ONE: “Roots of Honor” is set for the MOA Arena in Manila on Friday (April 12, 2019) and features two title fights. Joshua Pacio will be looking to reclaim his strawweight strap while Martin Nguyen defends his featherweight belt for the second time.
The Philippines is currently without a ONE Championship titleholder after Eduard Folayang and Kevin Belingon both lost in Tokyo, albeit in wildly different circumstances. Pacio will be looking to rectify that situation when he faces Yosuke Saruta.
Meanwhile, Nguyen faces a former featherweight champion in Narantungalag Jadambaa. The card also features the remaining quarterfinal bout in the flyweight Grand Prix with Tatsumitsu Wada taking on Gustavo Balart.
Here’s my preview of the last six fights:
155 lbs.: Edward Kelly vs. Sung Jong Lee (Featherweight)
Edward Kelly (11-6) has established himself as the better of the two Kelly brothers in recent years. He has a wushu striking style and a fairly solid ground game although he tends to come up short against top class opposition.
Sung Jong Lee (4-4) is a leg lock specialist who doesn’t have much else to his game. If the Korean can’t pull off one of his trademark submissions, he will probably lose.
185 lbs.: Luis Santos vs. James Nakashima (Welterweight)
Luis Santos (65-11-1-1) is a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) black belt with some devastating kicks. During the first round of a fight he is one of the best welterweights in the world but the Brazilian has a tendency to fade down the stretch.
James Nakashima (10-0) is a wrestler who will want to follow the blueprint set by Tyler McGuire. The American has been training his standup with Giorgio Petrosyan but I expect him to shoot for takedowns relentlessly here.
145 lbs.: Leandro Issa vs. Fu Chang Xin (Bantamweight)
Leandro Issa (16-7) is a BJJ black belt who challenged for the inaugural ONE bantamweight title. He is good with low kicks but there are question marks over his chin and the Brazilian has been dropped numerous time during his MMA career.
Fu Chang Xin (9-1) will go in search of his third straight ONE Championship win. But his last two opponents did not have good records and he faces a big step up against the UFC veteran.
135 lbs.: Tatsumitsu Wada vs. Gustavo Balart (Flyweight Grand Prix Quarter Final)
Gustavo Balart (8-1) might just be the shortest flyweight in the world. The Cuban stands at 4’11” but uses his low base to shoot for takedowns and outwrestle taller opponents.
Tatsumitsu Wada (20-10-2) will want to utilize his reach advantage with straight punches and low kicks. The Japanese fighter is confident on the ground but won’t want to end up underneath the veteran wrestler.
125 lbs.: Joshua Pacio (c) vs. Yosuke Saruta (For Strawweight Title)
Yosuke Saruta (19-8-3) won the first fight even though ONE CEO Chatri Sityodtong disagreed with the decision. The Japanese fighter definitely landed more takedowns, but in my book his striking was more effective, too.
Joshua Pacio (16-3) was clipped numerous time and I felt that this, rather than the significant time in top position, was what won Saruta the fight. The Filipino’s striking output was more significant, but the shots from the Japanese fighter had greater impact.
If the second fight follows a similar pattern perhaps the judges will be more inclined to favour the Filipino. But the first meeting between the two was highly entertaining and the rematch should be just as good.
155 lbs.: Martin Nguyen (c) vs. Narantungalag Jadambaa (For Featherweight Title)
Martin Nguyen (11-3) is known for his devastating overhand right. It is the shot that accounted for both Marat Gafurov and Eduard Folayang although it’s worth noting his last three fights have all gone the full five rounds.
That suggests opponents have worked out what Nguyen’s main weapon is and found a way to neutralize it. However it’s also worth noting that his last two losses have both come at bantamweight, where the Australian probably lost a little power.
Narantungalag Jadambaa (14-5) is tough, there’s no doubt about that. But he also has a very effective Karate based striking style, possesses tremendous strength and knows how to utilize his Judo inside the cage.
On his pro debut in 2004 Jadambaa was finished with a Kid Yamamoto right hand. But since that fight he has never been stopped with strikes, so Nguyen might struggle to put away the Mongolian.
At the age of 43 Jadambaa should be slowing down while Nguyen might show some significant improvements after training in the U.S. But this has all the makings of a very good fight which could go either way.
The entire ONE: “Roots of Honor” fight card will be available to view live and free in some territories using the newly launched app which you can download here. In the U.S. it will be streamed on B/R Live.