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 final five fights on the 11-fight card (for part one of our preview click here):
Timofey Nastyukhin vs Rob Lisita -- CANCELED AFTER LISITA FAILED TO CLEAR MEDICALS This has serious 'Fight of the Night' potential because Timofey Nastyukhin is coming off one of the most devastating and unexpected KOs in ONE Championship history while Rob Lisita's three fights for the promotion have all finished suddenly and more often than not violently. Nastyukhin (8-1) is riding a streak of eight first round stoppage wins. He's never so much as seen the second round, has a strong amateur background and is light on his feet with some explosive striking as Folayang discovered to his cost when the Russian knocked him down with a switch flying knee. Lisita (14-7) is a fighter who wears his heart on his sleeve and he was devastated by the defeats to Eric Kelly and Marat Gafurov. The Australian is aggressive at the best of times and knowing that he is potentially fighting for his promotional future should make him even more determined. Lisita likes to stalk opponents whereas Nastyukhin prefers to get in and out quickly while doing his damage. Both are heavy handed, the Russian probably has a slight advantage in terms of speed and accuracy and the Australian might want to mix up his striking with some takedowns. Whatever happens it should be fun to watch.
Lowen Tynanes vs Kuat Khamitov
This is a straight up wrestler vs. wrestler match up, but neither Lowen Tynanes nor Kuat Khamitov are are "lay 'n pray" types and they are both extremely aggressive with both ground-and-pound and submission attempts. If the fight does come down to a straightforward battle of takedowns, which it probably will, the Hawaiian has a slight size advantage which could be decisive.
Tynanes (6-0) has only fought once in two years due to a contractual dispute with King of the Cage (KOTC) which has now been resolved. He did miss weight (albeit only by 0.2 kgs) last time he fought for ONE and seemed to have some stamina issues in the fight with Colossa, although he did rally to win with a late submission.
He is a Hawaiian state wrestling champion with a very strong top game and four of his wins have come inside the opening round. Khamitov (18-3-1) comes from a Greco-Roman background and has a massive advantage in terms of actual MMA experience, he also tends to finish opponents early but unlike Tynanes, he has been the full 15 minutes multiple times.
Tynanes cuts a lot of weight and his superior size and strength could give him an advantage in the early rounds but the longer the fight goes on, the more chance there is that he will suffer from stamina issues. Neither is particularly strong at striking and it will be interesting to see if one man initiates stand up exchanges or if they both revert to their wrestling roots.
Ev Ting vs Marat Gafurov
With Eric Kelly contemplating retirement these two are left as the number one contenders in the division and the winner must surely be next in line for a shot at reigning champion Jadamba Naruntungalag. Ev Ting (9-2) has stopped three straight opponents in the ONE cage, but he's up against an undefeated former M-1 champion.
Marat Gafurov (10-0) burst onto the Asian scene by dropping Rob Lisita with a perfect head kick. The Australian survived long enough to ensure he lost by rear-naked choke rather than knockout but the performance proved that the Russian has striking as well as submissions.
Ting is a patient fighter who will wait for opportunities but he is extremely dangerous with head kicks himself and will feel he has an advantage in striking terms. By contrast Gafurov is one of the most accomplished grapplers in the division, he has a brown belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) and has won numerous tournaments and competitions in Russia and Europe.
Gafurov has a smothering top game and is relentless with takedowns, so Ting will probably look to maintain distance and frustrate his opponent into making a mistake and leaving himself open for a counter. If the Russian can impose his wrestling and ground game it could be a frustrating night for the Malaysian, but "ET" has the potential to finish the fight with a single strike for as long as both men are still standing.
Dejdamrong Sor Amnuaysirichoke vs Roy Doliguez
Dejdamrong Sor Amnuaysirichoke (4-0) is a top class Muay Thai fighter who burst onto the MMA scene in style with four stoppage wins out of four inside the ONE cage. The former Lumpinee champion has taken to the ground game like a fish to water, but he has yet to be tested against top-class opposition.
This fight will have the inaugural ONE 115-pound title on the line and Dejdamrong faces a massive step up against top Filipino strawweight Roy Doliguez (6-1). He is a former boxer whose main claim to fame inside the squared circle was dropping Fernando Montiel in the first round of a world title fight in 2003.
Doliguez, however, has enjoyed more sustained success during his MMA career and has a massive advantage over Dejdamrong in terms of experience. He's been the distance four times and has completed 10 minute rounds four times, too.
Doliguez has also beaten tough opponents like Lido Adiwang and Jerome Wanawan during his MMA career whereas Dejdamrong hasn't yet faced that sort of standard of opposition, although it's worth noting that the Filipino has had the benefit of a couple of dubious decisions.
It's been billed as "boxing vs Muay Thai" but I don't believe for a minute that Doliguez will want to stand with Dejdamrong. We've never really seen the Thai on his back for any prolonged periods of time and the Filipino will want to nullify his opponent's striking by taking him down and keeping him down.
Shinya Aoki vs Koji Ando
Koji Ando (11-3-2) has never been stopped in his MMA career and is coming off three highly impressive stoppage wins over elit-level opponents. Shinya Aoki (37-6-0-1) might be the reigning ONE champion, but he hasn't faced an opponent of Ando's caliber in quite awhile.
Over the course of his career, Aoki has of course been in with the likes of Eddie Alvarez, Gilbert Melendez, Tatsuya Kawajiri, and Gilbert Melendez, so Ando may not be the best opponent he's ever faced, but the Japanese Judoka certainly poses a serious threat.
Ando looked spectacular against previously undefeated Brazilian lightweight Rafael Nunes on his promotional debut and then utilized an extremely smart gameplan to score a late stoppage against Zorobabel Moreira. Factor in the third round technical knockout win over Jadamba Naruntungalag that won him the Legend FC 155-pound belt and you have a fighter on the best form of his career.
Aoki has been remarkably consistent in recent fights winning seven straight, but the toughest opponents he beat during this period were Antonio McKee and Kamal Shalorus. With his high level Judo and patient striking game, Ando promises to provide a sterner test in this battle of southpaws.
It's a fight fit to headline one of the best ONE Championship cards of all time and it promises to be a close and competitive contest that could easily go the full five rounds, although Ando's takedown defense will need to be on point if he wants to avoid suffering the first submission defeat of his entire career.
ONE: "Warrior’s Quest" is set for the Singapore Indoor Stadium on Friday night (local time). The online PPV can be purchased for $9.99 USD from: http://www.onefc.com/livestream.html.