ONE Championship is bringing a world-class event to Tokyo, Japan on Sunday, 31 March.
With four World Title bouts set for ONE: A NEW ERA, the world’s largest martial arts organization is guaranteed to deliver a spectacular night at the iconic Ryogoku Kokugikan.
The ONE Bantamweight, Lightweight, Middleweight, and Women’s Strawweight World Championships will all be on the line, and five active titleholders are scheduled for action on the card.
Ahead of their respective match-ups at the promotion’s inaugural Japan event, we take a look back at five of the World Champions’ classic performances.
Eduard Folayang Rips Through Amir Khan
Eduard “Landslide” Folayang’s most recent appearance in a World Title contest may have been his best.
The Filipino superstar went toe-to-toe with noted Singaporean knockout artist Amir Khan at ONE: CONQUEST OF CHAMPIONS in November and outstruck him over five highly-competitive rounds to recapture the ONE Lightweight World Championship.
While Khan’s punches offered his best offense, it was Folayang’s varied striking arsenal that proved to be the difference-maker. He employed his full range of wushu techniques to keep the Evolve product on the back foot and forced into a counter-striking approach.
Folayang controlled the distance with his kicks — some of them of the spectacular spinning variety — while effectively countering his rival at close range with his punches. Also, he displayed some excellent work whenever the two warriors were in the clinch.
After five rounds of highly-technical and energetic martial arts striking, the Filipino earned a unanimous decision and reclaimed the ONE Lightweight World Championship.
Angela Lee Edges Out Mei Yamaguchi
After reeling off five wins in a row, Lee — then 20 years old — knew she was going to have the toughest test of her career in the form of the seasoned Japanese star. The two battled in a non-stop encounter that had the crowd inside the Singapore Indoor Stadium thirsty for more.
Yamaguchi’s more polished striking gave her the advantage on the feet and although the Singaporean held a slight edge heading into the third round, “V.V.” dropped her with a massive right just seconds into the stanza.
It looked like the contest may have been heading in the Japanese athlete’s favor, but Lee showed the world her incredible resilience and sheer will to win. She used her top-notch grappling skills to help turn the match-up on its head.
When the scorecards were finally tallied, the local hero claimed a unanimous decision and the ONE Women’s Atomweight World Title.
Nearly three years later, Lee is still undefeated and the World Champion in her weight class. She will take on an even bigger test when she moves up a division to challenge the titleholder below.
Xiong Jing Nan Dominates Laura Balin
She defeated Argentinian challenger Laura “La Gladiadora” Balin in a match-up that cemented her status as the premier female strawweight athlete in The Home Of Martial Arts.
Balin entered the contest with a reputation as a solid grappler, but despite her early attempts to close the distance and make Xiong work in the clinch, the defending World Champion showcased excellent grappling skills of her own.
The Chinese athlete took her South American opponent to the mat and unloaded a barrage of ground strikes. That set the tone for the remainder of the match-up. Wherever Balin tried to take the action, “The Panda” always had the answer.
Xiong dictated terms in both the striking and grappling departments, and her outstanding all-round performance secured her a landslide unanimous decision.
Now, she looks forward to defending her gold against the atomweight queen in Japan.
Aung La N Sang Stuns Vitaly Bigdash
However, his performance in defeat was impressive enough to earn a rematch with a full training camp — and “The Burmese Python” made sure to make the most of his second chance.
Roared on by a passionate Myanmar crowd inside Yangon’s Thuwunna Indoor Stadium, Aung La N Sang produced a brilliant display in the rematch at ONE: LIGHT OF A NATION to outwork Bigdash and capture the ONE Middleweight World Championship on home soil.
“The Burmese Python” dropped Bigdash with a huge head kick in the bout’s opening round and poured on the pressure in search of a first-round stoppage victory. Bigdash showed the heart of a champion, however, and survived the round.
From the second round on, the bout saw the Russian utilize his wrestling and takedowns, while Aung La N Sang dominated the stand-up exchanges. It made for a fascinating back-and-forth clash of martial arts styles.
It was Aung La N Sang’s striking which proved to be the difference-maker, as his ability to land cleanly and consistently helped him win the contest — and the belt — in the eyes of all three cageside judges in June 2017.
Kevin Belingon Narrowly Defeats Bibiano Fernandes
After a long road back to the man who defeated him so decisively the first time they met in January 2016, Belingon arrived ready to avenge his defeat and achieve his goal in November 2018.
Belingon lost to Fernandes by first-round submission in the pair’s initial encounter, but he went the distance with the Brazilian in the rematch, with his vastly improved takedown and submission defense playing a crucial role.
The Filipino used his wushu striking skills to frustrate “The Flash” the stand-up exchanges, and he employed his evolving ground game to keep the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu ace at bay on the mat.
It proved to be a winning combination, as an emotional Belingon captured a huge victory via split decision to become the undisputed ONE Bantamweight World Champion.
Now, with the pair each holding a victory over the other, the two world-class martial artists will face off in Tokyo in the second-ever trilogy bout in the promotion’s history.