Twelve of the world’s best fighters entertained at the promotion’s first all-kickboxing showcase, ONE: FIRST STRIKE, on Friday, 15 October, and they did not disappoint.
A new World Champion was crowned, four men advanced to the 2021 ONE Featherweight Kickboxing World Grand Prix semifinals, and one heavyweight made his case for a crack at his division’s soon-to-be inaugurated title.
Moreover, there were five highlight-reel finishes, including a Knockout Of The Year candidate.
With that said, here are the four biggest takeaways from an unforgettable night at the Singapore Indoor Stadium.
#1 Superbon Is The Top Featherweight Kickboxer
The inaugural battle for the ONE Featherweight Kickboxing World Championship always promised excitement, but nobody could have predicted that Thai star Superbon would knock out the kickboxing GOAT, Giorgio “The Doctor” Petrosyan.
The first round met lofty expectations, delivering a razor-thin, technical matchup of the world’s two greatest featherweights. The supreme tacticians analyzed and executed their strategies with championship vigor and returned to their stools to make the necessary adjustments.
But Superbon would soon prove that he made the proper read of his iconic opponent.
Both men fired away at each other in the second round, but as Petrosyan attempted to step back, Superbon caught him flush with a right high kick for the ages. The Armenian-Italian legend was out cold the moment the kick landed, and he crashed to the mat, spurring the referee to wave off the bout.
The Thai star’s victory was not necessarily a complete shock. After all, he was the #2-ranked featherweight in the world and every bit the equal of Petrosyan. However, the emphatic manner in which he captured the gold was nothing short of jaw-dropping.
Superbon not only claimed the ONE Featherweight Kickboxing World Championship, but he has also undoubtedly claimed a new global fan base that got to see him deliver, what could be, 2021’s Knockout Of The Year.
#2 The Torch Has Been Passed
The quarterfinal matchup between Marat Grigorian and Andy “Souwer Power” Souwer was a meeting of two different eras. If they were two ships passing in the night, Souwer handed off the torch to his Armenian counterpart as he sailed past.
Grigorian was in complete control of the action from the outset, but the Dutchman didn’t back down. As the Armenian-Belgian pressed forward, Souwer answered his call and fired back to show he was still a threat at any given moment.
But the power of the Hemmers Gym representative was too much in the end, and Grigorian picked up a second-round TKO win to advance to the ONE Featherweight Kickboxing World Grand Prix semifinals.
Following the bout, Souwer gave an emotional speech and called an end to his legendary career. And although it was not the result he had hoped for, the Dutch icon showed that the sport had not yet passed him by, as he remained competitive against one of the world’s best pound-for-pound kickboxers.
While one legacy ended inside the Singapore Indoor Stadium, another continues to grow, with Grigorian now preparing for his next step on the global stage.
These are the moments that make martial arts so special. Souwer’s torch is still aflame and merely passed off to the next generation.
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#3 Dark Horses Come Into The Light
The 2021 ONE Featherweight Kickboxing World Grand Prix quarterfinals had an electric start with two shocking performances.
Davit Kiria got it started with an upset over Enriko “The Hurricane” Kehl. The Georgian caught him with an assortment of ferocious right hands to earn three knockdowns and the ensuing first-round TKO win.
Those two performances were shining examples as to why this is a beautiful format. Eight of the world’s best featherweights stepping onto the global stage and giving it their all leads to exciting and unpredictable moments. And those moments build new stars.
If Kiria and Allazov were dark horses entering the 2021 ONE Featherweight Kickboxing World Grand Prix, they have now been set loose from their stables and are ready to ride into the light of the semifinals.
#4 Opacic Is Ready For Heavyweight Gold
Rade Opacic has been sensational since stepping into The Home of Martial Arts. His debut performance provided a highlight-reel spinning heel kick knockout last December, and he followed it up with another decisive showing in January.
The Serbian powerhouse had two knockdowns in the first round and put Schmid down two more times in the second frame to force the stoppage. “Big Swiss” showed heart by continuing to get back up, but Opacic was landing at will in a showcase of his dynamic arsenal.
As Roman Kryklia and Iraj Azizpour get set for the ONE Heavyweight Kickboxing World Championship fight at ONE: NEXTGEN on Friday, 29 October, Opacic has placed himself firmly as the top contender for whoever wins the inaugural gold.