes on a seasoned submission specialist. The Malaysian could conceivably win by knockout but if Yang gets the fight to the ground he will be in big trouble.
Waqar Umar vs Benedict Ang
Waqar Umar (3-2) will also be looking for his first ONE win when he takes on debutant Benedict Ang, a Singaporean who holds a 6-0 amateur record and trains out of the renowned Evolve MMA fight team. The Pakistani is primarily a grappler and put up a decent showing in his two previous losses for the promotion.
Neither has wins over any high level opponents but the Pakistani is primarily a grappler and has a Wushu style of striking, while the Singaporean seems to like to get fights to the ground and often goes the distance. With so much amateur experience and fighting out of such a well known camp the smart money is definitely on Ang.
Stephen Langdown vs Ala Teng Hei Li
Stephen Langdown (2-1) faces the toughest test of his career against a Chinese fighter who has won multiple regional wrestling competitions and once finished third in the nationals. That's an impressive achievement in a country containing over a billion people and should give Li (3-3) a clear advantage.
Langdown has improved significantly from fight-to-fight with ONE and has decent Muay Thai and a solid ground game but is not outstanding at anything. Li is a seasoned wrestler who reportedly has 10 MMA fights to his name and that experience makes him a strong favorite.
Amir Khan vs Shannon Wiratchai
This fight was supposed to happen in Manila but Amir Khan (3-1) found himself facing Bashir Ahmed instead after Shannon Wiratchai (3-1-0-1) suffered an eye infection. The Singaporean has very good Muay Thai and is particularly dangerous with knees and elbows but also has a blue belt in BJJ.
Wiratchai is a southpaw with a dangerous left hook who has proved extremely adept at incorporating soccer kicks into his arsenal. Khan can't afford to switch off even for a second because the Thai featherweight has explosive power and this is a very well matched fight, although the Singaporean has been much more active of late which could give him a slight edge.
Eddie Ng vs Ariel Sexton
This is the first of the six big fights on the card and it pits perennial favorite Eddie Ng (7-2) against BJJ black belt Ariel Sexton (9-3-1). The Costa Rican is coming off a very impressive submission win and is a long term student of Renzo Gracie who should have an advantage on the ground.
Ng's striking is supposedly extremely good but we don't see much of it because he tends to shoot for takedowns. I think the Hong Kong native might try to keep this one standing, but Sexton is the toughest opponent he has faced yet and will provide a stern test of his title credentials.
ONE: "Warrior’s Quest" is set for the Singapore Indoor Stadium on Friday night (local time).. The online pay-per-view (PPV) can be purchased for $9.99 from: http://www.onefc.com/livestream.html