The higher the risk, the sweeter the reward, and the heroes of ONE Championship have an opportunity this coming Friday, 26 January, to escalate up the ranks in the pursuit of their dreams.
As ONE Championship prepares to host its upcoming spectacle ONE: GLOBAL SUPERHEROES at the Mall Of Asia Arena in Manila, Philippines, there are opportunities throughout the card for the world’s best martial artists to make a statement.
There is always much at stake when our heroes take to the ONE cage. Here is what is on the line for some of them.
#1 The ONE Interim Flyweight World Championship
With reigning undisputed ONE Flyweight World Champion Adriano Moraes taking a short break from competition, a rare opportunity has opened up for Team Lakay veteran Geje “Gravity” Eustaquio and former titleholder Kairat “The Kazakh” Akhmetov.
The two warriors will square off against each other in a five-round main event, with the winner being awarded the ONE Interim Flyweight World Title, and the possibility to meet Moraes in a title unification match later this year.
Both Eustaquio and Akhmetov are the cream of the crop at flyweight. “Gravity,” a native of Baguio City, has been a perennial title contender for the greater part of his career, while the “The Kazakh” won the belt in his promotional debut in November 2015, before losing it nearly two years later.
Plus, the two combatants also have scores to settle, as their first encounter last September ended in a closely-contested split decision in favor of Akhmetov. This time, both are even hungrier to achieve a definitive result with a stoppage victory, claim the belt, and avenge their previous world title losses to Moraes.
#2 Career Resurgence And Redemption
Things have not been easy for featherweight veteran Eric “The Natural” Kelly over the past couple of years.
After a blistering 12-1 start to his professional career, defeating big names such as Mitch Chilson, Jens Pulver, Rob Lisita, and Hiroshige Tanaka, Kelly went on a three-bout skid against elite competition.
He experienced setbacks against former lightweight world title challenger Ev Ting, former ONE Featherweight World Champion Narantungalag Jadambaa, and most recently, former ONE Lightweight World Champion Kotetsu “No Face” Boku.
Now, the 35-year-old Kelly is looking for a career resurgence. He definitely possesses the talent to do so, but a successful comeback needs a certain level of dedication to achieve. Kelly, a Philippines Featherweight Champion, says he has kept training camp nice and tight this time around, and appears more determined than ever to achieve victory.
Kelly takes on returning Brazilian Rafael “Indio” Nunes (10-1) in a three-round featherweight contest. Nunes has not competed under the ONE banner since a loss to Koji “The Commander” Ando in 2014, but owns nine impressive finishes out of 10 victories in his career. “The Natural” will need to be in tip-top shape if he hopes to score a much-needed win.
After all, the Brazilian will be out to bounce back from his first career loss, and make a statement by taking out a former world title challenger in Kelly.
#3 A Return To Strawweight World Title Contention
Former strawweight world title challenger Yago Bryan is set to face highly-regarded Japanese grappler Hayato Suzuki in what should be an exciting match-up. The two martial artists both have well-rounded skill sets, and are equipped with seemingly non-stop motors.
Also, both are champions in their respective countries looking to crash their way back into the ONE Strawweight World Title picture.
Bryan, a Muay Thai practitioner and wrestler, is a Shooto South American Strawweight Champion who has endured a difficult time in the promotion. He has faced three elite strawweights in former ONE Strawweight World Champion Dejdamrong Sor Amnuaysirichoke, Gianni Subba, and fellow world title challenger Roy Doliguez, and has come up just short of victory each time out.
As for Suzuki, a previously unbeaten Grachan Flyweight Champion, he had a thunderous start to his ONE career.
The Japanese grappler submitted Joshua Pacio inside of the first round in his promotional debut back in August, but experienced his first career loss to reigning ONE Strawweight World Champion Alex Silva in November.
The two possess the talent to compete in a crowded strawweight division, but moving forward, each victory and each loss will hold significant weight. A win would elevate them to contendership, whereas a loss will send them tumbling further down the title ladder.
#4 Momentum In A Stacked Featherweight Division
After being plagued by injuries for years, Evolve MMA’s Pucci is entering 2018 on a high note. The Singapore-based Brazilian is finally healthy, and is entering the forthcoming match-up on the heels of a first-round TKO victory over Jimmy Yabo from back in June.
The grappling ace knows defeating Urrutia will not be an easy task, but will be out to add another stoppage to his perfect finishing record.
On the other hand, “The Honey Badger” has more than double Pucci’s cage experience and is riding a three-bout win streak, most recently defeating Team Lakay’s Edward Kelly in his promotional debut back in August.
Urrutia may not be as widely known as “Puccibull” just yet, but he is a well-rounded talent who trains out of the highly regarded Tiger Muay Thai & MMA camp.
Both competitors are looking to build some momentum and establish themselves in an action-filled featherweight division, and a victory could break the winner into the upper echelons of the weight class.