ONE Championship is home to many established World Champion martial artists, but it’s also a platform for the most exciting young talents to showcase their skills.
Rising stars are given the chance to compete on the global stage, and a handful of exceptional prodigies have made the most of those opportunities by earning wins before reaching adulthood.
With 17-year-old Smilla Sundell set to compete for the inaugural ONE Women’s Strawweight Muay Thai World Title at ONE: Eersel vs. Sadikovic on Friday, 22 April, it’s the perfect time to look back at five phenomenal debuts from teen fighters in the Circle.
#1 Victoria Lee Prevails In High-Pressure Debut
At just 16 years old, “The Prodigy” faced Thailand’s Sunisa Srisen in her professional MMA debut and finished her via submission in the second frame.
In the opening stanza, Lee displayed the grappling ability often seen from her family members, and though she came close, she couldn’t put the durable “Thunderstorm” away.
However, Srisen couldn’t hold on forever. The Singaporean-American went on the front foot in round two, got to her opponent’s back, and managed to sink in a rear-naked choke just 63 seconds into the frame to cap off a testing but dominant debut.
“The Prodigy” has gone on to post a perfect 3-0 slate, and all three of those victories ended via stoppage.
#2 Christian Lee Shows World Championship Promise
Along with his older sister Angela, Christian Lee was the one who helped to pave the way for his younger sibling to race toward her dreams in the world’s largest martial arts organization.
“The Warrior” was 17 when he began his professional journey against David Meak at ONE: SPIRIT OF CHAMPIONS in December 2015, and he only needed 29 seconds to get the job done.
Lee charged at the Australian with punches and kicks, scoring with a left hook that made his foe retreat. “The Warrior” kept up the pressure as Meak tried to flee and dropped him with another stiff left hook to earn the finish.
That quick win was a sign of things to come from the Evolve MMA and United MMA product, who now has the most finishes (14) and KOs (10) in ONE history.
He also won the ONE Lightweight World Title and the ONE Lightweight World Grand Prix Championship in 2019.
#3 Supergirl Showcases Her Powers Against Lopez
At age 16, the Thai phenom ripped through her Argentinian rival with ferocious straight punches.
First, “Supergirl” timed Lopez’s low kick and drilled her with a right-hand counter that sent her to the mat. Then, when her opponent got back up to her feet, the teen fighter went on the front foot with jab-cross combinations.
Another straight right landed flush on Lopez’s chin, putting her down and out after 60 seconds of action.
#4 Smilla Sundell Blasts Her Way To World Title Shot
The 17-year-old Swede battered her foe with all of the tools in her arsenal, dropping Martin in every frame of their three-round battle.
Stiff body shots hurt the Australian, and Sundell finished the job with some hard left hands to the jaw, pushing her record to an impressive 32-5-1 despite her tender years.
That first victory was so impressive, it earned “The Hurricane” a shot at the inaugural ONE Women’s Strawweight Muay Thai World Title against Jackie Buntan at ONE: Eersel vs. Sadikovic.
#5 Jhanlo Sangiao Does Family Name Proud
Jhanlo Sangiao entered The Home of Martial Arts bearing the iconic name of his father Mark, the head coach of Team Lakay. So, there were high expectations when he stepped into the Circle for the first time at the age of 19.
Sangiao opened up with some sharp striking against the Indonesian and then dragged his opponent to the canvas to impose his ground game.
After dropping some hard ground-and-pound on Lumihi, the Filipino snapped up the opportunity to sink in the rear-naked choke when his foe turned away from the strikes and offered up his back.
Now 4-0 in his professional career, the future looks bright for “The Machine,” who gets to train alongside some of the greatest fighters in the world at his father’s Baguio City gym.