ONE Championship delivered one of the most exciting events of 2019 as ONE: AGE OF DRAGONS served up a host of thrilling match-ups, spectacular finishes, and memorable performances.
That was not much of a shock given the quality of action usually seen on the global stage, but many of the results in Beijing, China, were not what many fans would have expected.
Here are five lessons we learned from an unforgettable night of revelations on Saturday, 16 November, at the Cadillac Arena.
#1 Ennahachi Is The Undisputed Number One
In some fans’ eyes – particularly those in China – he had not proved his superiority over KLF World Champion Wang “Metal Storm” Wenfeng, who defeated the Dutch-Moroccan by close decision in 2017 to tie their series at one win apiece.
When they met for their rubber match, the stakes were much higher as they battled for the biggest prize in the sport and Ennahachi attempted to prove he was worthy of his World Title.
Although Wang pushed the pace and seemed to get stronger throughout the contest, the 23-year-old kept his composure under duress and consistently scored from the outside with slick, clean counters.
Through the five rounds, Ennahachi showcased his striking skills, his bout IQ, and a formidable gas tank as he battled at breakneck pace with the Chinese challenger to take a criteria split-decision victory and solidify his status as his division’s undisputed king.
#2 Kryklia Is A Whole Different Animal
Four years later, the pair faced off in a rematch for the ONE Light Heavyweight Kickboxing World Championship, and the KLF World Champion showed incredible improvements as he finished his rival with a barrage of strikes in the second round.
Khbabez built his reputation on his hard-nosed approach and ability to break the will of his opponents, but Kryklia met him head-on with precise, powerful strikes to overwhelm him.
First a head kick, and then big punching combinations stopped “The Tank” in his tracks – something that none of his previous four opponents in ONE Super Series came close to achieving.
It proved that Kryklia had learned the lessons from his defeat and evolved as an athlete to make history in The Home Of Martial Arts.
#3 Never Underestimate Anyone In ONE Super Series
Both are legends in the worlds of Muay Thai and kickboxing, but both came away defeated on a remarkable night that produced two of the biggest shocks in ONE history.
Yodsanklai had not been defeated in “the art of eight limbs” for 10 years, but he was stunned by Jamal “Kherow” Yusupov in remarkable fashion. The Beijing-based Russian knocked the Thai hero down, and then finished him in the second round.
On the prelims, Germany’s Christina Breuer never stopped attacking as she went the distance with Baars, who suffered her first-ever defeat when she lost out through the judges’ split-decision verdict.
It showed that even the most highly-regarded athletes have to be on their game at all times on the global stage because the rest of the world’s best strikers are out to claim conic status, too.
#4 Phogat Is A Natural For Mixed Martial Arts
Indian wrestling phenom Ritu “The Indian Tigress” Phogat arrived on the global stage to a sizable fanfare, and she showed that she has made all the right moves in her transition to mixed martial arts.
As you might expect, the Haryana native’s wrestling played a huge part in her success as she smartly took the action to the canvas.
From there, her evolving martial arts skills were on display as she showed great positional awareness to take control, as well as newly-developed ground and pound skills to seal the win via TKO.
It proved that Phogat is already on her way to becoming a fully-fledged mixed martial artist. With a strong team behind her at Evolve in Singapore, the sky is the limit for the hugely-popular 25-year-old.
#5 Saadulaev Looks Unstoppable At Bantamweight
Yusup “Maestro” Saadulaev had yet another impressive performance inside the Circle as he defeated Japanese contender Daichi Takenaka to push himself one step closer to a shot at the ONE Bantamweight World Title.
The Russian took the win by split decision over the dangerous Japanese contender after a grueling back-and-forth contest as he proved that he can absorb punishment and come back stronger to secure victory.
What is more, he left the arena with his arm wrapped up because he managed all of that after he suffered a suspected broken arm in the opening round.
With a strong chin, excellent grappling credentials, and the sort of toughness that makes him stand out even in his ultra-competitive division, the 34-year-old has all the tools to be a serious threat to the very best in his class.
After his latest victory, the Russian might just be the most dangerous potential opponent for Bibiano “The Flash” Fernandes once he has fully recovered.