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ONE: ‘Reign of Kings’ preview (Pt. 2)

ONE: “Reign of Kings” is set for the MOA Arena this Friday night in Pasay, Philippines. It will be headlined by an interim bantamweight title bout between Martin Nguyen and Kevin Belingon and also features Renzo Gracie, Shinya Aoki and Eduard Folayang.

That makes this a big event and the fans will be firmly behind Folayang, Belingon and the other Filipinos. There’s also three ONE “Super Series” bouts with a chance for the Filipino audience to witness some Muay Thai and kickboxing.

Here’s my preview of the top half of the card. For part one click here.

170lbs.: Gary Tonon vs. Rahul Raja

Gary Tonon (1-0) is a decorated BJJ black belt and No Gi Grappling world champion. He seemed to drag his MMA debut out a bit longer than was strictly speaking necessary in order to showcase his new striking skills.

Rahul Raja (4-2) lasted just 21 seconds on his ONE Championship debut. It will be interesting to see whether Tonon plays this safe by winning with a submission or decided to test his stand up skills against the Indian.

170lbs.: Eduard Folayang vs. Aziz Pahrudinov

For the second fight in a row Eduard Folayang (19-6) faces a promotional newcomer with an impressive record. We know what we are going to get from the Filipino by now, he has a wushu striking style and kicks very hard.

Aziz Pahrudinov (20-0-1) is a southpaw but doesn’t look like he has much to offer in striking terms. The Russian appears to primarily be a wrestler so the challenge for Folayang will be to avoid getting taken down and overwhelmed by ground and pound.

185lbs.: Renzo Grazie vs. Yuki Kondo

Renzo Gracie (13-7-1-1) will always be a legend, even though he hasn’t won a fight since 2007. The Brazilian is 51 and is going up against a younger, more active opponent.

Yuki Kondo (60-34-9) is 42 but fought three times last year. The age and recent experience are two huge factors in the Japanese veterans favour, he’s remained active throughout his career.

170lbs.: Shannon Wiratchai vs. Shinya Aoki

Shinya Aoki (40-8-0-1) is looking to work his way back into title contention after back to back defeats against Eduard Folayang and Ben Askren. With ONE Championship heading for Japan in 2018 the timing is good.

Aoki is being gently nurtured towards the top of the lightweight rankings. Last time out he easily handled Rasul Yakhyaev who was coming off a decision win over Shannon Wiratchai (9-2-0-1). The Thai is capable of winning by KO, he has a powerful right hook, but will need to avoid being taken down which is easier said than done.

145lbs.: Kevin Belingon vs. Martin Nguyen (for interim bantamweight title)

Martin Nguyen (11-2) bids to win a ONE Championship title in a third division, although an asterisk will remain besides this achievement until he beats Bibiano Fernandes, who is the actual bantamweight champion.

Kevin Belingon (18-5) has won five straight fights since his loss to Fernandes. But the reality is that he is facing an opponent who knocked out a team mate who is 3 inches taller and 20lbs heavier than him.

In MMA size matters, that’s why we have weight classes. And while Belingon is clearly faster than Eduard Folayang he is much smaller which makes it hard to envisage him faring much better against Nguyen than his team mate did.

Nguyen went the distance with Fernandes on his bantamweight debut and nearly won, so he is obviously comfortable in the division. That makes it almost impossible to see the two division champion losing.

Even if Belingon can use his speed to land strikes he probably won’t have enough power to topple an opponent who is far bigger. Nguyen only needs to land one right hand to finish the fight, whereas his opponent will need to get in and out without taking punishment for 25 minutes if he wants anything out of this.

The entire ONE: “Reign of Kings” card will be available to view live and free using the newly launched app which you can download here. The first four fights will also be live on twitter and facebook.

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