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. Here is my preview of the final four fights on the card.
For a preview of the first five fights click here.
145 lbs.: Reece McLaren vs Muin Gafurov
ONE Championship's bantamweight division is stacked so it's difficult to predict how the title picture will pan out but these are two top contenders. Muin Gafurov (10-0) is still only 19 but has looked spectacular in both his fights for the promotion, the Tajik fighter is a former Combat Sambo world champion and a top, top prospect.
Reece McLaren (8-3) might not have such an impressive record but he holds a purple belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) and is coming off a dominant win over top ranked Filipino Mark Striegl. Gafurov has a spinning back kick KO while the Australian was very effective with leg kicks in his last fight so they can both strike, submit and wrestle which makes this a very interesting fight indeed.
170 lbs.: Lowen Tynanes vs Koji Ando
Lowen Tynanes (8-0) burst onto the scene by beating up Eduard Folayang and he he has been punishing opponents with a wrestling based strategy ever since. The Hawaiian likes to take people down and keep them down and is dangerous with submissions and ground and pound.
Koji Ando (12-4-2) is more well rounded and has excellent Judo, a solid ground game and is a southpaw with a good straight left who has never been stopped. The Japanese fighter has an advantage in terms of experience but Tynanes fights fearlessly and this looks to be a very well matched lightweight bout.
145 lbs.: Geje Eustaquio vs Gianni Subba
Early in his career Gianni Subba (7-1) showcased some devastating striking but his last two bouts have both gone the distance and he seems to be pacing himself more. The Malaysian has spent his entire competitive career in the ONE cage and has decent wrestling and serious punching power.
By contrast Geje Eustaquio (7-4) tends to go the distance but is coming off the most impressive KO of his career, with a left hook landing flush to the face of Muay Thai veteran Saiful Merican. This could turn into a chess match but both men have enough power to make it an interesting contest in which anything could happen.
185 lbs.: Ben Askren vs Nikolay Aleksakhin
Anything other than an Ben Askren win here would be a massive surprise. Nikolay Aleksakhin (17-3) has an impressive sounding record but doesn't seem to possess the sort of skill set which would be required to beat arguably the best welterweight in the world.
It is no secret what Askren (14-0-0-1) is good at but stopping him from doing it is another matter altogether. If you don't have world class takedown defense you are going to struggle against the two time NCAA Division One champion and US Olympian and it's going to be extremely difficult for Aleksakhin to keep this fight standing,
Striking definitely isn't Askren's strength and any fighter who can stuff his takedowns, something Luis Santos did well, has the potential to cause him some problems. Aleksakhin will be hoping he can keep this standing long enough to land some telling strikes and hurt the champion but his chances of doing so look slim at best.
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.