ONE: "Global Rivals" is set for Manila on Friday night (April 15, 2016) and sees Ben Askren defending his welterweight title against Russian challenger Nikolay Aleksakhin.
There will also be big fights in the bantamweight division and featherweight division with the likes of Lowen Tynanes, Muin Gafurov, and Gianni Subba all potentially just one win away from a title shot. As usual in the Philippines there will be a large contingent of local fights although Eric Kelly's bout with Timofey Nastyukhin was nixed when the Russian revealed he was struggling with his weight.
The show takes place at the SM Mall of Asia Arena and here's my preview of the first five fights (please note that all weights listed are the fighter's walking weights).
135 lbs.: Danny Kingad vs Muhamed Haidar
Danny Kingad (2-0) has the typical Team Lakay style although he tends to favor low kicks over body kicks. The Filipino likes a takedown and has fought several times on the Baguio scene, both at an amateur and a professional level, although several of these bouts are missing from his official record.
Muhamed Haidar is making his pro debut but is a veteran of five amateur fights who has been in with some of the better flyweights in Malaysia. Takedown defense isn't his strong point and he seems a bit reluctant to pull the trigger in striking exchanges, although in fairness the only footage I could find was three years old.
145 lbs.: Sunoto vs Bernard Soriano
Sunoto (3-2) will be fighting for ONE Championship for the fourth time and this experience could give him an edge, particularly as he's already fought in this venue once. He switches stance seamlessly and looks to be more confident on the ground although he was submitted in under a minute in his last fight.
Bernard Soriano (3-2) made his pro debut back in 2010 and has a background in kickboxing. He doesn't move his feet much and has a patient striking style but the Filipino does look good on the ground which would suggest that even though he's only fought five times in five years he has been consistently training MMA.
115 lbs.: April Osenio vs Natalie Gonzalez Hills
April Osenio (0-1) took a fight against Kirstie Gannaway on very short notice in early 2015 and gave a very good account of herself before succumbing to a second round rear-naked choke. She's a decorated Wushu practitioner who has won medals in grappling and looks a good prospect.
Natalie Gonzalez Hills (2-3) was born in the Philippines but has spent most of her career competing in Australia. She's faced some much bigger opponents but should be more in her element as an atomweight and looked very strong in the clinch before getting submitted by Angela Lee in her ONE Championship debut last year.
155 lbs.: Martin Nguyen vs Li Kai Wen
Martin Nguyen (5-1) took an interim title fight with Marat Gafurov at less than a week's notice last year and suffered the first and only defeat of his career to date. The Australian looks strongest on the ground and will probably look to take this fight down.
Li Kai Wen (5-1) has won four fights out of four for ONE Championship despite looking a little on the small size for a featherweight. He likes to attack with kicks but can be devastating with his hands, as he proved by knocking out Nathan Ng with a one-punch KO.
170 lbs.: Honorio Banario vs Vaughn Donayre
After some disappointing recent results both these Filipino fighters are moving up a division. The parallels don't stop there, Donayre and Banario both won six fights out of six under the URCC banner but haven't been quite so successful with other promotions.
Honorio Banario (8-6) was the inaugural ONE featherweight champion but is on a five-fight losing skid. He has good Wushu style striking but his submission defense is an issue which is something that Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) veteran Vaughn Donayre (8-4) will obviously be looking to exploit.
ONE: "Global Rivals" is being broadcast on a number of networks across the world and will be live on FOX Sports 2 in Asia. The pay-per-view (PPV) can be purchased for $9.99 USD from www.oneppv.com.