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ONE: 'Dynasty of Champions' preview

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ONE Championship

ONE Championship returns to China this Saturday night (Jan. 23) for its first mixed martial arts (MMA) card of 2016 and it features one of the promotion's biggest stars in the main event. Bantamweight king Bibiano Fernandes will be making the third defense of his title against Filipino contender Kevin Belingon at the Helong Stadium in Changsha.

There's also an intriguing featherweight clash between two fighters who have moved up a division as former 135-pound title challenger Toni Tauru takes on up-and-coming prospect Muin Gafurov. Two more men who have challenged unsuccessfully for ONE belts will be back in action when Asuka Mikami faces Roy Doliguez in the flyweight division.

ONE Championship recently abolished weight cutting, requiring all fighters to compete at their normal weight. That means that from 2016 onward, strawweight will be 125, flyweight will be 135, bantamweight will be 145, featherweight will be 155, lightweight will be 170, welterweight will be 185, and middleweight will be 205.

I'm not going to preview any of the fights in the bantamweight tournament as I'm not familiar with any of those fighters.

145 lbs.: Min Yen Sung vs Su Noto

Su Noto (3-1) is one of Indonesia's better fighters and is 1-1 for ONE Championship. He's capable of fighting both southpaw and orthodox and switches stance seamlessly which makes him an awkward opponent to prepare for.

Min Yen Sung (4-1) is well rounded and has a background in kickboxing, Sanda, Judo and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ). He seems more comfortable striking than the Indonesian and is capable of getting the fight to the ground with trips and throws. The Taiwanese fighter has more ways to win, whereas Sunoto will probably need takedowns if he wants to come away with the victory.

135 lbs.: Asuka Mikami vs Roy Doliguez

Asuka Mikami (12-3-2) has emerged as a real fan favorite since signing with ONE Championship. He's a colorful personality but has the skills to back it up and likes to take opponents down and keep them down while attacking with submissions.

Roy Doliguez (6-2) is moving up a division but has struggled against fighters with a wrestling based strategy in the past, as Jerome Wanawan was able to take him down repeatedly. He comes from a boxing background and will look to let his hands go but Mikami is bigger and better.

155 lbs.: Muin Gafurov vs Toni Tauru

This is an intriguing matchup that will be contested in ONE Championship's featherweight (155-pound) division. Muin Gafurov (9-0) is only 19 and has the sort of smothering ground game you would expect from a Combat Sambo world champion but is also surprisingly good at striking, as he proved in his last ONE outing.

Toni Tauru (10-2-1) is an out-and-out grappler with limited striking. The Finnish fighter might be better on the ground than Gafurov but the Tajik teenager looks to have superior striking and wrestling and has already beaten better fighters during his two-year career. Tauru, however, will have an advantage in terms of height and reach.

155 lbs.: Li Kai Wen vs Yang Sen

Li Kai Wen (4-2) comes from a wrestling background but basically knocked Nathan Ng out with a single punch in his last fight. Yang Sen (2-0) has a base in Sanda but he likes to use hip tosses and takedowns to get the fight to the floor.

Both have been training MMA for a relatively short period of time but look surprisingly well rounded. In his last fight Wen was very patient and did next to nothing for the best part of a round whereas Sen likes to push the pace and use Sanda style side kicks and spinning kicks to close the distance.

145 lbs.: Bibiano Fernandes vs Kevin Belingon (for Fernandes' ONE Bantamweight Title)

At this stage of his career Bibiano Fernandes (18-3) is basically a heavy favorite for any fight and this matchup is certainly no exception. The Brazilian is riding a 10-fight winning streak and hasn't been beaten by a bantamweight since his third fight back in 2007.

Kevin Belingon (13-4) could be the most dangerous opponent Fernandes has faced in recent years because he has very good striking. He kicks as hard as anyone in the division and has beaten some high-level opponents like Nam Jin Jo, Yusup Saadulaev, and Koetsu Okazaki.

We haven't seen Belingon in over a year so he might have evolved but there have always been question marks over his takedown defense and ground game. Dae Hwan Kim and Masakazu Imanari were both able to submit him in the opening round while Masakatsu Ueda and Soo Chul Kim dominated him with their wrestling.

Fernandes showcased some devastating striking to knockout Toni Tauru with a left hook in his last fight. However Taru's stirking is limited and the Brazilian probably won't want to go toe-to-toe with Belingon. Unless the Filipinos takedown defense is in point he won't have to and I expect the champion to waste no time shooting for a takedown.

Belingon is fast, agile, and has tremendous power. He's also known for his stamina and won't fade from this five-round fight but the question will be how long the Filipino can survive on the ground if and when Fernandes succeeds in taking him down.

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