ONE Championship is ready to close the book on 2021.
This Friday, 17 December, the world’s largest martial arts organization will air its final event of the year, ONE: WINTER WARRIORS II, and the stakes are extremely high for every athlete involved – especially the 12 mixed martial artists competing on the main card.
Several of those fighters could position themselves for ONE World Title gold in their divisions, while others could enter the rankings or make a strong first impression in their promotional debuts at the Singapore Indoor Stadium.
Here are the storylines and implications for every bout in the WINTER WARRIORS sequel.
Danny Kingad Vs. Kairat Akhmetov
These athletes were originally scheduled to fight in the 2019 ONE Flyweight World Grand Prix semifinals, but an injury forced Akhmetov to withdraw from the tournament. The bout has since been scheduled and delayed multiple times, but now, it’s set for Friday, and it could decide the next challenger for the divisional gold.
Team Lakay’s Kingad will be competing in his 12th bout in ONE’s flyweight division – which ties his old foe and reigning ONE Flyweight World Champion Adriano “Mikinho” Moraes for the second-most in promotional history.
Since his World Championship defeat to Moraes in November 2017, Kingad has won seven of his last eight fights. And if he can beat a former flyweight king in Akhmetov, he would make his case for the long-awaited rematch.
“The Kazakh,” however, is just as motivated to earn the victory. After beating Moraes via split decision for the ONE Flyweight World Championship in November 2015, he dropped the gold back to the Brazilian and then lost an interim title bout to Kingad’s Team Lakay stablemate Geje “Gravity” Eustaquio.
But after healing from injuries and making changes to his training camp, Akhmetov found his groove. He’s riding a three-fight winning streak and seems absolutely unstoppable. If he can take out “The King,” he might just secure a date with Moraes for a World Title trilogy.
Kevin Belingon Vs. Kwon Won Il
Two of the bantamweight division’s most fearsome knockout artists will meet in the co-main event, but while both of them want to put on a show, they’re at different place in their respective MMA careers.
Former ONE Bantamweight World Champion Kevin “The Silencer” Belingon has his back up against the wall. The Filipino veteran is still the division’s #2-ranked contender, but he’s coming off a couple of difficult setbacks – a submission defeat to reigning king Bibiano “The Flash” Fernandes and his first knockout loss to #1-ranked John “Hands of Stone” Lineker.
The Team Lakay star desperately wants to maintain his spot in the ONE Athlete Rankings and work his way toward a fifth match with Fernandes, which puts him in a must-win situation.
But “Pretty Boy” Kwon Won Il wants to take “The Silencer’s” spot and make his first run at the bantamweight throne.
Kwon is an exciting young talent and a breath of fresh air in the division. The 26-year-old South Korean knockout artist sports a 10-3 record, owns a two-bout winning streak, and is coming off a Fight of the Year candidate. Beating a big name like Belingon would be a game-changer.
Vitaly Bigdash Vs. Fan Rong
The next challenger for Reinier “The Dutch Knight” de Ridder’s ONE Middleweight World Championship could emerge from this matchup.
Following that victory, Bigdash was scheduled to challenge former two-division ONE World Champion Aung La “The Burmese Python” N Sang for his belts at various points. However, injuries and health issues prevented the mighty Russian from stepping into the Circle, and Aung La has since dropped both titles to De Ridder.
Now, Bigdash hopes to prove that he’s healthy, in top form, and ready to earn a crack at the Dutchman’s middleweight gold.
But “King Kong Warrior” Fan Rong is just as hungry. Aside from the chance to become China’s first male ONE World Champion, the surging athlete is eager to rematch “The Dutch Knight” and even the score with the only man who’s ever submitted him.
Zebaztian Kadestam Vs. Murad Ramazanov
The welterweight division will also be under the spotlight, as a former king collides with the next big thing.
Zebaztian “The Bandit” Kadestam has long established himself as the most devastating striker in the weight class, and he used his ferocious stand-up arsenal to claim the ONE Welterweight World Title in November 2018.
Although he made one successful defense, “The Bandit” ultimately faltered against grapplers, which led to his World Title loss and then the fastest defeat of his career. The Swede is now feeling the pressure and desperately needs to reverse his fortunes if he wants any chance to contend for the gold again.
But standing in his way is Murad Ramazanov, an undefeated Russian juggernaut who’s dominated his opponents with a lethal mix of grappling and striking.
Ramazanov has only competed in two promotional outings, but he ripped through “Wolverine” Bae Myung Ho and decimated Hiroyuki “Japanese Beast” Tetsuka. If he can do the same to Kadestam, he might line up a date with reigning welterweight king Kiamrian “Brazen” Abbasov.
Stephen Loman Vs. Yusup Saadulaev
A pivotal battle for positioning in the bantamweight rankings will commence in the second main card bout of the night, as debuting Team Lakay star Stephen “The Sniper” Loman takes on #3-ranked Yusup “Maestro” Saadulaev.
Loman was originally scheduled to make his promotional debut against the aforementioned Lineker in the main event of “ONE on TNT III” in April, but a positive COVID-19 diagnosis booted him from the show.
Ultimately, Lineker went on to knock out the Filipino’s replacement, Troy “Pretty Boy” Worthen, and earn the next crack at Fernandes’ ONE Bantamweight World Title.
Despite it being out of his control, “The Sniper” knows the canceled battle with Lineker was a big missed opportunity, but he believes defeating a highly ranked opponent could put him within striking distance of a World Championship opportunity.
Saadulaev, however, thinks he deserves a World Title shot with another victory. The Dagestani contender is riding a three-bout winning streak and hasn’t lost a fight in the bantamweight division since 2014, so this battle could be the clincher for him.
Jhanlo Mark Sangiao Vs. Paul Lumihi
Opening the main card is a brand-new teenage sensation and a well-respected veteran.
This will be an incredibly special walk to the Circle for famed Team Lakay head coach Mark Sangiao, as he’ll be cornering his 19-year-old son, Jhanlo Mark “The Machine” Sangiao.
The undefeated phenom represents the gym’s new generation of mixed martial artists, as he combines Team Lakay’s signature brand of wushu with grappling and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. That skill set led to a trio of finishes in his first three pro bouts – and the opportunity to sign with ONE Championship.
As for Paul “The Great King” Lumihi, he possesses four times more experience than his young opponent and has the tools to spoil the Filipino’s debut.
The Indonesian striker has endured a tough stretch during his time on the global stage and is still chasing that elusive first promotional win. But a triumph over the teen star would put Lumihi on the right track and make him the first Indonesian to beat a member of Team Lakay in ONE.
Read more: 5 Reasons To Watch ONE: WINTER WARRIORS II