Breaking Down ONE’s Loaded Featherweight MMA Division

Halil Amir Ahmed Mujtaba ONE Fight Night 16 38

ONE’s featherweight MMA division stands among the most talent-rich rosters in all of combat sports.

From reigning divisional king Tang Kai to dangerous top contenders hoping for a shot at gold and undefeated rising stars poised to establish themselves as superstars, there is plenty of action to follow.

And with unbeaten phenoms Akbar Abdullaev and Halil Amir set to throw down in U.S. primetime on May 3 at ONE Fight Night 22: Sundell vs. Diachkova on Prime Video, it’s time to take a closer look at this intriguing collection of athletes.

ONE Featherweight MMA World Champion Tang Kai

Ruling the featherweight MMA division is explosive knockout artist Tang Kai – China’s first-ever male MMA World Champion.

In March at ONE 166: Qatar, the 28-year-old returned from a long injury layoff to score a highlight-reel stoppage against interim titleholder Thanh Le, unifying the ONE Featherweight MMA World Title and further cementing his status as the most dangerous fighter in the weight class.

It was Tang’s second World Title victory over Le and extended his pristine ONE Championship slate to 8-0 with five finishes.

Now that the Chinese sensation has closed out his rivalry with the Vietnamese-American, he can expect no shortage of skilled contenders aiming for his gold.

Surging #2-Ranked Contender Garry Tonon

Ever since Garry “The Lion Killer” Tonon came up short in his March 2022 bid for the ONE Featherweight MMA World Title against Le, the outspoken American has been on a warpath to earn another crack at the throne.

To that end, he’s reeled off a trio of impressive submission victories to establish himself as perhaps the division’s most obvious next challenger.

In his last outing, the #2-ranked contender made quick work of former two-division ONE World Champion Martin Nguyen, reminding fans that he is one of the best – if not the very best – pound-for-pound submission artists in all of MMA.

Akbar Abdullaev Vs. Halil Amir At ONE Fight Night 22

The co-main event of ONE Fight Night 22 will see two of the division’s fastest-rising contenders square off in a matchup with big implications.

One of Akbar “Bakal” Abdullaev or Halil “No Mercy” Amir – each boasting perfect 10-0 records – could earn a spot in the top five with a victory in this highly anticipated clash.

Hailing from Kyrgyzstan and training out of Moscow, the 26-year-old Abdullaev burst onto the global stage in 2023 with back-to-back first-round knockout wins over Oh Ho Taek and Aaron Canarte. Those explosive victories undoubtedly put the rest of the division on notice.

“No Mercy,” meanwhile, went on a 3-0 tear through the lightweight MMA ranks, showcasing his well-rounded skill set and ruthless finishing instincts. He’ll look to keep his meteoric rise going in his new weight class.

What’s more, this battle has fireworks written all over it, as both men fight with the finish in mind and neither is willing to take a step backward.

The Rest Of The Top Five

In addition to Abdullaev and Amir, the featherweight MMA division isn’t short on contenders with something to prove.

Notably, with the exception of Tonon and his three-fight winning streak, the rest of the division’s top five have recently lost to fellow ranked featherweights.

That includes former titleholder and current #1 contender Thanh Le, #3-ranked Russian prodigy Ilya Freymanov, #4-ranked Nguyen, and #5-ranked grappling powerhouse Shamil “The Cobra” Gasanov.

For his part, Gasanov has already bounced back to the win column with a dominant showing against South Korea’s Oh Ho Taek.

Given how dense the top of the featherweight MMA division is, each man on this list knows he’s just a win or two away from securing a coveted shot at the World Title – but that a loss would move them down the ladder.

Rising Talent At ONE Friday Fights

Ever since ONE began holding weekly Asia primetime fight cards at Bangkok’s iconic Lumpinee Boxing Stadium, the ONE Friday Fights series has been a breeding ground for elite martial artists, producing breakout stars such as ONE Women’s Atomweight Kickboxing World Champion “The Queen” Phetjeeja and #5-ranked bantamweight MMA contender Enkh-Orgil Baatarkhuu.

Several featherweight MMA athletes have also made waves at ONE Friday Fights and could make their own cases to earn six-figure contracts with the organization.

Mongolian scrapper Nachyn “Samurai” Sat is 2-0 in ONE Friday Fights with a pair of highlight-reel finishes and looks to have all the physical tools and technical acumen to reach the division’s upper echelon.

Also, 22-year-old standout Adilet “Tiger” Alimbek Uulu showed plenty of promise in his dominant debut at ONE Friday Fights in February, dispatching South Korea’s Cho Gyu Jun with a second-round submission victory.

Finally, fans should keep an eye on undefeated Azerbaijani competitor Suleyman “Sultan” Suleymanov, who pushed his professional record to 10-0 with an exciting submission win in his ONE debut last December.

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