3 Underdogs Who Shocked The Martial Arts World
As the old saying goes, every dog has its day — even underdogs. And on August 26, when ONE’s double-header kicks off at the Singapore Indoor Stadium, they’ll be plenty of underdogs looking to leave their mark inside the Circle.
Starting with ONE 160: Ok vs. Lee II, dark horse Sherzod Kabutov will try to topple #3-ranked contender Panpayak Jitmuangnon in a ONE Flyweight Muay Thai World Grand Prix alternate bout.
Then, at ONE on Prime Video 1: Moraes vs. Johnson II, which airs live in U.S. primetime, underdog and #4-ranked Michael Savvas will meet divisional king Rodtang Jitmuangnon in the ONE Flyweight Muay Thai World Grand Prix semifinals.
Before the action goes down in Singapore, we look at three athletes who’ve played the role of underdog but went on to shock the martial arts world.
Despite being a seven-time ONE Flyweight World Champion, Adriano Moraes remained the underdog in the lead-up to his first fight with Demetrious Johnson at “ONE on TNT I” in April 2021 — and rightfully so.
Johnson, a 12-time MMA World Champion, had been dubbed the sport’s GOAT by fans and experts alike. At the time, “Mighty Mouse” also had 30 percent more fights than Moraes, 17 finishes, and won the prestigious ONE Flyweight World Grand Prix Championship.
Despite going up against those accolades, Moraes knocked Johnson out in the second round with an uppercut and knee, which sent the mixed martial arts world into a frenzy because the American had never been finished.
At ONE on Prime Video 1, “Mikinho” — although he still remains the underdog — will look to repeat that feat, but this time he’s aiming for a submission finish.
Ok Rae Yoon
Ok Rae Yoon only had two fights in the organization when he got his shot at then-ONE Lightweight World Champion Christian Lee at ONE: REVOLUTION in September 2021. Because of this, many fans believed he’d never survive five rounds with the undisputed king.
After all, Lee defeated Japanese MMA legend Shinya Aoki by second-round KO to capture the belt, defended it twice, and, in the process, won the ONE Lightweight World Grand Prix Championship. When he met Ok, he was also riding a six-fight winning streak.
The South Korean’s timing and persistence paid off, however, as he chipped away at “The Warrior’s” defense, ultimately earning himself a controversial unanimous decision victory and the ONE Lightweight World Title.
Now, the two lightweight icons will rematch in the main event of ONE 160 to decide who will sit on top of the lightweight division.
If anyone embodied being an underdog it was Jonathan Haggerty when, at 22 years old, he faced living legend Sam-A Gaiyanghadao for the latter’s ONE Flyweight Muay Thai World Title at ONE: FOR HONOR in May 2019.
Sam-A had more than 300 professional wins to his name and won Lumpinee Stadium World Titles in two separate weight classes. Haggerty, on the other hand, tallied just over a dozen fights and only had one bout on the global stage of martial arts.
However, “The General” used his push kicks, dangerous elbows, and painful punches to score a unanimous decision win over the KO kaiser to become the ONE Flyweight Muay Thai World Champion.
In a reversal of roles, however, the current #1-ranked flyweight contender will now face a man who many believe to be an underdog — Amir Naseri. The two will battle in a ONE Flyweight Muay Thai World Grand Prix alternate bout at ONE on Prime Video 1.