When ONE: CENTURY PART I kicked off the biggest event in martial arts history, it brought 11 bouts’ worth of brilliant martial arts action, and taught us a lot about the athletes involved.
Here are five key things we learned from the first half of a momentous day at the Ryogoku Kokugikan, Tokyo on Sunday, 13 October.
#1 Lee Is Still “Unstoppable” At Atomweight
“Unstoppable” Angela Lee’s move up to strawweight saw her fall to the first two defeats of her mixed martial arts career, but her return to her optimal division saw her return to top form.
In the main event of ONE: CENTURY PART I, the Singaporean star produced one of the best performances of her career to submit ONE Women’s Strawweight World Champion “The Panda” Xiong Jing Nan with just 12 seconds remaining.
That meant the 23-year-old retained the ONE Women’s Atomweight World Title and maintained her undefeated record in the division she has lauded over since 2016.
Lee has been pushed hard a few times in World Title bouts at this weight, but every time, she has found what it takes to get her hand raised. It seems like it will be tough for anyone to take her belt away.
#2 “Mighty Mouse” Has Found His Groove
Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson did not seem to be at his brilliant best in his first two bouts in ONE Championship, but the greatest champion in mixed martial arts history finally hit top form against his toughest opponent yet at ONE: CENTURY PART I.
Johnson put on a virtuoso display to defeat Team Lakay’s Danny “The King” Kingad and capture the ONE Flyweight World Grand Prix Championship. As hard as the Team Lakay star tried, he simply could not find a way to trouble the magisterial American.
Unlike his bouts in the previous rounds where he took some time to move through the gears, Johnson dominated from the start thanks in large part to his supreme grappling ability.
His reward was a landslide unanimous decision victory that earned him his first belt on the global stage and set him up for the chance to capture another against ONE Flyweight World Champion Adriano “Mikinho” Moraes.
#3 Lee Is Here To Stay At Lightweight
But now with that prize over one shoulder, and the Lightweight World Grand Prix Title over the other, there can be no doubt that the Singaporean star is the man to beat in the division.
Even though he had just a few days to prepare for his bout with Saygid “Dagi” Guseyn Arslanaliev, he became the first man to truly defeat the 24-year-old phenom (his only other loss was via disqualification).
That proved that he will not be an easy man to unseat from the ONE lightweight throne, but a stacked roster of lightweights means there will be no shortage of contenders who will try to do that in the coming months.
#4 “JT” Deserves Her Shot At The Gold
Ever since Janet “JT” Todd was narrowly defeated by Stamp Fairtex in her promotional debut, the American Muay Thai star has tried to prove her worth in a bid to earn another shot at ONE Super Series gold.
At ONE: CENTURY, she may just have done that with a sensational performance against Ekaterina “Barbie” Vandaryeva.
The Belarusian is a three-time Muay Thai World Champion, but the Japanese-American took her out with a highlight-reel, head-kick knockout to deliver a statement to the ONE matchmakers.
That was her third win in a row following her KO of Wang Chin Long and hard-earned decision against former ONE World Champion “Killer Bee” Chuang Kai Ting. “JT” could not have done much more to prove she deserves another crack at the gold.
#5 Young Guns Are On The Rise
ONE: CENTURY PART I was also a big event for a host of young ONE Championship stars as they delivered the goods on the biggest stage of their careers.
Emerging atomweight contender Itsuki “Strong Heart Fighter” Hirata impressed as she submitted Thai fan-favorite Rika Ishige, while the South Korean duo of “The Big Heart” Yoon Chang Min and “Pretty Boy” Kwon Won Il both secured first-round finishes against established stars Phoe Thaw and Sunoto respectively.
It shows that while ONE already has a deep roster of World Champions, it is also bringing through the next generation of superstars on the big stage.