The spotlight may be on ONE Welterweight World Champion Ben Askren, who is preparing for his final title defense and retirement bout against Shinya Aoki in the headlining attraction of ONE: IMMORTAL PURSUIT this Friday night in Singapore, but there is a dazzling co-main that could steal the show.
On 24 November, in a battle of explosive young talent versus seasoned veteran, two top lightweights in Singaporean knockout artist Amir Khan and Adrian “The Hunter” Pang will vie for a spot at the top of ONE Championship’s stacked lightweight ranks.
Both competitors have spectacular skills, and love to thrill the crowd by trading heavy leather in the center of the cage, so fans should be in for a treat. What’s more, a victory will push the winner one step closer towards an opportunity at the ONE Lightweight World Championship, which means they’ll be all the more motivated to put on a show.
The Official Introductions
Khan’s life was very different ten years ago. He was an avid golfer, well-behaved, and, unfortunately, picked on by his classmates because he had Tourette’s Syndrome. But, after he discovered Muay Thai at age 14, he was able to control the syndrome’s muscle tics, and excelled in ‘the art of eight limbs.’
He became a Muay Thai champion, and in February 2014, entered the cage for the first time in Louisiana, USA. Khan would be submitted in his first professional bout, but soon returned to his home country, joined Evolve MMA, and has taken his career to new heights in ONE Championship.
Pang discovered martial arts through Bruce Lee movies as a child living in Papua New Guinea. When he moved to Brisbane, Australia to live with his mother at age 15, he formally began his training with kung fu. Nearly eight years later, after watching Royce Gracie cause mayhem with his Brazilian jiu-jitsu in North America, Pang was motivated to learn all he could about ‘the gentle art’ in hopes of competing inside the cage, earning a black belt himself.
In 2001, the Aussie-based martial artist followed Gracie’s footsteps into the cage. Despite losing his first few contests, he gained some valuable experience, and went on a tear that saw him become one of Australia’s top lightweights. Now, he is a proud veteran of 34 bouts, and a former Legend Lightweight Champion.
The Journey To The Singapore Indoor Stadium
Khan has been an wrecking ball in the lightweight ranks. Ever since dropping a heartbreaking split decision to Thai star Shannon Wiratchai in May 2015, the Singaporean has fine-tuned his game, and got his career back on track. He defeated his next five opponents, earning dynamic stoppage victories in every one. His most recent victory over Czech athlete Jaroslav Jartim even set the record for most knockouts in ONE history at seven.
Following the bout, Khan expressed his desire to challenge for the ONE Lightweight World Title. Although he has not been granted a title shot, he received a massive step up in competition, and is now poised to enter the upper echelon of the promotion’s lightweight division.
Pang has experienced some tough luck as of late. He dropped a unanimous decision to future lightweight world champion Eduard Folayang in August 2016, and then lost a razor-thin split decision to Roger Huerta two months later. However, as he would later find out, he had gone through both contests while competing with a hard-to-diagnose fractured bone in his leg.
Now fully healed and recovered from the injury, Pang is driven to prove that he still has what it takes, to not only compete with the organization’s promising young talents, but the lightweight world champion himself.
Routes To Success
Khan is a well-rounded athlete, but his expertise lies in the striking department. After all, he is a Muay Thai champion, and trains alongside some of the greatest Muay Thai world champions in history at Evolve MMA. He wants to extend his incredible knockout record to eight, and plans to do that by tiring Pang out before going for the final blow.
“I will just keep my range, dance around him a little bit, and wear him out,” Khan previously said. “He is going to be swinging for the fences, from what I visualize. I’ll make him ticked off a bit, and then take him out in the second round.”
Pang does not believe that will happen. In fact, it may be the other way around. While the Australian holds a BJJ black belt and a distinct advantage on the ground, he is also a talented striker with an iron chin. As such, he is willing to stand up with Khan, just to see just how good he really is.
“I have been competing for over 15 years,” Pang said. “If he thinks he is going to knock me out, he’d better think of something different, because positive thinking is not going to help him. No one has ever knocked me out, so if he were to do it, then fine — let him be the first.”
Rich Franklin, Martial Arts Legend And Former Middleweight World Champion
“This match is a big step up in competition for Khan. Pang has a chin of granite, likes to plant his feet, and unleashes punches like a blender in motion. Khan needs to stay on the outside and use his reach to avoid getting caught, as he will be several inches taller than Pang.
“Though Pang likes to trade, the path of least resistance would be to take his opponent to the ground. If I were coaching Pang, we would lull Khan into range by planting Pang’s feet with several punching combinations. Once his opponent became focused on his hands, then we would look for the takedown. If Khan is taken down, he cannot play the bottom game of a grappling match.”
Shannon Wiratchai, ONE Lightweight Contender
“This is a great matchup. Khan, after he lost to me via split decision, has been working hard. Not only his striking much more technical, but his strength and his groundwork are also well developed. But Pang is another beast compared to Khan’s previous opponents. He is much stronger on the striking side, and more technical on the ground.
“Personally, I really want to see this bout. With Khan’s decision to take this match, that means he is confident enough in his progression. And for sure, the winner of this match is highly possible to be one of the next lightweight world title challengers.”
Mitch Chilson, Broadcast Commentator And Former ONE Athlete
“Khan has been on a tear since losing to Wiratchai. The victims are piling up as he marches towards a title shot, but Pang is his most experienced opponent. Khan likes to pressure his opponents into breaking – he overwhelms them in the first round, and most of his opponents are unable to handle it. He prefers to look for the knockout rather than take his opponents down, while his combination of timing and footwork make it hard to get a read on his stand-up. He will need to stay out of range from Pang, moving in-and-out while landing shots along the way.
“I would like to see Pang mix in the takedowns, because he has a good ground game. His top pressure is solid, and he has good ground and pound. He needs to get Khan off his feet and slow him down, and he can do that by mixing the takedowns in with his boxing. He should use the experience of being in the cage over 30 times to his advantage, and create a game plan to give the young gun a long night.”