Vitaly Bigdash has been one of the middleweight division’s leading athletes ever since he won World Championship gold in his promotional debut six years ago.
Now, the 37-year-old Russian will start working his way back to the top when he takes on “King Kong Warrior” Fan Rong in a 95-kilogram catchweight mixed martial arts bout at ONE: WINTER WARRIORS II, which airs from the Singapore Indoor Stadium this Friday, 17 December.
Throughout his years on the global stage, Bigdash has shown an array of characteristics that prove he can hold the ONE Middleweight World Title once more.
Here are three reasons why the mighty Russian could make another run at the #1 spot, starting with his return to action against Fan.
#1 Immense Durability
With a perfect 7-0 slate, Bigdash first stepped into the Circle to challenge then-ONE Middleweight World Champion Igor Svirid for the belt at ONE: TIGERS OF ASIA in October 2015.
In one of the most explosive first rounds ever seen in a mixed martial arts contest, Svirid threw everything at his rival and sent him to the canvas several times. But Bigdash never quit.
Every time he was on the brink of being finished, the Akhmat Fight Team representative held on, protected himself, and then attacked with his dangerous ground game.
Svirid put everything he had into finishing the teak-tough challenger. It eventually took its toll on the Kazakh, though, which allowed Bigdash to swing the momentum in his favor late in the stanza.
At the start of the second frame, it was the Russian who was the fresher man. He unloaded on Svirid with knees and punches to earn an incredible come-from-behind victory – and the middleweight gold – in a bout that lives on as an all-time classic.
Any opponent who watched that fight knows they’ll have to pull out something special to put Bigdash away.
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#2 High-Level Submission Prowess
Given the emphatic striking finish in his debut, fans knew that Bigdash could throw heavy leather.
The Rostov-based athlete took Niimura down early and dominated him with ground-and-pound from the top position. The Japanese athlete tried to escape, but Bigdash transitioned to his back. From there, he cinched up a rear triangle choke and dropped elbows onto his trapped foe.
Adding to Niimura’s predicament, Bigdash attacked with a straight armbar. That ultimately forced the tap.
The unique finish was his fifth submission win and added to a record that already featured heel hook, rear-naked choke, and armbar victories.
#3 Hangs With The Best
Bigdash has consistently gone up against the elite of the middleweight division in his tenure on the global stage.
After a tense opening two frames, the Russian took over and proceeded to overwhelm “The Burmese Python” with his wrestling and ground-and-pound to earn the win.
The pair went another five rounds in a razor-close immediate rematch, which ultimately ended Bigdash’s reign as World Champion. However, the Russian’s performance showed that he was still on Aung La N Sang’s level.
Having faced off against Leandro “Wolf” Ataides and Niimura since then, Bigdash has never had it easy. But he wants to prove to the world that he belongs among the upper echelon by taking out the surging “King Kong Warrior” on Friday.
Read more: 5 Reasons To Watch ONE: WINTER WARRIORS II