For two of ONE Championship’s finest warriors, their quest for gold has led them to Yangon.
This Friday, 23 February, ONE Middleweight World Champion Aung La “The Burmese Python” N Sang will attempt to become a two-division world titleholder when he challenges Alexandre “Bebezao” Machado at ONE: QUEST FOR GOLD.
The headlining bout takes place at the Thuwunna Indoor Stadium in Yangon, Myanmar, and it will be contested for the vacant ONE Light Heavyweight World Championship.
Two Journeys, ONE Destination
Born in Myitkyina but raised in Yangon, Myanmar, Aung La N Sang was a brilliant student and a competitive athlete at the Yangon International School. He played sports such as soccer and basketball for the school’s varsity squads, but to minimal success.
It would not be until 2004 in Michigan, USA, however, when he unknowingly took the first steps of his martial arts journey. He was mesmerized by a large Samoan classmate hitting a heavy bag in the Andrews University gymnasium. That sparked his initial curiosity, and then a road trip to a Carlson Gracie affiliate school in Indiana ignited his passion.
“The Burmese Python” was enthralled by the martial arts, made his professional debut a year later, and has been honing his craft and making history ever since.
While it took nearly two decades for “The Burmese Python” to begin his martial arts journey, Machado started his at five years of age.
As a child growing up in Rio De Janeiro, he learned Brazilian jiu-jitsu from his father. It was a bonding experience they shared until the age of 13, when his dad, a police officer, was tragically killed on duty.
That tragedy was a crushing blow, but it caused the rest of the family to lean on each other even more. “Bebezao” became a black belt in “the gentle art,” taught his little brother the same techniques he once learned from his father, and became the head of the family.
Also, they run Familia Machado Jiu-Jitsu, with a little help from their mother and sister.
After accumulating nine yeas of competition experience, Aung La N Sang signed with ONE, and made his promotional debut in June 2014. Since then, he has been on an absolute tear.
“The Burmese Python” has won six of his seven bouts, but what really catapulted him into superstardom were his epic battles of 2017. First, Aung La N Sang beat previously-undefeated titleholder Vitaly Bigdash at ONE: LIGHT OF A NATION last June via unanimous decision to capture the ONE Middleweight World Championship, as well as become Myanmar’s first-ever world champion.
He continued to make history later that November, when he met four-time Muay Thai and kickboxing heavyweight world champion Alain “The Panther” Ngalani at ONE: HERO’S DREAM in ONE’s inaugural Open Weight Super-Bout. Aung La N Sang submitted the hulking knockout artist via guillotine choke in the first round to claim victory.
Now, Aung La N Sang gets an even bigger challenge.
As for Machado, he turned his attention to the cage following immense success in BJJ. Ever since his professional debut in August 2007, “Bebezao” has compiled an 8-2 professional record, and won both the Armagedon Fight Heavyweight Title and the Peru FC Heavyweight Title.
Most notably, the Brazilian also defeated Ngalani. At ONE: HEROES OF THE WORLD in August 2016, he clashed with “The Panther,” and exhausted the kickboxing behemoth in the first round. Only 21 seconds into the second stanza, he was able to earn the TKO.
Both Aung La N Sang and Machado have tamed “The Panther.” Now, we find out which warrior can conquer the other.
The Routes To Light Heavyweight Gold
Aung La N Sang is a well-rounded and versatile martial artist. He has many strengths, but perhaps his best quality is his ability to exploit his opponent’s weaknesses.
The Myanmar hero, who spent his training camp at Hard Knox 365 in South Florida, believes his rival’s proficiency rests in his jiu-jitsu. With that in mind, he wants to turn this contest into a striking battle, but will also keep his eyes open for an opportunity to submit the submission master.
“This guy is more of a grappler, so I will be looking to stuff the takedowns and keep it standing,” Aung La N Sang says.
“Grappling is the only way he is able to beat me, but I have many ways to beat him. If the opportunity permits, I may even look to submit him. But the only way he can beat me is by grappling.”
Machado knows the odds are stacked against him.
“The Burmese Python” is unbeaten at the Thuwunna Indoor Stadium, but the Brazilian is convinced he will be able to do what Bigdash, Ngalani, and others have not been able to do, which is defeat and stop the Myanmar icon.
He plans to do that by leaning on his grappling and his world-class BJJ black belt expertise
“For him, it is a mismatch,” Machado explains. “He is a striker, and does not defend takedowns well. Also, he is not a very fast striker. He relies on volume, so I intend to take him down, put him on his back, and submit him.”
Michael Schiavello, ONE Championship Lead Commentator
“I think Aung La N Sang needs to keep it on its feet. He has really heavy hands that he can drop like sledgehammers. [He should] keep the match on the feet, avoid the takedowns, confuse and disrupt any rhythm Machado may try to establish, and punish him in the striking. If it goes to ground, he needs to get on top and drop the sledgehammers like there is no tomorrow.
“Machado needs to evade the striking, get Aung La N Sang to the ground, and look for submissions. He should be careful not to allow Aung La N Sang to get to a position where he can unload ground and pound. If on his back, Machado needs to throw the legs up, use every trick in the BJJ book, and try to use something he may never have seen before. Inventiveness could be the key to victory here.”
Mitch Chilson, Broadcast Commentator And Former ONE Athlete
“Aung La N Sang’s game plan is simple: he needs to stop the takedown and throw those hands. He went to Florida, and he changed everything up. He surrounded himself with some of the best martial artists on the planet at Hard Knocks MMA, so you know he is ready. But you can never count “Bebezao” out.
“Machado is hungry, and he knows that this is a chance of a lifetime. He needs to pressure Aung La N Sang with forward movement. He typically likes to get his opponents against the cage and take them down from there. Machado is a strong light heavyweight, and he needs to use that strength to hold down the middleweight king, beat him up on the ground, and go for a finish.”
Alain Ngalani, ONE Heavyweight Contender
“I think it is fifty-fifty. Machado likes to go on the ground. He is basic on the ground and pound, and tries to choke you. Aung La N Sang also is comfortable standing and trading wild punches, but comfortable on the ground, too.”