The second quarter of 2019 served up an assortment of thrilling mixed martial arts bouts.
From April to June, there were a couple of breakout stars who utilized their grappling, striking, and submission prowess to earn a marquee victory in their respective careers.
As we head into the third quarter of the year, we reflect on four of the best mixed martial arts bouts from the last three months.
The action was fast and furious at ONE: ROOTS OF HONOR in April, as the Philippines’ Edward “The Ferocious” Kelly squared off against South Korea’s Sung Jong Lee in a thrilling featherweight match-up.
Lee looked to impose his grappling pedigree from the very start, and threatened with a rear-naked choke before the Filipino swept his rival to end up on top.
The scramble set the scene for a wild back-and-forth between the pair, as the Korean chased submissions and Kelly expertly defended, then responded with powerful ground strikes.
At the start of the second frame, Lee relentlessly pursued a heel hook. Kelly maintained his composure, achieved a solid base, and then rained down strikes on his opponent until the referee was forced to stop the bout.
It was the start of a successful night for Team Lakay, which saw the collective’s young member Joshua “The Passion” Pacio reclaim the strawweight crown.
Ultimately, the Singaporean proved those words to be true. He moved up a division to challenge the Japanese martial arts icon in the headline attraction of ONE: ENTER THE DRAGON in May.
Aoki looked to establish his grappling dominance from the start. Lee did well to shut down most of the veteran’s attacks, but eventually, the Japanese legend managed to lock up an armbar, which threatened to end the contest and the young prodigy’s World Title hopes.
Despite clear grimaces of pain etched across the 20-year-old’s face, “The Warrior” was able to somehow battle through the pain and escape as the crowd in the Singapore Indoor Stadium roared their approval at the end of the opening stanza.
In the second round, with the action back on the feet, Lee capitalized on his situation. He fended off Aoki’s attempts to drag the match back to the canvas, sent his Japanese rival to the mat with a salvo of strikes, and rained down a few more punches to defeat the legend.
With that victory, he became the youngest male World Champion in mixed martial arts history.
He stood toe-to-toe with the Philippines’ Richard “Notorious” Corminal for much of the first round, and as the frame progressed, it became evident that Raju had the striking advantage.
The Indian kept getting the better of the stand-up exchanges, and rocked the Filipino star with two big shots late in the period.
Corminal turned the tables when he faked a superman punch, and then stunned his rival with an overhand right. Seconds later, “Notorious” dropped the Indian with a right hook.
It seemed like “The Kerala Krusher” was in big trouble, but he was far from finished. He rallied, took Corminal to the mat, and softened him up with strikes. Then he transitioned to the back, sunk in the rear-naked choke, and forced the Filipino to submit.
However, Malaysia’s Agilan “Alligator” Thani was not there simply to be a willing dance partner for the Japanese-Korean legend. Ultimately, he outworked the veteran to earn a unanimous decision victory in what was arguably the best performance of his career.
Thani realized Akiyama still had plenty in the tank when the icon executed a picture-perfect judo throw, which sent the Kuala Lumpur resident flying through the air and crashing down to the mat. It was a spectacular moment — and one that seemed to sharpen the 23-year-old’s focus for the remainder of the welterweight contest.
From there on, the Malaysian out-struck Akiyama on the feet and marshaled the ring superbly. He kept the legend on the back foot throughout the bout, and mixed up his strikes with takedowns to ensure the veteran never had time to settle back into a rhythm.
As their grueling clash approached its conclusion, both men planted their feet and went all-out in a bid to score a late finish. The toughness of both competitors meant there wasn’t one, so the judges were called into action after three crowd-pleasing rounds.
When the verdict was rendered, it was Thani who got the nod, as the young Malaysian star added one of the biggest names in Asian mixed martial arts history to his list of victims.