When ONE Championship arrived in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam for the first time on Friday, 6 September, there was no end of surprising outcomes.
At ONE: IMMORTAL TRIUMPH, all 12 bouts on the bill offered some fascinating action as stars rose to the occasion, found a way to pull off fantastic finishes, and thrilled the fans inside the Phu Tho Indoor Stadium.
After an entertaining night of kickboxing and Muay Thai, we also learned a lot about the athletes involved. Here are just five of the lessons we learned.
#1 Nong-O Can Adapt To Any Challenge
After more than 300 Muay Thai bouts across 20 years in the game, Nong-O Gaiyanghadao still has what it takes to defeat young, hungry challengers.
The ONE Bantamweight Muay Thai World Champion looked supreme as he began the second defense of his belt against Brice “The Truck” Delval, but the 20-year-old from Algeria surprised many fans when he started to give the Thai icon a run for his money as the contest wore on.
He refused to be intimidated by the Evolve representative and made use of his height advantage as he pushed forward and gave Nong-O some problems with his kicks.
However, the 32-year-old adjusted to everything Delval threw at him and continued to batter him with punches and his impeccable kicks. That was enough to convince two out of three judges that the belt should stay in Singapore with an all-time great of “the art of eight limbs.”
#2 Vietnamese Stars Thrived On Home Soil
Home advantage was a real thing for the martial artists on the bill with Vietnamese blood running through their veins as they went four for four at ONE: IMMORTAL TRIUMPH.
Each of these competitors enjoyed rabid support from the local crowd, and they were driven to victory by the deafening roars that came from the stands.
Michael “The Beast From The East” Pham got things off to the perfect start with his win against “Ant Man” Mohamad Fakri Bin Yusoff in the first match of the night, before Bi “Killer Bee” Nguyen defeated Puja “The Cyclone” Tomar and Chris Nguyen beat Yukinori Ogasawara.
#3 One Kulabdam Left Hand Can Decide A Match
Kulabdam Sor. Jor. Piek Uthai’s powerful left hand has earned him a reputation as a potent knockout artist in his native Thailand, but even if he cannot get the finish, his signature weapon can make the difference in a bout.
The two-time Lumpinee Stadium Muay Thai World Champion was pushed hard as his contest with Bobo “The Panther” Sacko, but it was too little, too late for the Frenchman.
In the first round, the man from Surin had found a home for his money punch, which forced a standing eight-count, and gave him a near-unassailable lead.
After a strong Second round from Kulabdam, Saco needed a late KO to win, but his Thai rival was too tough to fold under his pressure, and he took the judges’ decision.
#4 Santino Verbeek’s Chin Is Made Of Stone
A lesser man than Santino Verbeek would not have left the Phu Tho Indoor Stadium with a win on Friday night.
The Dutch kickboxer was ahead in his welterweight clash with Juan Cervantes thanks to a first-round knockdown, and although the Englishman battled back in the second stanza, it looked like the Sokudo Gym representative was on his way to victory.
However, for a split-second, it looked like Verbeek would be the victim of a shocking highlight-reel knockout as his rival took flight and nailed him with a perfect flying knee and punches.
That was until fans realized that the 24-year-old from Hoorn somehow barely flinched from the blows. Remarkably, he kept his composure and weathered the storm through the final round to take a majority decision.
#5 Vietnam Loves Martial Arts
The atmosphere in Ho Chi Minh City throughout ONE Championship’s first event week in Vietnam was fantastic.
Athletes and their teams from countries all around the world were welcomed with open arms, and a packed Phu Tho Indoor Stadium was electrified by the action in the ring.
One thing is for sure, The Home Of Martial Arts will be back in town, and the fans will out in force when it returns.