The business end of this card features some big fights and they don’t come much bigger than Martin Nguyen vs Bibiano Fernandes. Between them, the headline fighters at ONE: “Iron Will” hold three of the promotion’s titles.
It’s probably the biggest fight the promotion could make and demonstrated how seriously ONE Championship is about the Thai market. The show is set for the Impact Arena in Bangkok on Saturday (March 24, 2018) and also features local favorites Shannon Wiratchai and Rika Ishige.
Here’s my preview of the top half of the card (to see part one click here).
170lbs.: Saygid Arslanaliev vs Tetsuya Yamada
Saygid Arslanaliev (4-1) was absolutely demolishing opponents but damaged his reputation and his record with a DQ loss in his last fight. In fact it was exactly like his previous matches, in that he was about to win by devastating first round stoppage but got carried away and threw a soccer kick.
Since then Arslanaliev has spent a year on the sidelines and he’s been handed a very tough matchup on his return. Tetsuya Yamada (24-5-2) has been fighting in China and brings a seven fight winning streak into this fight, he’s beaten some experienced opponents in the last couple of years.
115lbs.: Rika Ishige vs Angelie Sabanal
Rika Ishige (3-1) has the looks, she has the personality and the atomweight is already a big star in Thailand. She has also improved dramatically since making her ONE Championship debut and now has some striking skills to compliment her BJJ experience.
Angelie Sabanal is making her MMA debut but seems to have some amateur Muay Thai experience. Given than Ishige has been training intensively at some of the best camps in Thailand you would think she had a big advantage here.
170lbs.: Shannon Wiratchai vs Rahul Raja
After the disappointment of his defeat to Rasul Yakhyaev local favourite Shannon Wiratchai (8-2-0-1) has been handed a slightly more winnable matchup here. The Thai hits hard, as several opponents have discovered and normally takes an aggressive approach.
Rahul Raja (4-1) hails from India but lives and trains in Singapore. He went the distance with former URCC bantamweight champion Red Romero last year but might find Wiratchai’s power and aggression is too much for him here.
125lbs.: Dejdamrong Sor Amnuaysirichoke vs Jeremy Miado
Dejdamrong Sor Amnuaysirichoke (8-3) has lost three fights out of three in this venue. It’s a run of results he will be desperate to end and he should be the clear favourite against an opponent coming off back to back ONE Championship defeats.
Jeremy Miado (6-2) will be totally outmatched in the striking department here. His best chance of victory is to take Dejdamrong down but even that might not be enough as the Thai strawweight can handle himself on the ground.
145lbs.: Bibiano Fernandes vs Martin Nguyen (for Fernandes bantamweight belt)
It would be oversimplistic to describe this as a battle between the submission skills of Fernandes (21-3) and the right hand of Martin Nguyen (10-1). However the latter has won his last three fights with exactly the same punch so it’s clear what his greatest weapon is.
Meanwhile Fernandes tends to either win fights by submission or through a takedown orientated decision win. He did finish Toni Tauru with a beautiful left hook but Reece Mclaren rocked him with the exact same punch Nguyen favours, albeit from the southpaw stance.
Nguyen specializes in changing the course of a fight with a single punch. He doesn’t necessarily win rounds but when you are consistently knocking opponents out that ceases to be an issue.
Fernandes will probably feel that if he stays away from Nguyen’ right hand he can win a decision. Getting the fight to the ground is the safest way to do that and the Brazilian will probably look to do that at every opportunity.
However he showed in the Tauru fight how dangerous his striking skills are, and did some serious damage to Andrew Leone with a knee to the midsection. If Nguyen goes looking for the KO and overcommits then Fernandes is quick enough to catch him with a counter punch.
The smart move for Fernandes would be to employ a low risk, takedown orientated strategy. Nguyen will be looking to land that right hand as always and it will be fascinating to see which fighter can execute their gameplan effectively.
The first three fights on the ONE: “Iron WIll” card are being shown live on the ONE Championship Facebook page with a couple more fights being broadcast on the twitter page. There are numerous domestic TV broadcasts with many available to view online.