The Top 5 MMA Fights of 2021’s First Quarter

MMA fighters Shoko Sato and Fabricio Andrade compete at ONE: UNBREAKABLE III on 5 February 2021

ONE Championship’s mixed martial artists had to wait for their chance to shine at the start of 2021, but they made up for lost time when they were finally unleashed in the Circle.

After the first show of the year put ONE Super Series Muay Thai and kickboxing in the spotlight, athletes competing under the global rules made a huge impact in the five events that followed.

Fans were treated to edge-of-your-seat action every time The Home Of Martial Arts hit their screens in 2021’s first quarter, and these are the top five fights from those three months.

#1 Fabricio Andrade Vs. Shoko Sato

Despite going up against the world’s #2-ranked bantamweight, Fabricio “Wonder Boy” Andrade put on the performance of his life in a fantastic bout at ONE: UNBREAKABLE III in February.

The Brazilian took the fight to Shoko Sato from the opening bell by tagging him with some heavy punches and low kicks. The Japanese veteran tried to respond with his versatile grappling game, but whether he rolled for leg locks or tried to elevate his rival into a helicopter armbar, the efforts were shut down.

Sato was frustrated again at the start of the second stanza as Andrade continued to go all-out with his Muay Thai skills and land hard elbows in the clinch.

It was not one-way traffic, though. Sato threw everything at his rival, and Andrade had to demonstrate a granite jaw to survive a well-timed uppercut-left hook combo and a spectacular spinning elbow.

The contest could still have gone either way in the final round, and Sato continued to come forward, but the Brazilian stayed on-point with his striking and escaped every time his foe tried to impose his grappling.

The reward was a well-earned unanimous decision that catapulted Andrade into the bantamweight rankings.

#2 Kang Ji Won Vs. Mehdi Barghi

Their bout may have lasted fewer than five minutes, but “Mighty Warrior” Kang Ji Won and Mehdi Barghi packed more action into one round at ONE: UNBREAKABLE III than many competitors manage in three.

Within seconds of the opening bell, it looked like this was Barghi’s fight to lose. He put the South Korean on his heels with a right hand and then took him down and started to unleash punches.

But Kang survived the onslaught, escaped, and then took the upper hand, as a series of body blows helped drain the Iranian’s rapidly emptying gas tank.

The pendulum swung again when Barghi found a second wind, started to swing for the fences, and hit another takedown that facilitated the next barrage of ground strikes.

However, there was one more momentum shift left in this crazy contest. Kang muscled his way off the bottom and started to pound away on his exhausted opponent.

Barghi did everything he could to hang on until the bell, but referee Yuji Shimada had no choice but to save him with 10 seconds left in the opening stanza.

#3 Jenelyn Olsim Vs. Maira Mazar

The latest Team Lakay athlete to debut in the Circle lived up to her gym’s reputation by putting on a show to defeat #5-ranked strawweight Maira Mazar.

At the recent ONE: FISTS OF FURY III, Jenelyn Olsim made her mark by scoring a knockdown with a short counter right hand in the opening moments. She followed that with a series of knees and submission attempts, and when Mazar managed to get back to her feet, Olsim put her down again with a sensational straight right.

The Filipina picked up where she’d left off at the start of the second stanza by charging forward for the finish, but it looked like her failure to secure a stoppage could have cost her the match.

As the round wore on, Mazar found a foothold in the contest. The Evolve representative pushed her opponent against the Circle Wall, and although Olsim stayed busy, she started to absorb more strikes than she landed.

Mazar appeared to have the momentum, but there was one final twist in the tale. The Brazilian left her neck exposed as she pushed Olsim against the Circle Wall after the restart – and that mistake was her undoing.

The Filipina snatched a power guillotine, and Mazar was forced to tap at 0:41 of round three.

#4 Kwon Won Il Vs. Chen Rui

When it comes to absolute mayhem in the Circle, there was no fight quite like “Pretty Boy” Kwon Won Il’s knock-down, drag-out war with “The Ghost” Chen Rui at ONE: UNBREAKABLE II in January.

South Korea’s Kwon is used to winning bouts by first-round KO, and that would probably have been the case in this fight against an ordinary opponent once he started to land his signature right cross inside the first minute.

But Chen is made of tough stuff, and he fired back every time his chin was touched. Even after he was pummeled with a barrage of ground-and-pound, “The Ghost” never stopped throwing bombs.

However, his punches seemed to bounce off Kwon. The Korean kept coming forward, continued to score with precision power punches, and unleashed an array of spectacular elbows in round two.

By the start of round three, the writing was on the wall, and “Pretty Boy” closed the show with a finish that was worthy of the action that preceded it.

Chen’s chin just would not crack, so the South Korean went to the body with a lethal left hook that finally forced the Chinese athlete to crumble.

#5 Alyona Rassohyna Vs. Stamp Fairtex

The ONE: UNBREAKABLE III main event ended with one of the most dramatic finishes in ONE history, but not before Alyona Rassohyna and Stamp Fairtex went back and forth for 14 minutes and 53 seconds.

This bout was expected to hinge on whether the Ukrainian could impose her dangerous grappling game or if Stamp could dominate with her masterful striking.

However, Rassohyna gave her Thai rival plenty to think about on the feet, and Stamp showed off her evolving ground game to give her foe all she could handle on the canvas.

The Thai star appeared to be nearing a decision win, but disaster struck in the final moment when she got caught in a tight guillotine and tapped out with just seven seconds remaining in the fight.

The finish was not without controversy, as Stamp protested that she had not given up. Regardless, there was no denying that Rassohyna had a sensational debut victory on the global stage.

Stamp was distraught, but she’ll have the chance to redeem herself in a rematch against Rassohyna in the first round of the ONE Women’s Atomweight World Grand Prix at ONE: EMPOWER on 28 May.

Read more: 5 Reasons To Get Excited For The ‘ONE On TNT’ Event Series

More in Features

Tayfun Ozcan makes his way to the Circle at ONE on Prime Video 2
Japanese MMA fighter Yoshiki Nakahara fights Shinechagtga Zoltsetseg at "ONE on TNT II"
Regian Eersel Sinsamut Klinmee ONE Friday Fights 9 105
Kade Ruotolo makes his way to the Circle at ONE on Prime Video 3
Tyson Harrison Rambo Mor Rattanabandit ONE Friday Fights 11 37
Sitthichai Sitsongpeenong Mohammed Boutasaa ONE on Prime Video 3 1920X1280 31
Tommy Langaker celebrates after his win against Uali Kurzhev at ONE Fight Night 7
Mansur Malachiev
Regian Eersel Sinsamut Klinmee ONE Friday Fights 9 101
Jackie Buntan Diandra Martin ONE Fight Night 10 11
Superbon Singha Mawynn throws a kick on Chingiz Allazov at ONE Fight Night 6
Tommy Langaker celebrates after his win against Uali Kurzhev at ONE Fight Night 7