5 Reasons Why Bantamweight May Be ONE Championship’s Most Exciting MMA Division

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ONE Championship’s bantamweight MMA ranks are stacked with talent, and the forthcoming ONE Fight Night 18 on Prime Video card clearly illustrates that.

This Friday, January 12, the division will be under the spotlight in U.S. primetime, as three bouts are guaranteed to add high-octane action to the bill inside the iconic Lumpinee Boxing Stadium in Bangkok, Thailand.

Third-ranked contender Kwon Won Il takes on Mongolian knockout artist Shinechagtga Zoltsetseg, #4-ranked Artem Belakh meets Road To ONE: Mongolia winner Enkh-Orgil Baatarkhuu, and Filipino-Kiwi veteran Mark Abelardo welcomes undefeated rising star Ibragim Dauev to the global stage.

With all eyes on them ahead of the big show, here are five reasons why ONE’s bantamweight MMA ranks could be the promotion’s most exciting division to watch in 2024. 

#1 It’s Loaded With World-Class Strikers 

Every MMA weight class has its share of great strikers, but none have the density of elite stand-up practitioners as the bantamweight division.

A cursory glance at the division’s top-five rankings proves this, starting with ONE Bantamweight MMA World Champion Fabricio Andrade.  

The Brazilian – who recently challenged for the kickboxing gold – had a long history in the striking world before switching his focus to MMA. Since that move, Andrade has looked unstoppable, utilizing his hybrid style to dispatch his opponents with a signature blend of punches, kicks, and knees that have been finely tuned for the all-encompassing sport.

Former ONE Bantamweight MMA World Champion and current #1-ranked contender John Lineker isn’t far behind, as he is considered one of the most powerful pound-for-pound punchers in the sport. There’s also #2-ranked Stephen Loman, Kwon, and Belakh, who are known for their striking prowess.

Just outside the top-five bantamweight MMA rankings are even more world-class strikers, including Zoltsetseg, Abelardo, Kim Jae WoongJeremy Pacatiw, and former divisional king Kevin Belingon.

#2 There’s Crazy Finishing Rates 

Being a technically great striker doesn’t necessarily mean someone is a great finisher, but the division is also packed with athletes who can dispatch their opponents quickly.

For instance, five out of Andrade’s six promotional wins have come inside the distance, including the last four by knockout.

Lineker – known as “Hands of Stone” – has 18 career wins via KO and even knocked out Bibiano Fernandes to claim his ONE Bantamweight MMA World Title in March 2022. And all eight of Kwon’s ONE victories have also come through his concussive fists.  

Add in the likes of Abelardo with 14 KOs and Kim with nine, and you have consistently explosive matchups that could end in an instant.

#3 A Need For Speed 

In a division where striking is king, speed is crucial, and the bantamweights have no issue on that front.  

Again, Andrade leads the pack, with a brain that works in overdrive to help him stay a step ahead of the competition.

However, several of the division’s most dangerous warriors can rival the reigning king on this front.

Among them is Loman, who is known as “The Sniper” due to his rapid-fire striking and precision. His Filipino compatriot, Pacatiw, is similarly quick, and Kwon can unleash his heavy punches in the blink of an eye. 

With fast hands, fast feet, and fast reactions, the global fan base knows they have to pay close attention when the bantamweights get going.  

#4 They’ll Be Battling It Out For Years 

Another thing that’s exciting about the bantamweight MMA division is that there are swathes of established names who are still in the prime of their careers with many solid years ahead of them.  

Lineker is one of the elder statesmen at 33, but he’s still in fine form and only getting sharper. Andrade, who sits on the throne, is just 26 years old.

Both Loman and Kwon are 28, which gives them plenty of time to pursue gold. Outside of that, Belakh, Pacatiw, Zoltsetseg, and Chen Rui are 27, and there’s even more young talents coming up behind them.

Simply put, these world-class athletes could be battling it out for years to come.

#5 New Talent Rising 

The bantamweight MMA fighters who are in the upper echelon of the division may be on fire now, but there are plenty of rising stars who are snapping at their heels.

Several of them are emerging from the organization’s weekly Asia primetime event series, ONE Friday Fights. 

Baatarkhuu was a dominant force in both of his ONE Friday Fights showings last year, but there’s a plethora of talents who are following his lead with impressive performances, including Carlo Bumina-angBen Royle, and Ivan Parshikov.

With the events coming thick and fast, ONE Friday Fights will continue to unearth and promote even more elite fighters in 2024. 

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