What he couldn’t predict is that the middleweight title bout would go down as one of the best displays of martial arts skill, heart, and determination that the sport has ever witnessed – and the 2018 Bout Of The Year.
For more than 20 minutes, Aung La N Sang and Hasegawa went back and forth in a war of attrition at the Thuwunna Indoor Stadium in Yangon that tested the mettle of both athletes.
The performance of a lifetime from Aung La Nsang(Burmese Python) & Ken Hasegawa!Download the ONE Super App now http://bit.ly/ONESuperApp
Posted by ONE Championship on Wednesday, September 12, 2018
In the end, the national hero retained his title with a stunning fifth-round finish, but Hasegawa walked away with a lot of credit after giving his opponent everything he could handle.
On March 31 in Japan, the two combatants will do it all again at ONE: A NEW ERA in Tokyo, Japan as part of a stacked card featuring three World Title bouts, as well as the debuts of both Demetrious Johnson and Eddie Alvarez.
Before they clash again, Aung La N Sang sat down to look back on his epic battle with Hasegawa from June.
ONE Championship: What does your battle with Ken Hasegawa mean to you?
Aung La N Sang: Both of us went there to fight. Every shot we threw, we were trying to knock each other out. Up until the very last second, we were trying to finish the fight.
He’s Japanese, and all these Japanese fighters are warriors. When we fought, he was kind of awkward for me because of his stance, and certain things he did kind of threw me off. It made for a great match because it was very back and forth.
ONE: Did you know this was going to be a war from the first round?
ALNS: I knew it was going to be a fight when I threw that overhand [in the first round], and when I landed flush, he didn’t back away.
He adjusted, I threw some kicks, and as I threw my shots, his defense was a little awkward for his southpaw stance. He lifted his elbow up, and I was like, ‘This guy has some weird techniques.’
I knew it was a fight when the overhand landed and he wouldn’t go down. He threw a head kick, and at that point, I knew it was going to be a fight.
ONE: Most would say the second round was his strongest. He exerted a lot of energy and poured it on. How were you able to weather the storm?
ALNS: I felt those shots. In my head, I’m thinking, ‘You’ve got to use more head movement and make sure your guard is up because he is hitting me hard. Keep your hands up, make sure your guard is up and stay aggressive.’
That’s what I did. I knew I was taking the shots, and I had to keep reminding myself about head movement and making sure my guard was there.
ONE: Going into the third round, it seemed like he slowed down a little bit. Did you notice that?
ALNS: I did notice. That’s why I tried to put more body shots in. I threw a lot more body shots because they slow people down.
A body shot takes a toll on you over time, but he actually took those body shots pretty well.
ONE: He hit a takedown in the third round but you were able to bounce back up again. How did that affect you?
ALNS: He took me down, and there’s a moment where I ended up in side control, and I said, ‘You’ve got to keep working, you’ve got to push through, and just get up.’
Once I got up, I knew I was going to be able to get up every time. That gave me some confidence.
ONE: What was your corner telling you going into that fourth round?
ALNS: My corner was telling me that he was getting tired, and my left hook was landing. ‘Come over the top, throw that left hook, that left hook is landing. Make sure you’re circling to his left.
I got off the stool, and I remember looking, and he was a little bit more tired than I was – or at least I thought he was more tired than I was.
ONE: In that fourth round, you also mixed in a couple of takedowns, and you were going for submissions. What made you switch things up?
ALNS: There was a point where he was really planted on his feet, and I felt like I could sweep him, and I could put him down. So I would cut, kick across, and sweep him.
I changed to my southpaw stance, and I did that. The thing was, my straight boxing and my kicks weren’t working, so I had to be a little more creative.
I had to do a spinning elbow because he could see everything I was throwing. I had to mix things up a little bit and push the pace. He’s a short and burly guy, so he was able to fight off those chokes, but I was okay with it.
Sometimes, when a fighter is being punished, they kind of give you the choke, but he wasn’t.
ONE: When the fourth round ended, you were in control. Did you think it was a matter of time before you put him away?
ALNS: In my head, I told myself, ‘You don’t want a decision. You want to finish this fight.
‘If it’s a decision, people are going to say he only won because it’s in Myanmar. I need to make this decisive, so you need to push, and you need to put him out.’
ONE: Can you walk us through that finishing sequence?
ALNS: I knew he was tired, and I knew his guard wasn’t as tight as before, so I tried to finish him with a Superman punch, but it didn’t quite land.
I threw a knee, and I switched to southpaw, and I threw an overhand left. As he was coming in, I landed my right uppercut.
ONE: What was going through your head when he finally fell?
ALNS: It’s about time you went down!
ONE: How satisfying was it to get that knockout after such a tremendous battle?
ALNS: That’s going to be in the books of my best fights.
It’s satisfying because he came to fight, I came to fight, and we put on a good show. At the end of the day, we’re friends, and it’s good because it’s martial arts, and it’s a sport.