The second quarter of 2021 produced plenty of incredible bouts in ONE Championship’s mixed martial arts ranks, but some stood out above the rest.
The most memorable battles featured a mix of different factors — from world-class skills and back-and-forth action to more intangible aspects like heart, desire, and passion.
With all of those elements in mind, here are the five greatest mixed martial arts fights that took place on the global stage from April to June of this year.
#5 Bi Nguyen Vs. Ritu Phogat
The undefeated Phogat was slated to compete in the ONE Women’s Atomweight World Grand Prix later in the year, but she risked her spot by accepting this matchup. Meanwhile, Nguyen felt disrespected and vowed that she would not be a “warmup fight” for the Indian star.
In the end, “Killer Bee” ruined Phogat’s flawless professional record and knocked her out of the Grand Prix with a hard-fought split decision.
The fight itself was a clear case of grappler versus striker, as wrestling sensation Phogat tried to close the distance, drag her rival to the mat, and score with damage on the ground.
However, Nguyen was not there to accept that narrative and landed with punches, kicks, and knees at every opportunity.
When she was taken down, Nguyen never stayed underneath without a fight. Despite long spells of control from “The Indian Tigress,” the Xtreme Couture athlete constantly looked to scramble and then return fire on the feet.
Both competitors enjoyed moments of success, with Phogat clocking up more minutes in dominant positions, and Nguyen doing the most damage in the stand-up.
This was reflected on the scorecards, as one judge scored it for the Indian, but the other two gave the edge to “Killer Bee” after 15 closely contested minutes.
#4 Reinier De Ridder Vs. Aung La N Sang II
After capturing the ONE Middleweight World Championship from Aung La “The Burmese Python” N Sang back in October 2020, Reinier “The Dutch Knight” de Ridder completed his raid on the Myanmar star’s trophy cabinet at “ONE on TNT IV.”
The Breda, Netherlands, native stepped in to challenge Aung La N Sang on late notice after Vitaly Bigdash withdrew from the ONE Light Heavyweight World Title clash, but he looked as strong as ever in the 25-minute encounter.
De Ridder started in similar fashion to his first win over “The Burmese Python.” He took his man down early and then threatened with a rear-naked choke from the back. But this time, the Sanford MMA product was better prepared and fended off the attacks.
It didn’t stop there though. Throughout the course of the fight, “The Dutch Knight” dragged his man to the canvas, worked his way into dominant spots, and took control with strikes and submissions.
Aung La N Sang’s defensive skills and grit helped him out of some tight spots, and he never stopped looking for a way back up, where he could score with strikes.
However, despite a late surge in the final frame, it was once again De Ridder’s night, as he scooped up a unanimous decision win after five intense rounds and became a two-division World Champion on the global stage.
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#3 Amarsanaa Tsogookhuu Vs. Ben Wilhelm
Amarsanaa “Spear” Tsogookhuu showed Ben Wilhelm that the step up to ONE is a big leap in class. The previously unbeaten Hawaiian received the first blemish on his record thanks to an imperious Tsogookhuu performance at ONE: FULL BLAST II.
Wilhelm was aggressive and worked his tried-and-tested formula of blasting in close behind hard punches, but the Mongolian was ready for it, fended off the takedown attempts, and scored with hard punches in close.
Wherever the American’s offense had been successful in the past, “Spear” had an answer. He stayed composed when the looping punches came in, either using his footwork to get out of danger or countering with hard hooks in close quarters.
The Gracie Technics athlete showed that he definitely has the grit and durability to compete at the elite level, but Tsogookhuu was a step ahead in the skills department on this night.
The battle of will versus skill lasted 15 minutes, at which point the judges rendered their unanimous decision in favor of the rising Mongolian star.
#2 Reece McLaren Vs. Yuya Wakamatsu
Two top flyweights were gunning for World Title contention at “ONE on TNT III,” and it was Yuya “Little Piranha” Wakamatsu who took the step forward after a tough battle with Reece “Lightning” McLaren.
As with every Wakamatsu contest, the Japanese slugger pressed forward with his ferocious punching power. Veteran McLaren used his experience to weather some of the storms that came his way and looked close to a finish with ground strikes and a rear-naked choke in the opening stanza.
However, “Little Piranha” had clearly made improvements in his wrestling game and made the Aussie work for every inch in the latter two rounds. He either stuffed “Lightning’s” takedown attempts or escaped from the BJJ black belt’s grasp when he was taken down.
Neither man stopped working until the final bell, but it was clear that McLaren was more fatigued in round three – and Wakamatsu took advantage.
The Japanese star found a home for more of his punches, and his sprawls met less resistance as “Lightning” waned due to the fast-paced action.
With 15 minutes in the books, “Little Piranha” took the unanimous decision and his fourth straight win to put himself in a commanding position in the flyweight rankings.
#1 Eddie Alvarez Vs. Ok Rae Yoon
Fresh off a massive win over Marat “Cobra” Gafurov, Ok started with confidence, as he stopped the American from gaining any control on the canvas and popped back up to his feet to work his stand-up arsenal.
Frustrated, Alvarez was forced to engage and ate a massive right cross that put him flat on his back. The South Korean dived on his foe, but “The Underground King” showed his famed toughness to hold on and survive the first round.
After recovering from that scare, the American tried to punch his way into takedowns for the rest of the bout. He struggled to keep Ok contained, though, and the Team MAD athlete fired off punches, kicks, and knees toward his surging rival.
“The Underground King” continued to press forward aggressively, but Ok found the cleaner strikes on the feet. There was no respite for either man across 15 minutes of action, and they needed the judges to separate them.
In the end, all three awarded the decision to the South Korean, who went from relative unknown to a global star and a potential World Title contender in the space of a few weeks.