After some memorable moments over the past six months, ONE Championship is ready to kick it up a notch in the second half of 2021.
This Friday, 30 July, the world’s largest martial arts organization will return to the Singapore Indoor Stadium with ONE: BATTLEGROUND.
The six-fight card features a generational Muay Thai World Title headliner, a pivotal co-main event, and four more explosive mixed martial arts matchups.
Before the action broadcasts live from “The Lion City,” we examine the high stakes for every fight on the bill.
Sam-A & Prajanchai
The stakes couldn’t be any higher in the main event.
Reigning two-sport ONE World Champion Sam-A Gaiyanghadao is the most dominant strawweight in the promotion’s all-striking league, ONE Super Series.
He’s the titleholder in both Muay Thai and kickboxing, and he’s demolished almost every top-ranked contender in each division. What’s more, he’s never lost at this weight since joining ONE.
Still, the 37-year-old kingpin has heard critics say he’s too old to be fighting, and he will look to silence them with another flawless effort.
One of those critics is Prajanchai PK.Saenchai Muaythaigym, a rising phenom who was so decisive on the Bangkok stadium circuit that he had trouble finding credible opponents.
The 26-year-old believes his own time is now and even stated that Sam-A has a weak chin.
On Friday evening, we’ll find out if the torch will be passed to Prajanchai, or if the living legend will extend his reign of dominance.
Aung La N Sang & Leandro Ataides
The co-main event is filled with plenty of hype, as two of the top dogs in the middleweight mixed martial arts division will collide in the Circle with a potential World Title opportunity hanging in the balance.
The Myanmar hero is on the ropes for the first time in his ONE career, and if he hopes to regain his middleweight strap in the near future, he’ll need a victory in “The Lion City.”
However, Leandro “Wolf” Ataides is just as eager to get another crack at the gold.
Since suffering his first career defeat in the inaugural ONE Middleweight World Title bout nearly seven years ago, Ataides has been fine-tuning his game in hopes of getting another shot.
The Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu World Champion has built a strong case, winning three of his last four fights. His only loss during that window was a narrow decision to De Ridder, and he is the only opponent the Dutchman has never finished.
If “Wolf” can defeat Aung La N Sang in Singapore, he could be the next person to challenge De Ridder, who recently expressed interest in a second meeting.
Finally, Aung La N Sang and Ataides are tied for the most career knockouts in ONE’s middleweight division. If someone gets the KO in this battle, they’ll stand alone at the top.
Ryuto Sawada & Gustavo Balart
Leading into the headline attractions is a fast-paced strawweight mixed martial arts clash featuring top-shelf grapplers with heavy hands. At the same time, both of these men have their backs against the wall.
Japan’s Ryuto “Dragon Boy” Sawada has been a destructive force for most of his career to date, earning 14 professional victories with a 78 percent finishing rate.
But while the 25-year-old is a phenomenal young talent, he’s yet to defeat the top-ranked contenders at strawweight. And following a loss to Chinese wrecking ball Miao Li Tao, Sawada will need to make a major statement in Singapore if he wants to compete against the division’s elite in the near future.
Gustavo “El Gladiador” Balart finds himself in a similar situation.
After tearing up America’s regional mixed martial arts scene, the Cuban Olympic wrestler fought as an undersized combatant against international opponents in ONE’s flyweight division and didn’t find any success. And in his strawweight debut, an abrupt head kick turned off his lights.
There’s no doubt that “El Gladiador” has the skill set to compete with the division’s finest, but in order to kick-start a run at the gold, he must extinguish “Dragon Boy’s” flame on Friday.
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Ritu Phogat & Lin Heqin
They may not be in the ONE Women’s Atomweight World Grand Prix, but these two athletes could make their case to be an alternate.
Ritu “The Indian Tigress” Phogat’s transition from a wrestling champion to a mixed martial arts star took a hit in May when she fell to Bi “Killer Bee” Nguyen via split decision. The loss wrecked her spotless record and removed her from the biggest women’s mixed martial arts tournament ever created.
Now, everyone will get to see how Phogat handles adversity and if she can bounce back from her first defeat. “The Indian Tigress” is adamant about rejoining the World Grand Prix, but she’ll need to win just to earn consideration.
Meanwhile, “MMA Sister” Lin Heqin brings an 11-fight winning streak into this matchup and wants to prove that she was looked over for a spot in the tournament.
If the Chinese athlete can take out the Indian star – and perhaps even finish her – she might just get picked as an alternate.
Chen Rui & Jeremy Pacatiw
Two young bantamweights are looking to thrill the masses and work their way toward a spot in the rankings.
Jeremy “The Juggernaut” Pacatiw is the latest warrior from Team Lakay to make his debut on the global stage. The Filipino’s dream is to claim the ONE Bantamweight World Title, and he is focused on winning his first fight “at all costs.”
But “The Ghost” Chen Rui is as dangerous as they come.
“The Ghost” is motivated to get back on the winning track, but only one man can move forward this Friday.
Victoria Lee & Wang Luping
The night’s opening contest will feature rising star Victoria “The Prodigy” Lee, who has a lot of hype surrounding her.
Moreover, Lee had a terrific showing in her debut this past February, as she dominated Sunisa “Thunderstorm” Srisen and forced her to submit in the second round.
Now, the quiet high schooler will try to make it two in a row, let her performance do all the talking, and live up to all the hype.
“Little Sprouts” Wang Luping is the next person who’s been given a chance to play the spoiler.
The 21-year-old Chinese athlete has much more mixed martial arts experience than Lee and brings a three-bout winning streak into the matchup, so she poses a very real threat to the teen’s perfect slate.
If Wang can surprise Lee in Singapore, she would become an instant star.