The heroes of ONE Championship made sure the company’s inaugural event in Shanghai, China, was one for the history books. On Saturday, 2 September, the promotion delivered on its promise of the world’s most exciting martial arts action at ONE CHAMPIONSHIP: SHANGHAI, live from the Oriental Sports Center. With eight finishes in nine bouts, the packed stadium was thoroughly thrilled.
The blockbuster was headlined by Ben “Funky” Askren and his title defense of the ONE Welterweight World Championship against Swedish striker Zebaztian “The Bandit” Kadestam, but the show also had a sense of national pride as several of the country’s most talented martial artists finally made their long-awaited promotional debut.
There were plenty of highlights to choose from at ONE CHAMPIONSHIP: SHANGHAI, but we’ve narrowed it down to the best four.
#1 Ben Askren’s Dominating Display
It is a pure joy to see Ben “Funky” Askren inside the cage. The 33-year-old American effortlessly takes his opponents down, and overwhelms them with the perfect top game that compliments his Olympic-level wrestling. Just the way he smoothly transitions from position to position, and constantly dominates on the ground, is a marvel to behold.
All of that was on display against upset king Zebaztian “The Bandit” Kadestam. For two rounds, Askren dominated the Swedish striker with his immaculate grappling skills, all while showing a superior sense of cage awareness. He never once appeared in any true danger. The “Funky” one was patient, and the TKO was ultimately inevitable.
Once again, Askren proved why he is the best welterweight in the world. Following the match, he claimed that neither challenger was able to hit him in his last two bouts, and requested for an opponent that would be able to. However, the real question that should be posed, is whether any welterweight on Earth can stop his takedowns.
2 Amir Khan’s Record-Extending Knockout
Amir Khan keeps looking better and better. Ever since completing his national service duties back in May, the 22-year-old Singaporean has since dedicated his life to his training, and is focused on becoming the ONE Lightweight World Champion. By defeating Jaroslav Jartim, he got a little closer to his goal.
In his first-round knockout win, the Evolve MMA product flashed an array of talent. He showed grappling ability, head movement, hand speed, striking precision, and knockout power. Jartim is a talented 24-year-old, but this night belonged to Khan.
Now a winner of five straight, with four of those victories coming by first-round stoppage, the Singapore native should get a bump up in the competition. What’s more, he extended his record of the most finishes and knockouts in ONE Championship history in the process.
#3 Sagetdao Petpayathai’s Thunderous Elbows
Most of the time, when people see a martial artist throwing elbows, it is usually on the ground. But the legendary Sagetdao “Deadly Star” Petpayathai is a master of Muay Thai, a discipline where the art of standing elbow strikes is fully developed.
The 30-year-old Thai showcased that against Mahmoud “El Deep” Mohamed. As the 38-year-old Egyptian had him against the cage, he let his guard down when attempting to throw the Muay Thai world champion to the ground. So “Deadly Star” threw a picture-perfect elbow to his opponent’s temple, and instantly dropped him to the canvas.
Thinking he had the knockout, Petpayathai ran off to celebrate. But Mohamed was stunned, not out, and the Thai returned to finish the job. A few more standing elbows later, the referee called the bout off, and the Thai featherweight finally earned the TKO victory.
Petpaytahai has had a tremendous start to his career in ONE Championship, and at this rate, he could quickly become the featherweight division’s premier knockout artist.
#4 Ma Hao Bin Establishes Himself As A Star
“The Southern Eagle” Ma Hao Bin has the potential to become the best Chinese athlete competing in the cage today. A national wrestling champion, the ONE Changsha Bantamweight Tournament Champion has quickly racked up a 7-1 professional record since his professional debut in 2016, an incredible work rate.
With his victory over “The Wolf Of The Grasslands” Hexigetu, he demonstrated all the key qualities a star should possess. The 23-year-old from the Jiang Xi province remained poised in his attacks, persevered through adversity, and leaned on his strength — wrestling — to finish the match. He stuffed a labored takedown from the Inner Mongolian, saw an opportunity to slap on the guillotine choke, and cranked until he felt the tap.
Ma has everything working in his favor. Not only is he riding an impressive five-bout win streak, but he has a nation of passionate fans behind him, and he is navigating through a talented flyweight division that is currently waiting for a new contender to emerge. He very well could be that man.