Several of ONE Championship’s most exciting heroes reigned supreme on Friday, 27 July.
A new World Champion was crowned, and several contenders marched forward in their quests for gold at the promotion’s latest spectacle, ONE: REIGN OF KINGS.
It was an unforgettable night in Manila, Philippines, which opened up a world of possibilities for the victorious martial artists. Here is a quick glimpse at what could lie in store for the evening’s biggest winners.
In front of his home crowd, the Filipino defeated two-division ONE World Champion Martin “The Situ-Asian” Nguyen via unanimous decision to capture the ONE Interim Bantamweight World Title.
Now, Fernandes’ throne is within reach.
Belingon wants to prove to “The Flash” that he has improved dramatically since their title bout in January 2016. He hopes to defeat the last man to beat him, and prevail in a World Champion versus World Champion unification bout in the fourth quarter of 2018.
If Fernandes has not recovered from his injury by then, another Brazilian – Leandro Issa – could step in to challenge “The Silencer” for his interim belt. “Brodinho,” who is riding a three-bout win streak, has similarly elite jiu-jitsu skills to “The Flash,” and is undoubtedly one of the top contenders in the weight class.
Former ONE Lightweight World Champion Shinya “Tobikan Judan” Aoki may be known for his submission prowess, but at ONE: REIGN OF KINGS, he stopped Thai superstar Shannon “OneShin” Wiratchai via first-round TKO.
Now a winner of three straight bouts – including a submission victory over former ONE Featherweight World Champion Marat Gafurov in a Grappling Super-Match – the Japanese martial arts icon has reemerged as a top contender in his weight class.
Nguyen, who has expressed his interest in defending the belt against Aoki, would offer a fresh new challenge, creating a classic striker versus grappler match-up.
If “The Situ-Asian” is not available, then there is Ting, who has won seven of his last eight bouts. Both the Malaysian and Japanese warriors are widely considered to be among the top contenders at lightweight, and a clash between them would almost certainly find the definitive next World Title challenger.
Otherwise, there is always the prospect of a rematch with the man below – the one who took his belt in 2016.
Aoki was not the only former ONE Lightweight World Champion to continue building momentum in Manila.
Eduard “Landslide” Folayang dispatched yet another undefeated Russian adversary, as he scored a unanimous decision victory against Combat Sambo World Champion Aziz Pahrudinov.
Although the Filipino may not be at the front of the line as yet, he is building steam towards another title opportunity. A victory over the following athletes would strengthen his case to elevate his position in the pecking order.
A rematch with Russian knockout artist Timofey Nastyukhin, who turned off the Team Lakay veteran’s lights in December 2014, would be a hot ticket. “Landslide” would surely love to get that win back, especially now that Nastyukhin is riding the wave of an impressive two-bout win streak against top opposition.
Ariel “Tarzan” Sexton, a dynamic Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt with explosive punches, could also be on his radar. He showcased all of his talents earlier in July, when he finished Japanese foe Kota Shimoishi with an Americana from the reverse triangle position.
Garry “The Lion Killer” Tonon may have just had his second mixed martial arts outing, but he seems like a natural in the cage already.
The American grappling superstar showed a willingness to trade with Singapore-based Indian Rahul “The Kerala Krusher” Raju in Manila, and he utilized his world-renowned BJJ to submit his adversary in the third stanza.
Tonon has shown no fear, and the capability to adapt well to the skills required for a career in the cage. But, he is a long way off World Title contention for the moment. However, that should not stop him from stepping up against another more experienced opponent to test his evolving skills against their veteran abilities.
Rajinder Singh Meena is a veteran of 16 professional contests – including five under the ONE banner – who is coming off a first-round submission victory against Zhang Ze Hao. He would be a perfect candidate to test “The Lion Killer.”
Another option could be South Korea’s Sung Jong Lee, a 10th Planet BJJ practitioner who pushed Amir Khan to the limit in May.
Former ONE Strawweight World Title challenger Joshua Pacio is fulfilling his potential.
He dazzled in his tilt with unbeaten Thai hero Pongsiri “The Smiling Assassin” Mitsatit, finishing him with a unique maneuver he called “The Passion Lock” – a kimura from the rear-naked choke position.
The Filipino, who has won four of his last five bouts, is closer than ever to securing a rematch with division’s reigning titleholder Yoshitaka “Nobita” Naito.
If that match-up doesn’t present itself, he could secure it if he were to defeat another well-respected competitor, like former World Champion Alex “Little Rock” Silva. The Singapore-based Brazilian is a third-degree BJJ black belt who has added a dangerous Muay Thai game through training with the world champions at Evolve MMA. This would be an incredible test for Pacio.
“The Passion” could also find himself in a bout with the surging contender below.
There is no more denying Rene Catalan after five consecutive victories.
The Filipino has proven over the past two years that he belongs among the best in the division.
In Manila, “The Challenger” outworked his toughest opponent to date, as he defeated Indonesian martial arts hero Stefer Rahardian via unanimous decision, ruining Rahardian’s perfect record. “The Challenger” blitzed his opponent with superior striking, and was more than capable against the BJJ brown belt on the ground, thanks to his improved wrestling and submission defense.
Like Team Lakay’s Pacio, Catalan is surging towards the gold, and their paths may intersect before either of them get a shot at Naito.
Another option for “The Challenger” could be Hayato Suzuki. The explosive Japanese wrestler has masterfully used his grappling to secure two first-round victories over Pacio and former World Title challenger Yago Bryan.
At 18-1-2, Suzuki has one of the most impressive records in the division, and there is no doubt he is one of the top strawweight contenders. He would be a great test for Catalan’s all-around skill set.