It was a toe-to-toe battle that thrilled fans in Yangon, Myanmar last June, and all signs point to a repeat at ONE: A NEW ERA in Tokyo, Japan this Sunday, 31 March.
However, it would be a mistake to stop at that conclusion. If you listen to both competitors, they will tell you that fans can expect an even more thrilling contest when their rivalry is renewed.
Before they step in the cage to make that a reality, take a look at what has brought the middleweight heroes to this point and how their match-up might play out.
The Road To Tokyo
Aung La N Sang will arrive in Tokyo as the ONE Light Heavyweight and Middleweight World Champion.
He kicked off 2018 by moving up a division to capture his second belt, but for the rest of the year, he was focused on defending his crown in his ‘natural’ weight class.
That resulted in the best bout of the year against Hasegawa, and then a first-round demolition of Mohammad Karaki in his native Myanmar.
There were several options available for “The Burmese Python” in 2019 across two divisions, but when The Home Of Martial Arts confirmed its inaugural event in Japan, there was only one match on the agenda.
Having welcomed Hasegawa on his home turf, it was time to return the favor and meet him again in his backyard of Tokyo.
Breaking Down The Bout
Just days after his epic defeat of Hasegawa, Aung La N Sang welcomed the idea of a rematch, but he was happy to pursue other opportunities. He later revealed it was a dream come true to compete in Japan, so he had no hesitation in accepting the rematch.
As the match-up drew near, and the two-division ONE World Champion’s training camp began, the 33-year-old promised to excite fans with another unforgettable battle – though he had his eye on an earlier ending.
Training is not the only thing that has occupied Aung La N Sang‘s time, however, and he explained how he has balanced his new role as Myanmar’s tourism ambassador with his duties as a world-class athlete. The national hero also revealed how he has embraced his role as an icon, and how that has shaped his approach inside and outside the cage.
His opinion did not change after two more months of preparation. Despite his confidence in the improvements he has made in the gym, the DEEP Openweight World Champion admitted he may not get the early finish he wants. He believes another knock-down, drag-out war is likely, but he is ready for anything.
He went on to reveal how his experience in ONE, and the response he has received from fans, has changed the way he thinks about his career. Finally, the 32-year-old explained how he will be driven by the spirit of bushido to prevail when he competes back home in Japan.
With everything in place for another historic bout, we analyzed what the keys to victory could be for each competitor – whether the encounter ends early or with a decision after 25 minutes.
We also explored the ways in which Hasegawa has proved he can persevere through the most difficult moments of a bout, as well as the reasons why Aung La N Sang could be better than ever when he returns to action.
After all that, it is difficult to picture anything but another show-stealing clash this Sunday.