ONE Championship launched their 2017 event cycle in spectacular form on 14 January as the organization returned to the Jakarta Convention Center in Indonesia with ONE: QUEST FOR POWER.
Whether it was ONE Middleweight World Champion Vitaly Bigdash’s successful first title defense or the statement made by Martin Nguyen with his TKO of Kazunori Yokota, this card was loaded with highlights.
Here are the top five from the night.
#1 Vitaly Bigdash’s Sublime Performance
Up until recently, there was not too much known about Vitaly Bigdash. The unbeaten Russian was known as a finisher, who won four of his previous bouts via submission and another four via TKO.
We knew he was tough. After all, he was dropped by Igor Svirid multiple times during their title bout at ONE: TIGERS OF ASIA back in October 2015, but he survived the early onslaught and knocked out the Kazakhstani on his way to claiming the belt.
But 15 months after defeating Svirid for the ONE Middleweight World Championship, Bigdash finally showed the type of mixed martial artist he is: a well-rounded juggernaut who can go the distance and become even more dominant as the fight wears on.
The Rostov-on-Don native took his time deciphering his opponent Aung La N Sang, but midway through the second round, he controlled the fight. He outmuscled the “Burmese Python” in the clinch, manhandled him on the ground, and dropped some of the hardest elbows and body shots seen in quite some time. In fact, he became stronger as the match continued.
Bigdash looked phenomenal, and intrigue now surrounds a future bout with his original challenger, Marcin Prachnio. All the credit in the world to the Myanmar hero for taking the bout on two weeks’ notice. Even without anything close to a full-fight camp, he was able to hang for a full five rounds taking Bigdash further than ever before in his career. That speaks volumes, too.
#2 Martin Nguyen’s Sizzling Knockout
Ever since his loss to ONE Featherweight World Champion Marat Gafurov as a late replacement, Martin Nguyen has continued to tighten up his game in an effort to gain a title rematch. “The Situ-Asian” delivered a pair of TKOs to Edward Kelly and Li Kai Wen, and then stopped the meteoric rise of then-unbeaten prospect Christian Lee.
However, his most inspiring victory happened on this particular night when he faced former DEEP Featherweight and Lightweight Champion Kazunori Yokota. Early in the bout, Nguyen connected with a couple of rights flush on his Japanese opponent’s chin, setting the tone for what was to come.
Three minutes into the bout, he dodged Yokota’s jab and dropped him with another perfectly-timed overhand right, before finishing him off with ground and pound strikes.
The calls for a title rematch between Nguyen and Gafurov will only get louder, as they should. The Situ-Asian looked absolutely flawless.
#3 The Anthony Engelen Attack
Anthony Engelen gave his adopted hometown crowd something they will not soon forget. “The Archangel” knew the Indonesia-Malaysia rivalry was in full swing on the night, so he made sure not to let his countrymen down.
Engelen, a tea taster turned mixed martial artist, waited patiently as he went toe-to-toe with ONE Featherweight Malaysia Tournament Champion AJ “Pyro” Lias Mansor. Just a minute and a half into the contest, the Dutch-Indonesian saw an opening and ran forward with a barrage of left hooks and right crosses, which sent Pyro falling like a tree in the forest.
The Archangel was never in any danger and the knockout gave Indonesia a leg up in the friendly rivalry. Now on a two-fight win streak, Engelen will look for a step-up in competition the next time he enters the cage.
There were many moments during the bout where the pair mixed it up. The man known as “Magnivincent” punished Vaughn “The Spawn” with leg kick upon leg kick, whereas the Filipino marched forward with a mix of punches, kicks, and knees. The difference maker in the contest was Latoel’s ability to score takedowns. Though the Dutchman maintained top position, Donayre constantly worked submission attempts and stayed active with strikes from the bottom.
The judges wound up giving the victory to Latoel. But, even in defeat, Donayre put forth a worthwhile effort and constantly remained busy. It will be a pleasure to see these two back in the cage once again.
#5 Sunoto’s Ground & Pound
“The Terminator” Sunoto kicked off the main card in style. After suffering an agonizing loss six weeks ago to Edward Kelly, the Jakarta, Indonesia, resident was determined to turn the momentum around in a hurry, and did the pendulum swing back in a big way.
After ducking a punch from Chan Heng, Sunoto went for a single leg takedown and never let his Cambodian nemesis up.The Indonesian was patient when transitioning from position to position, eventually securing full mount. More impressively, The Terminator pinned down Heng’s left arm with his right knee, rendering him completely defenseless. It was checkmate.
Sunoto returns to the win column and, although his desired rematch with Kelly may not happen for quite some time, he can at least take some solace that he made his countrymen proud.