Before this mixed martial arts matchup airs live from the Singapore Indoor Stadium, we break down the skill sets and paths to victory for both Aung La N Sang and Ataides.
#1 Aung La’s Punishing Hands
“The Burmese Python’s” boxing will be his biggest asset against the Nova Uniao representative.
Ataides doesn’t have the same kind of one-shot knockout power in his fists, and Aung La N Sang’s chin is seemingly carved from granite, so a toe-to-toe battle would likely favor the latter.
The Sanford MMA man will sometimes lead in exchanges, but most of Ataides’ defensive frailties come when he’s on the offensive. “Wolf” will move into range with his hands down, and when he swings his looping shots, he has a tendency to leave gaps and allow his chin to rise.
This is particularly true of the Brazilian’s left hook. If Aung La N Sang can time it right, he could slice his famous right uppercut through the middle of Ataides’ arc, or he could try to connect with a straight right counter down the center.
#2 Ataides’ Ferocious Airborne Attacks
Ataides is a physical specimen and certainly carries power in his strikes, but against Aung La N Sang, it’s unlikely that he’ll own the edge with his hands. Instead, “Wolf” can dig further into his locker and unleash his less orthodox weaponry.
The Rio de Janeiro native likes to control the center of the Circle and dictate his rivals’ movements with feints and stance switches. And when he can close them off against the Circle Wall, he can start to get more creative.
In those situations, Ataides is happy to dive in with dynamic strikes, such as flying knees, Superman punches, and spinning backfists.
A colossal “Wolf” careening in your direction at full throttle is always frightening. And if the primary attack doesn’t finish the job, he will step in with follow-ups to try and take advantage of a reeling foe.
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#3 Aung La’s Composure Under Fire
Those flurries from Ataides are where “The Burmese Python’s” composure, durability, and experience against big hitters will come into play.
If he can get the measure of Ataides’ occasionally wild output and keep his cool, Aung La N Sang should have ample space to return the favor with counters.
Moreover, Aung La N Sang can trust his own chin. He went shot for shot with former heavyweight king Brandon “The Truth” Vera and came out on top, and he’s never been knocked out in ONE despite eating more significant strikes than any other athlete.
With the confidence to absorb Ataides’ offense, the Myanmar icon can capitalize on his rival’s eagerness to test his striking by waiting for “Wolf” to commit his momentum forward.
When the Brazilian does that, the former two-division ONE World Champion can attack the openings with heavy punches that deliver double the impact, combining his own strikes with the Brazilian’s forward thrust.
#4 Ataides’ Elite BJJ
The ace up Ataides’ sleeve is his world-class Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Though he’s rarely used that skill in mixed martial arts, he won multiple BJJ World Championships and comes from a strong lineage at Nova Uniao.
Meanwhile, Aung La N Sang’s Achilles’ heel was exposed in his back-to-back World Title losses to De Ridder. The Dutchman quickly submitted “The Burmese Python” in their first bout and then repeatedly took him down and controlled the ground in their second meeting.
Though both Ataides and “The Dutch Knight” are BJJ black belts, the Brazilian is even more accomplished on paper. With that in mind, this matchup with Aung La N Sang might be the perfect time to go back to his roots. It certainly offers “Wolf” the best odds of victory, though he might fight with his heart and not his head.
Ataides has also spent time training with De Ridder in recent months — something that could have a mental impact on Aung La N Sang and influence the strategy in Friday’s bout.