Some of ONE Championship’s most fearless athletes are ready to enter the Circle.
This Friday, 28 January, the promotion brings ONE: ONLY THE BRAVE to the Singapore Indoor Stadium. At the event, a big win could help several kickboxers and mixed martial artists earn a spot in the rankings, a tournament championship, and even a shot at a World Title.
Ahead of the organization’s second event of 2022, take a look at what’s at stake for the warriors scheduled for action on the main card.
Reward And Redemption
In the headline attraction, #3-ranked featherweight kickboxing contender Sitthichai “Killer Kid” Sitsongpeenong faces Georgian underdog Davit Kiria in a ONE Featherweight Kickboxing World Grand Prix semifinal clash.
Making this fight even more interesting is the fact that it’s a trilogy bout.
Sitthichai – an eight-time Kickboxing and Muay Thai World Champion who has long been considered one of the top pound-for-pound kickboxers on the planet – is leading in their series.
The Thai favorite originally knocked Kiria out with a knee to the body in June 2015, and then he beat the Georgian in March 2016 via unanimous decision.
But since that matchup nearly six years ago, both men have transformed themselves and are riding waves of momentum. Sitthichai finds himself on a two-bout winning streak, having most recently defeated #5-ranked Tayfun “Turbine” Ozcan in the quarterfinals of the Grand Prix last October. On the other hand, Kiria knocked out Enriko “The Hurricane” Kehl in the first round of the tournament’s opener.
Now, “Killer Kid” has a chance to go 3-0 against his Georgian rival and extend his streak to three. Meanwhile, Kiria can upset the favorite and get one back. But most importantly, the victor will secure a spot in the ONE Featherweight Kickboxing World Grand Prix Championship Final.
Second Chances And First Attempts
The co-main event features the other semifinal matchup, which recently experienced a big change.
Chingiz “Chinga” Allazov was originally scheduled to face top-ranked Marat Grigorian in a trilogy bout, but COVID-19 health and safety protocols forced the Armenian-Belgian to withdraw from the match.
The Belarusian now faces Grand Prix alternate Smokin’ Jo Nattawut, and the bout feels just as exciting.
Allazov earned his spot in the semifinals when he knocked out 2019 Grand Prix Championship finalist Samy “AK47” Sana in 39 seconds in October, becoming the first person to finish Sana and earning the third-fastest KO in ONE Super Series history. Another extraordinary performance would put him in the ONE Featherweight Kickboxing World Grand Prix Championship Final.
On Friday, Allazov stands across from another knockout artist, who may be more fired up than he is.
After falling to Giorgio “The Doctor” Petrosyan in the 2019 Grand Prix semifinals, Nattawut wasn’t picked for the 2021 field of eight and instead was slotted in an alternate bout. The Thai proved that he was still a dangerous threat by knocking out Yurik “Mee Khao Jomhot” Davtyan with an enormous overhand right.
If Nattawut can earn another KO on Friday, he’ll be in a four-way tie for most knockouts in ONE Super Series history. But more importantly, a win would bring him into the 2021 ONE Featherweight Kickboxing World Grand Prix Championship Final, giving him redemption for coming up short two years earlier.
A Shot At Featherweight Gold
ONE: ONLY THE BRAVE also features a matchup that will determine the next challenger for the ONE Featherweight World Title.
“The Fighting God” Kim Jae Woong originally earned the #1 contender spot, as well as a World Title shot from ONE Championship Chairman and CEO Chatri Sityodtong, when he knocked out former divisional kingpin Martin “The Situ-Asian” Nguyen in September.
But instead of waiting around for the winner of the showdown between reigning ONE Featherweight World Champion Thanh Le and #2-ranked Garry “The Lion Killer” Tonon, the South Korean decided to stay busy.
This could prove to be a fatal mistake, however.
Tang Kai, the division’s #4-ranked contender, has been on an absolute tear. The Chinese KO artist is on an eight-fight winning streak, and he most recently finished “The Big Heart” Yoon Chang Min and Ryogo “Kaitai” Takahashi in the first round of their respective matches.
Should Tang defeat “The Fighting God” in Singapore, then he will get the top spot in the rankings and steal the World Title shot.
The Chance To Face A Top-Ranked Lightweight
Old college buddies from China’s Xi’an Physical Education University will put aside their friendship for a chance to crack the top-five lightweight rankings.
Ruslan “Snow Leopard” Emilbek Uulu had a rough start to life in ONE as a featherweight, but after moving up a division to his natural weight class, he seems to have regained his form. This was evident when he beat previously ranked lightweight contender Pieter “The Archangel” Buist in November.
The Kyrgyz juggernaut will attempt to build on that momentum, but “The Warrior” Zhang Lipeng needs to derail his progress to achieve his goals.
After taking out former ONE Lightweight World Champion Eduard “Landslide” Folayang in his promotional debut last August, Zhang made his intentions clear: get a spot in the rankings and get a date with Shinya “Tobikan Judan” Aoki, Christian “The Warrior” Lee, or Eddie “The Underground King” Alvarez.
A victory on Friday brings him closer toward those objectives.
Heavyweight Kickboxing World Title Contender Status
A pair of heavyweight kickboxers are adding an extra shot of power to ONE: ONLY THE BRAVE.
Rade Opacic has been a true revelation. The Serbian demolition man crushed his last three opponents, having won all of his matches on the global stage via knockout. If he gets another finish, he’ll also tie the record for most KOs in ONE Super Series history.
He gets his chance when he welcomes the mighty Francesko “Smile” Xhaja to the Circle, who makes his promotional debut on Friday.
The Italy-based Albanian is a tank with strong boxing and jumping knees, and he brings a three-bout winning streak to the showdown. What’s more, he has won eight of his last 10 fights.
Whoever emerges victorious would be a leading man in the race for a ONE Heavyweight Kickboxing World Championship, should it be inaugurated soon.
The Strawweight World Champion’s Next Challenger
Opening the main card is a World Title eliminator between one of Japan’s finest young charges and an American wrestler with one goal in mind – to antagonize the strawweight division both verbally and physically.
Jarred “The Monkey God” Brooks has quickly emerged as one of the division’s most promising stars. The outspoken American made his presence felt when he stopped Team Lakay’s Lito “Thunder Kid” Adiwang, forcing the Filipino to tap out via arm-triangle choke in November.
That earned Brooks the #3-ranked strawweight contender spot, as well as the ire of Adiwang’s Team Lakay stablemate, reigning ONE Strawweight World Champion Joshua “The Passion” Pacio.
Additionally, Hiroba Minowa earned a controversial split-decision victory over the aforementioned “Thunder Kid” in his ONE debut in October 2020. Then he defeated #5-ranked Alex “Little Rock” Silva to secure the #4 contender spot in the strawweight rankings.
For weeks, Brooks and Minowa have been attacking each other in the media, which adds another layer of intrigue to this high-stakes matchup. Not only will the winner earn bragging rights, but he could also line up a date with an equally heated Pacio.
Read more: 5 Reasons To Watch ONE: ONLY THE BRAVE