ONE: "Kingdom of Champions" is set for the Impact Arena in Bangkok this Friday night (May 27, 2016) and will be the first time that Asia's biggest mixed martial arts (MMA) promotion has held an event in Thailand.
The top half of the card is stacked with two title fights and a couple of bouts which look odds on to end in an early knockout. Local hero Dejdamrong Sor Amnuaysirichoke is defending his belt against Yoshitaka Naito in the headliner while Marat Gafurov will be putting his featherweight strap on the line against Kazunori Yokota in the co-main event.
The catchweight contest between Rob Lisita and Timofey Nastyukhin has the potential to be a barnburner as does Leandro Ataides' middleweight matchup with Marcin Prachnio. Between them these men have fought 11 times for ONE Championship and not one of those bouts has been the distance.
205 lbs.: Marcin Prachnio vs Leandro Ataides
Leandro Ataides (8-2) has been finished with strikes in his last two fights and punch resistance appears to be an issue for the Brazilian. He has a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) but earned a shot at the ONE middleweight title by knocking out two opponents in the opening round.
Igor Svirid succeeded in stunning Ataides badly with a jab and Marcin Prachnio (10-2) will surely be looking to test his opponent's chin. The Karate fighter has eight KO/TKO wins on his record and is coming off an impressive first-round finish against a Brazilian opponent.
Ataides still has a world class ground game but the raw aggression which saw him score first round stoppages at the start of his ONE Championship career might have deserted him after back-to-back defeats. Stylistically, this looks a winnable fight for Prachnio and the Brazilian would be well advised to get the fight to the floor as fast as possible.
161 lbs.: Rob Lisita vs Timofey Nastyukhin
Fireworks. This fight has been nearly two years in the making and throws two of the most explosive strikers on the roster together with both Rob Lisita (14-7) and Timofey Nastyukhin (9-2) have spent their entire ONE Championship careers trying to knock opponents out.
Nastyukhin was submitted by Herbert Burns in his last fight but prior to that he tore through Eduard Folayang and Yusuke Kawanago stopping them both in the opening round. He's very explosive, has fast footwork, and is capable of throwing some athletic flying strikes as Folayang discovered to his cost.
Lisita used to be more a wrestler but these days he likes to stalk opponents and get in the pocket and throw strikes. He tends to go looking for the overhand right which can leave him open to counters but I would expect the Australian to come forwards and Nastyukhin to try and counter strike with both looking to land a decisive blow right from the offset.
155 lbs.: Marat Gafurov vs Kazunori Yokota
Kazunori Yokota (25-5-3) is going to try and somehow nullify his opponent's submission game and turn this into a boring, five round fight that he can win by decision. The ONE Championship scoring system won't help him in this quest but he has plenty of experience and has won his last 13 fights.
Marat Gafurov (13-0) has won all his fights and since signing for ONE he's done so exclusively by way of rear naked choke, although it's worth noting he dropped Lisita with a head kick before finishing him with his trademark submission. He will want to get this one to the ground but might have his work cut out forcing Yokota to tap.
The Japanese veteran has never been submitted and is extremely durable. The last time Yokota lost was 2010 and he will try and keep Gafurov at range and attack with the occasional flurry of punches. This will be a very tough test for the Russian and could be a frustrating fight for the fans.
125 lbs.: Dejdamrong Sor Amnuaysirichoke vs Yoshitaka Naito
Everyone knows exactly where these fighters' strengths and weaknesses lie. Dejdamrong Sor Amnuaysirichoke (6-0) is a former Lumpinee champion and one of the best Muay Thai fighters to ever take up MMA while Yoshitaka Naito (10-0) is a submission specialist.
The Thai fighter has faced increasingly tough competition and never really looked like losing. Of course he's strong in the clinch and dangerous with knees, kicks, elbows and punches but Dejdamrong also has plenty of MMA rounds under his belt and knows how to defend submissions and takedowns.
Naito is the Shooto 115-pound champion and has more or less cleared out the division in Japan. He's more experienced than Dejdamrong and has beaten better opponents (at least in MMA terms) but it's fair to say this will be a totally different challenge.
Naito's never fought anyone with Dejdamrong's skillset and I don't think he has ever fought in a cage. He will need to execute an inch perfect gameplan if he wants to win here, staying well out of range in the standup and putting the hometown hero on his back whenever the opportunity arises.
The bookmakers have this dead even and I can see why, although I think Dejdamrong's all round MMA game is better than people give him credit for. If the Thai can turn this into a standing battle he will win comfortably, Naito's job will be frustrate him and ensure the fight stays on the ground.
ONE: "Kingdom of Champions' is set for Impact Arena in Bangkok this Friday night (local time). it will be broadcast on various networks all over the world and can be purchased for $9.99 USD from www.oneppv.com.