After just three months of 2019, the mixed martial arts superstars of ONE Championship have already delivered a heap from unforgettable contests.
Despite the pressure to deliver on the global stage, the athletes have risen to the occasion and engaged in some back-and-forth battles that are sure to feature when we talk about the year’s most exciting encounters in December.
As ONE continues in its mission to take the world’s most exciting martial arts action across Asia, take a look back at, in no particular order, the top five shining examples of back-and-forth brilliance so far this year.
#1 Xiong Jing Nan VS Angela Lee
The first women’s World Champion versus World Champion bout in ONE history delivered a match-up to remember as the momentum shifted one way, then the other in a thrilling encounter between “The Panda” Xiong Jing Nan and “Unstoppable” Angela Lee.
At ONE: A NEW ERA Xiong’s ONE Women’s Strawweight World Title was on the line, and the ONE Women’s Atomweight World Champion was determined to take it as she quickly took control of the contest. Lee forced the usually-aggressive Chinese athlete onto the back foot for the majority of the opening two rounds.
The momentum swung back to the defending World Champion in the third frame as “The Panda” started to find a home for her powerful punches, but just as it looked as if Xiong was ready to take charge, Lee switched gears again.
She came agonizingly close to securing a finish with a tight reverse triangle armbar in round four, but despite being trapped in the hold for almost two minutes, Xiong survived, and then came storming back in the fifth and final round.
“The Panda” looked as fresh as the first round, but Lee’s energy was spent, and she had no answer for the torrent of strikes that came her way and allowed Xiong to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat via TKO.
#2 Danny Kingad VS Senzo Ikeda
Filipino star Danny “The King” Kingad booked his place in the ONE Flyweight World Grand Prix semi-finals at ONE: A NEW ERA, but he was pushed all the way by local hero Senzo Ikeda in an exciting contest that had the fans gripped from start to finish.
Both athletes showcased breathtaking skill sets as they battled it out at breakneck speed over three full rounds before the judges rendered their verdict.
Each competitor looked to land big shots on the feet, but was equally comfortable taking the action to the mat and scrambling for a submission.
The pace was relentless, and the action non-stop as the two athletes battled back and forth inside the Circle, but in the end, it was Kingad’s work that stood out to the judges, who gave him a unanimous decision.
The Filipino earned the victory after one of the most exciting bouts of his career, but he has never had to work harder to get his hand raised.
#3 Ariel Sexton VS Amir Khan
Costa Rican wild man Ariel “Tarzan” Sexton showed the world his tenacity was matched only by his will to win as he battled back from adversity to finish Singapore’s Amir Khan in a ONE Lightweight World Grand Prix thriller at ONE: CALL TO GREATNESS.
Khan’s slick striking gave him the upper hand at first. Sexton never stopped coming forward in search of a submission, but he ate a lot of strikes – including some hard elbows up close.
He was eventually dropped by a big right hand in the second stanza, which might have been the beginning of the end for most men, but Sexton would not be denied.
He continued to pile the pressure on his opponent when he regained his wits in the same round, before he struck gold in the final frame. “Tarzan” eventually secured the takedown, took Khan’s back and finished the bout with a rear-naked choke to close a modern classic.
Japanese warrior Yoshiki Nakahara finishes Emilio Urrutia with a sensational TKO at 2:50 of Round 3!Watch the full event on the ONE Super App http://bit.ly/ONESuperApp | TV: Check local listings for global broadcast
Posted by ONE Championship on Saturday, February 16, 2019
Yoshiki Nakahara knew he was in for a war when he stepped up against one of The Home Of Martial Arts’ most tenacious athletes, but he met Emilio “The Honey Badger” Urrutia in the middle of the ring and produced a debut to remember at ONE: CLASH OF LEGENDS.
The American wanted to make this a brawl, but Nakahara established his striking from the opening bell to keep him at bay and pile on the damage.
In the second round of the featherweight contest, the Japanese athlete turned up his power to score a knockdown, but “The Honey Badger” was far from finished. He came back strongly and fought fire with fire in an attempt to restore parity.
However, Nakahara stayed cool and switched gears to wrestle in round three. That approach left Urrutia exhausted, and when the contest returned to the feet, he left an opening to be struck with a decisive left hand. Follow-up punches sealed the deal, and a new star emerged in the featherweight division.
#5 Adriano Moraes VS Geje Eustaquio III
The third meeting between Adriano “Mikinho” Moraes and Geje “Gravity” Eustaquio was the first World Title trilogy bout ever staged on the global stage for martial arts, and both athletes made sure it lived up to the occasion at ONE: HERO’S ASCENT.
There was no shortage of drama, as Moraes allowed the defending World Champion to become comfortable in the stand-up in the opening round, before he switched things up to use his black-belt Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu skills on the mat.
Although Eustaquio’s vastly improved ground game skills ensured that he was not submitted during the contest, Moraes’ grappling superiority shone through, and he kept the Filipino on the defensive.
One nail-biting submission attempt saw “Gravity’s” leg wrenched 180 degrees in a remarkable Suloev stretch, but he survived to battle on.
However, the close finish was the icing on the cake of a brilliant performance from the Brazilian, who claimed the unanimous decision victory and reclaimed the World Title after a memorable encounter.