ONE Championship is putting on two mixed martial arts (MMA) cards in the space of seven days at the start of 2016. The second of them is set for Stadium Negara in Kuala Lumpur this Friday night (Jan. 29, 2016) and will be headlined by a featherweight clash between Ev Ting and Eric Kelly.
ONE: "Clash of Heroes" will be the organization's eighth event in Malaysia and features a number of local fighters as well as the return of Filipinos Eduard Folayang and Geje Eustaquio. As is now standard, all the mixed martial arts (MMA) fighters will be competing at their normal, walk-around weight.
Here is my preview of the last five fights on the card (preview the first five fights here):
155 lbs.: Sami Amin vs Samir Mrabet
Samir Mrabet (3-0) is a high-level Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) purple belt who owns the Monarchy chain of gyms in Malaysia. He's an out-and-out grappler with limited striking skills but if he gets the fight to the ground it probably won't take him too long to submit the Egyptian.
Amin (5-2-1) should have an advantage in terms of striking and is capable of finishing the fight with a head kick if the opportunity arises. He will need to catch Mrabet with something solid in the early exchanges, because the longer the fight goes on the more likely it is he will be taken down.
145 lbs.: Saiful Merican vs Geje Eustaquio
Geje Eustaquio (6-4) was desperately unlucky to drop a split decision to Anatpong Bunrad in his most recent fight. The Filipino has a Wushu style of striking which is very effective but has a tendency to take his foot off the gas when he should be punishing opponents.
Saiful Merican (4-2) comes from a Muay Thai background but has adapted to MMA very quickly. His time management is excellent and he's good at winning grinding decisions by scoring just enough takedowns to steal the rounds. This fight will be close and competitive but Eustaquio will feel he should win.
209 lbs.: Jake Butler vs Tatsuya Mizuno
With 205 lbs set to become ONE Championship's middleweight division both men will be looking to challenge for that title. Jake Butler (6-1) will be stepping inside the ONE cage for the eighth time and looking for a fourth straight win.
Tatsuya Mizuno (14-10-1) is 2-2 for ONE but has a decade of competitive MMA experience and has been in with some of the biggest names in the sport. He's a patient southpaw with a hard left hand and excellent Judo, if Butler's going to win he will need to take him down and keep him down.
170 lbs.: Eduard Folayang vs Tatsuya Yamada
Fan favorite Eduard Folayang (14-5) returns to the ONE Championship cage after a year-long absence and will be looking to erase memories of the brutal first round knockout he suffered at the hands of Timofey Nastyukhin. This will be his eighth fight for the organization and by now we know what to expect from the Filipino.
Yamada (15-3-2) has spent most of his career fighting for ZST and held the organization's welterweight title but there isn't much footage available. He a southpaw with a background in Judo and will probably try to take Folayang down while the Filipino will want to use his Wushu to do damage in the striking exchanges.
155 lbs.: Eric Kelly vs Ev Ting
This fight pits together two featherweights who are at very similar stages of their careers. Both have exactly 13 fights and Ev Ting (10-3) is 4-1 for ONE while Eric Kelly (12-1) is 5-1 for ONE. The Filipino is seven years the senior of the Malaysian but everything else is more or less equal.
Kelly is slightly flat footed and doesn't use much lateral movement but he has hard kicks. He's very adept at using trips and tosses to get opponents down and with nine submission wins on his record it's pretty obvious where his greatest strength lies.
Whereas Kelly's roots are in Wushu his opponent comes from a kickboxing background. Ting's very dangerous with head kicks and has four KO/TKO and three submission wins on his record. He switches stance seamlessly and tends to stalk opponents (in the cage).
Kelly prefers to counterstrike and will let opponents come to him so expect most of the pressure to come from Ting. I would give the Malaysian a slight advantage in terms of power but he does leave himself a little open to counters when he's trying to land shots of his own, particualrly punches.
Kelly is very adept at landing elbows from adverse positions, and can also slap on submissions from some unconventional angles which makes him an unpredictable fighter. Both fighters can sometimes be a bit too patient, but both have also been in some really exciting exchanges and scrambles.
It's too close a fight to call, although one factor in Ting's favor could be that he fought three times last year while Kelly only fought once. The winner could be in line for an immediate shot at reigning ONE featherweight champion Marat Gafurov.
ONE: "Clash of Heroes" is available to purchase on PPV for $9.99 right here.