ONE Championship ended its 2016 in grand fashion. The organization staged quite arguably its biggest card yet, ONE: AGE OF DOMINATION, on Friday Night, 2 December, at the Mall Of Asia Arena in Manila, Philippines, and it was a night full of unforgettable moments.
Brandon Vera returned home to defend the ONE Heavyweight World Championship against Hideki “Shrek” Sekine, Bibiano “The Flash” Fernandes had a back-and-forth affair with Reece “Lightning” McLaren, and Filipino heroes such as Mark “Mugen” Striegl and the members of Team Lakay entertained their countrymen all throughout the night.
Here is a look back at the top five highlights of ONE: AGE OF DOMINATION.
Long considered one of the best bantamweights in the world, Bibiano “The Flash” Fernandes has not lost a match in six years. In fact, he has finished his last three opponents.
On the other hand, his opponent Reece “Lightning” McLaren has made it a habit of defying the odds. The Australian even defeated Filipino superstar Mark Striegl and the previously-unbeaten Muin Gafurov in his two ONE Championship appearances. So when McLaren fought Fernandes, it had the potential to be the biggest upset ever.
Though “The Flash” thoroughly had the upper hand in the first two stanzas of the battle between two BJJ black belts, McLaren loosened up with his striking and cleanly broke the champ’s nose with a left hook in the third round.
That altered the course of the fight entirely, as the Aussie’s confidence waxed and the Brazilian temporarily waned. It transformed into a back-and-forth striking war with each going through stages of having the upper hand, and it became abundantly clear that “Lightning” had enough cardio for another five rounds.
“The Flash” was awarded the fight via split decision, the closest he has come to losing in the past six years. Whether a rematch happens or not will be determined in the future. But after a performance like this, it is clear McLaren will no longer be considered an underdog in the future.
#2 Brandon Vera Dominates “Shrek”
It was quite the homecoming for Brandon “The Truth” Vera. The ONE Heavyweight World Champion, who had permanently relocated to Manila just months earlier, defended his beloved title for the first time in front of his people at the Mall Of Asia Arena against the unbeaten mammoth known as Hideki Sekine.
Vera perfectly embarked on his own age of domination with his performance. Not only did the Filipino-American wisely pick his shots, but he absolutely dwarfed the flustered “Shrek” — both from a physical standpoint and a skills perspective.
That is not to say that Sekine was a walkover, though. The Japanese steamrolled through DEEP’s megaton division in Japan and practically cleaned out the division. He also cut his teeth in the ADCC, belying his grappling pedigree.
Between Vera’s masterful dodging and immensely powerful shots, this is undoubtedly the best version of the Filipino-American superstar the world has ever seen.
Leandro Ataides was unstoppable when he first entered ONE Championship in 2013. The five-time Brazilian jiu-jitsu world champion rounded out his deadly Nova Uniao submission game with lethal Muay Thai skills courtesy of the world champion instructors from Evolve MMA, and went on a two-knockout run.
However, he soon suffered three consecutive losses, starting with a knockout loss to Igor Svirid for the inaugural ONE Middleweight World Championship. Ataides desperately needed to right the ship, and planned to do so against Mohamed Ali.
Ali, an Egyptian Wushu Champion, nearly knocked out Ataides himself. But the Brazilian dug deep, implemented his game plan of taking his opponent down, and with six seconds left in the second round, shocked the crowd by crumpling Ali with a flying knee.
The fight was over right then and there. Not only did Ataides get the victory he needed, but he did so in honor of his recently-deceased sister.
Toni Tauru desperately needed to get back into the win column. Ever since “Dynamite” made his much-heralded debut in ONE against champion Bibiano Fernandes for the bantamweight strap, it seemed as if his career took a complete nosedive.
Not only did he get knocked out by the champ, but he lost his next two fights. It was not exactly the way he envisioned his tenure in ONE to go.
With his match against Team Lakay’s red-hot Geje Eustaquio in his home country, the stage was set for another defeat. But the Finnish bantamweight would not let that happen. He stepped fearlessly into enemy territory, dominated the Filipino from the opening bell, and submitted him with a top-level rear-naked choke.
Tauru was able to bring his right leg high enough to trap Eustaquio’s right arm against his own body, leaving him defenseless to the choke. It was a beautiful submission, and the type of victory needed to remind people he is still a force to be reckoned with.
#5 Jenny Huang’s Rare Gogoplata
Toni Tauru was not the only mixed martial artist to step into enemy territory. Three months following her victory over Jeet Toshi, Women’s atomweight prospect Jenny Huang of Chinese Taipei was offered a bout against Benguet native and local favorite April Osenio.
Although many counted the Judo black belt out, especially when the Team Lakay representative stunned her in the first round with an array of strikes, she persevered by focusing on her grappling wizardry.
With under a minute left in the second stanza, she was in the full mount position and was in prime position to lay in some ground and pound. Osenio reversed it, but Huang showed off her submission expertise by setting up, and locking in, the ever-so-rare gogoplata. The Chinese Taipei fighter was always a threat on the ground, and is now undefeated at 5-0.