ONE Middleweight World Champion Aung La N Sang may be the first Myanmar-born ONE World Champion, and the country’s most internationally-renowned martial artist, but the nation is producing several talents who are starting to follow in his massive footsteps.
As ONE Championship prepares to stage ONE: QUEST FOR GOLD at Yangon’s Thuwunna Indoor Stadium on Friday, 23 February, there are four Myanmar athletes you have to look out for, as they could soon break out as stars in their own right.
The 33-year-old, who earned a Bachelor of Science in Engineering from the University of Dagon, has a lethwei background, and compiled an undefeated record of 3-0-2 in his country’s national striking discipline. But he has expanded upon his formidable striking skills in recent years, and has carried that success over to ONE.
Ever since making his debut in July 2015, he has ripped through the competition, demonstrating his crisp striking and an evolving grappling game. That has led the undefeated featherweight to four consecutive first-round TKO stoppages. Thaw’s shining moment, however, was when he won back-to-back contests in October 2016 to capture the ONE Myanmar Featherweight Tournament 2016 Championship.
Tha Pyay Nyo (4-0) has been a buzzsaw in seemingly every combat sport he has competed in.
A native of Hpa-An, he initially took up lethwei at the age of 16 for self-defense purposes. But what started out as a simple quest to learn basic techniques has transformed into an astonishing career. Tha Pyay Nyo trains diligently for six hours a day, every day, and unsurprisingly reached the discipline’s pinnacle by winning the prestigious Gold Belt.
That flawless striking translated immediately to ONE Championship. In his debut, he won two straight matches to capture the ONE Myanmar Featherweight Tournament 2015 Championship. He followed that up with two additional wins, the most recent being a 16-second knockout of Htet Aung Oo at ONE: LIGHT OF A NATION in June 2017.
Now armed with a quartet of first-round knockouts, the 24-year-old Adventure Club product will await his next challenge in Yangon. He may not be on this upcoming card at the Thuwunna Indoor Stadium, but the thrilling knockout artist is building up his skills to become an even more versatile threat.
Saw Min Min (2-0) may be the youngest Myanmar athlete competing in the organization, but he could perhaps have the brightest future.
The 18-year-old from the country’s coastal Mon State is a natural strike, as he proved to be a prodigious study in lethwei with a perfect record of 10-0-8.
He then made the jump from the lethwei ring to the martial arts cage last June at ONE: LIGHT OF A NATION, and had a stellar professional debut. That night, he knocked out Kyar Ba Hein, and then submitted his T&T Thaton teammate Shwe Kyaung Thar to capture the ONE Myanmar Flyweight Tournament Championship.
At the upcoming show in two weeks, he draws Ye Thway Ne, who has redemption on his mind.
Ye Thway Ne (2-1) has displayed tendencies of a martial arts prodigy.
The 20-year-old, who is currently based in Hpa-An, started training in lethwei back in 2013. Amazingly, he reached the pinnacle of the sport by winning the Gold Belt in the 51kg weight category in both 2014 and 2015, only a year after he learned the trade.
He admittedly had a tough start to his ONE career, as he fell to rising strawweight contender Pongsiri “The Smiling Assassin” Mitsatit in his promotional debut in May 2016. Ye Thway Ne righted the ship in June 2017, however, as he defeated Pat Kyaw Ling Naing in the opening round of the ONE Myanmar Flyweight Tournament.
An untimely injury forced Ye Thway Ne to withdraw from the tournament finale opposite Saw Min Min, but now, three months removed from knocking out Saw Thar Nge, the world will get to see what would have happened as the pair are set to clash in two weeks at ONE: QUEST FOR GOLD.