ONE: "Defending Honor" is set for the Singapore Indoor Stadium on Friday night (local time) and will be headlined by one of the most eagerly anticipated lightweight matches in the history of Asian mixed martial arts (MMA). Reigning champion Shinya Aoki is defending his title against Filipino fan favourite Eduard Folayang.
There's a featherweight title rematch between champions past and present when Marat Gafurov defends his belt against Narantungalag Jadambaa. With the likes of Roger Huerta, Adrian Pang, Timofey Nastyukhin and Kotetsu Boku also in action this is one of the strongest cards ONE Championship has ever put together.
Here's my preview of the last four fights on the card (as always with ONE weights are normal walking weight):
125:. Michelle Nicolini vs Mona Samir
As I mentioned in part one Egyptian fighters don't have the best track record in ONE Championship. BJJ world champions haven't had it all their own way either but the world class grappling game of Michelle Nicolini (2-1) makes her a strong favourite here.
Mona Samir (1-2) comes from a wrestling background and has competed at the world championships. The Egyptian's problem is that she doesn't have strong striking and if the fight goes to the ground she will inevitably be submitted.
170 lbs.: Amir Khan vs Vaughn Donayre
Amir Khan (5-2) comes from a Muay Thai background but is well rounded. In BJJ terms Vaughn Donayre (8-5) has a higher rank but the young Singaporean has looked very comofortable on the ground during his six ONE Championship fights.
Donayre has lost three fights out of three for ONE Championship and it will be interesting to see what his strategy is here. He can strike and he can grapple and is a former URCC champion but Khan should have too much for the Filipino here.
155 lbs.: Marat Gafurov vs Narantungalag Jadambaa
The first fight between these two ticked all the boxes; submission attempts, near KOs and a dramatic late finish. They are very well matched but there's no doubt that Marat Gafurov (14-0) is the superior grappler while Narantungalag Jadambaa (12-4) brings more of a striking threat.
So Gafurov will want to get the fight down while Jadambaa prefers to keep it standing but it's nowhere near as simple as that. They both have excellent takedowns and takedown defence, the Russian's base is BJJ while the Mongolian comes from a Judo background.
They are both quick in the scrambles and sharp enough to capitalize on even the slightest of errors. Jadambaa's best chance of winning is to get Gafurov to go into defensive mode and then unload with strikes while the Russian will want to take the challenger down, take his back and sink in a rear naked choke.
Very well matched fight. Gafurov's ground game makes him a slight favourite but you can't write off Jadambaa.
170 lbs.: Shinya Aoki vs Eduard Folayang
This is a fight that Filipino fans have been talking about for a long, long time. Eduard Folayang (16-5) has been close to a title shot on numerous previous ocassions but has alwasy fallen just short whether due to a loss or a clash of promotional commitments.
It's taken him five years to finally fight for the belt but the final step will undoubtedly be the hardest. Shinya Aoki (39-6-0-1) simply doesn't lose fights, at least not as a lightweight competing in Asia. The last time he lost on Asian soil in his natural weight class was 2008.
Aoki's grappling game is perhaps the most proven in the entire sport. He has at least 25 submission wins to his name and a huge advantage over Folayang in terms of experience. The former Dream, WAMMA and Shooto champion is a veteran of 46 fights and tha majority of those have been against big name opponents on prestigious shows.
Folayang likes to counter strike but Aoki won't come to him. The champion will be looking to bait the challenger into overcommiting and making a mistake so expect lots of feints and a few lulls in the action. To win the Filipino needs to avoid getting taken down, at least until very late in the round, and do enough damage to take the decision.
All Aoki needs to do to win is get the fight to the ground and give himself enough time to secure a submission. He's got five rounds to work with which maeks him a big favourite and if Folayang wants to win his takedown defence and striking will need to be absolutely on point for 25 minutes. A big ask.
Aoki could win by submission or decision. It's going to be very tough for Folayang to get a stoppage, and he's going to need to put in the performance of a lifetime if he wants to get the nod from the judges.
ONE: 'Defending Honor' is set for Friday night (local time) at the Singapore Indoor Stadium and can be purchased for $9.99 from here.
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