When ONE Championship returns to the Thuwunna Indoor Stadium with ONE: REIGN OF VALOR on Friday, 8 March, the promotion will be bringing along 28 of the world’s most exciting kickboxers and mixed martial artists.
The spotlight will be on the compelling main-event showdown, as ONE Welterweight World Champion Zebaztian “The Bandit” Kadestam defends the belt against the renowned Kazakh grappling phenom, Georgiy “Knight” Kichigin.
Although the headline attraction is guaranteed to captivate the fans in Yangon, Myanmar, there are several other contests that will deliver thrilling martial arts action. Here are just three match-ups that have the potential to earn “Bout Of The Night” honors.
Naito finally returns to action for the first time since his World Title decision loss to Joshua “The Passion” Pacio six months ago, and if there is anything the Japanese grappler has taught us, then it is his remarkable ability to come back even stronger following a rare defeat.
He displayed that five months following his first professional blemish, as he shut down Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu World Champion Alex “Little Rock” Silva to recapture the belt in May. “Nobita” is driven by his World Title ambitions, and there is no doubt he has leveled up — both from a talent level and an emotional level — since his last appearance.
It will be difficult to stop Catalan, however. The Wushu World Champion has hit his stride, winning his last five bouts in the ONE cage.
Most recently, he negated Stefer Rahardian‘s BJJ wizardry with his improved wrestling and out-struck the Indonesian en route to a clear-cut unanimous decision. If he can stop Naito’s relentless takedown attack, then the Japanese warrior could be in for a long night.
With a potential shot at the strawweight crown in sight, both men will be motivated to perform.
In nine mixed martial arts contests, Ngalani has gone the distance just once. He is known to finish bouts and his tremendous 75 percent knockout rate reflects that. In fact, only two of his bouts have left the first round. For this Hong Kong hulk, it is all or nothing.
Cerilli has four knockout wins in his last five victories, and he has truly begun to find his feet as a big hitter. His promotional debut may not have gone as planned when ONE Heavyweight World Champion Brandon Vera beat him to the punch, but the Italian still has a lot to offer.
“The Hammer” has devastating strikes and constantly trudges forward, but against a seasoned veteran like Ngalani, there is always a chance he is leading you into a trap.
Don’t expect this one to last long, but be prepared for all-out action while it is in play.
Tarik Khbabez VS Andrei Stoica
Tarik Khbabez has had two phenomenal ONE Super Series showings to date — the Dutch-Moroccan knockout artist has finished the aforementioned Ngalani and Ibrahim “Mr. Cool” El Bouni in emphatic fashion to mark himself as a top contender in the light heavyweight division.
He welcomes Andrei “Mister KO” Stoica to the world’s largest martial arts organization this Friday and, as the moniker suggests, the Romanian also has a reputation for his powerful offense.
Khbabez is a relentless striker who relies on his boxing and punching power to overwhelm his rivals. However, Stoica also has bout-ending potential in his fists, and he is not a man known for taking a backward step.
The Romanian was a National and European Wushu Champion, so he certainly possesses diversity in the stand-up department. However, he made his reputation as a puncher, and Khbabez will gladly engage “Mister KO” if that is the kind of battle he wants.
These colossal men can strike with enough velocity to end a contest in an instant. Ultimately, this could come down to who has the most heart and desire to keep marching forward.