ONE Championship was out in full strength this past Friday Night, 10 February, at the company’s latest show, ONE: THRONE OF TIGERS. It was an unforgettable evening of fights at Stadium Negara in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and several victors made some major statements inside the cage.
Most notably, a pair of hometown heroes stated their case for future title shots. Ev Ting edged out former ONE Lightweight World Championship challenger Kamal Shalorus en route to a split decision victory, while Agilan “The Alligator” Thani continued his journey towards Ben Askren’s ONE Welterweight World Championship.
Malaysia has plenty to be proud about. Actually, they have six reasons to be proud, as all six of their warriors took home wins. In addition to that, there was an incredible debut from undefeated combat sambo specialist Movlid “Killer” Khaibulaev, and a touching tribute to Casey Suire, who sadly passed away last weekend in a road accident.
Here are five of the top highlights from ONE: THRONE OF TIGERS.
#1 Ev Ting Grabs Split Decision Victory In Slugfest
The man known as “E.T.” has had an incredible, and sometimes under-the-radar, run in ONE. Ting has defeated the Kelly brothers, ex-champ Honorio Banario, and hard-hitting Aussie Rob Lisita since joining the organization in 2014.
In the THRONE OF TIGERS main event, he took on a very formidable Kamal Shalorus in what turned out to be a slugfest. The Auckland MMA product, by way of Malaysia, kept mixing up his strikes and his stances, which often confused the heavy-handed Iranian Wrestling Champion. He constantly stayed busy, turned Shalorus’ lead leg into five different shades of purple and stunned him at the very end, which sealed his fate.
With E.T. winning seven of his last eight fights, he may have just earned that title shot he so desperately seeks against ONE Lightweight World Champion Eduard Folayang. Shalorus might have come up short, but he put forth a worthwhile effort that could have easily gone the other way.
#2 Agilan Thani Continues Building Steam
Agilan “The Alligator” Thani keeps impressing in his ONE campaign. He had fought respectable competition in previous events, but took a step up at THRONE OF TIGERS when he locked horns with Jeff “The Machine” Huang.
But frankly, Huang had no answer for the Malaysian. Thani’s relentless style, very much in the mold of ONE Welterweight World Champion Ben Askren, was on full display as he suffocated the Taiwanese in the clinch, brought him to the mat, and rigorously wore him out with an unforgiving ground attack comprised of strikes and constant submission attempts. It led to Thani’s masterful rear-naked choke finish in the second round.
Thani has made his desire for a title shot clear, and there is no doubt he is well on his way. Truly, this Alligator has yet to be threatened in his MMA career — both on the amateur and professional levels. His meteoric rise from a chubby 140kg teenager is quite amazing to watch. So even if Askren is not next, which more than likely he is not, a step up in competition is a must.
#3 Saiful Merican And Burn Soriano Throw Down
It may have been short, but the opening contest between Malaysia’s Saiful “The Vampire” Merican and the Philippines’ Burn “Hitman” Soriano set the pace for an action-filled night. In the first half of the fight, the two strikers let their hands and feet fly, with “The Vampire” getting the better of the exchanges. He briefly rocked “Hitman”, and even backed him up against the cage.
In the second half, Soriano appeared superior on the ground, neutralizing the local favorite with a kimura, and at one point securing a rear-naked choke. But upon getting to his feet, Merican’s pinpoint Muay Thai knee strike and standing elbow smashes dazed a tired Soriano, and did enough to leave him remaining on the stool at the bell.
For Merican, he earned his first stoppage victory in his entire MMA career, and did so against a quality opponent.
#4 Ann Osman’s First-Round Submission
Ann “Athena” Osman is one of the brightest star in Asian Women’s MMA, and her star shone a little brighter on Friday Night. The Malaysian heroine remained patient as she battled unbeaten Kun Khmer Flyweight Champion Vy Srey Khouch in her MMA debut. She was careful to stay out of the Cambodian’s range and engaged just enough fluster her opponent.
Nearly halfway through the bout, Khouch threw a body kick. It would be the mistake Athena was waiting for. Osman caught the leg, drove her rival to the canvas and never allowed her up. She called upon her ever-reliable ground and pound, and struck her downed opponent for nearly two minutes. With two seconds left to spare in the opening round, Khouch had stopped intelligently defending herself and referee Olivier Coste had no choice but to call the bout.
Osman bounced back with a much-needed victory and continues to forge a path for herself in the developing strawweight division, which also includes the likes of Michelle Nicolini and Tiffany Teo, who defeated wushu gold medalist Priscilla Hertati Lumban Gaol earlier in the night.
#5 Keanu Subba Dedicates Victory To Casey Suire
This was a particularly difficult fight for Keanu Subba. The Malaysian featherweight stepped into Stadium Negara with memories of his recently-deceased Bali MMA compatriot Casey Suire heavy on his heart. On top of that, he was battling undefeated Pakistani prospect Ahmed “The Wolverine” Mujtaba, someone who should not be taken lightly.
It would have been understandable if Subba was not in the right state of mind, but he was calmer and more focused than ever. After evading Mujtaba’s takedown attempt, the Malaysian brought his opponent to the ground with an inside leg trip and cleverly secured a fight-ending guillotine choke.
An emotional Subba then got on the mic and dedicated the victory to his fallen friend, Suire, which was a touching gesture that serves as another reminder of how precious life really is.