The card for ONE: GRIT & GLORY is stacked. Each bout from the Jakarta Convention Center in Indonesia has the potential to electrify fans.
That includes the ONE Strawweight World Title rematch between reigning champion Alex “Little Rock” Silva (7-1) and former titleholder Yoshitaka “Nobita” Naito (12-1), which promises to be an outstanding main event.
Before that, the strawweight debut of hometown hero Stefer Rahardian (8-0), who takes on Indian knockout artist Himanshu Kaushik, is sure to get the audience on their feet. Plus, the ONE Super Series returns with two explosive striking contests.
However, aside from these pairings, one match-up between elite contenders that stands out as a potential show-stealer.
Finally, after months of waiting, former ONE Middleweight World Champion Vitaly Bigdash (9-1) and former world title challenger Leandro Ataides (10-3) will face off. This contest, in particular, could deliver some of the most extraordinary action of the year.
Here are five reasons why that match could be the evening’s most thrilling.
#1 Both Men Have Huge Knockout Power
Each man possesses incredible knockout power, so they have the ability to end a bout in an instant.
Four of Bigdash’s nine wins in mixed martial arts competition have come via KO, and he has used punches, kicks, and knees to get them. Look no further than his ONE Middleweight World Title win against Igor Svirid in October 2015 to see the destructive force at his disposal.
Despite being a five-time BJJ World Champion, Ataides boasts a similar acumen for landing big hits. Half of his 10 victories ended via strikes, including his sensational flying knee KO of Mohamed Ali at ONE: AGE OF DOMINATION, which earned him the 2016 Knockout Of The Year.
When the leather starts to fly in Jakarta, there may be only one man left standing.
#2 Bigdash Has Tank-like Durability
If there is one thing that could prevent a knockout, then it is Bigdash’s ability to survive against incredible odds.
The 33-year-old Russian proved he can absorb some huge blows, recover, and then continue looking as fresh as if he was in the first minute. Twice in ONE Championship, he has dropped jaws with his courage and powers of endurance under fire.
First, he mounted a title-winning comeback against Svirid, and then made it through a first-round onslaught in his rematch with Aung La N Sang last June.
Bigdash may have tasted his first defeat in that match-up, but he emerged with tremendous respect for taking the Myanmar hero the full 25 minutes to a close decision, despite almost being finished in the opening five minutes.
#3 We Could Be Treated To A Grappling War
If both men decide not to stand and trade, the action is likely to be equally as compelling on the mat.
“Leo” is a five-time BJJ World Champion, and possesses world-beating skills. Although we have not seen him flex his submission prowess much in ONE, he has suggested he may be ready to show it off at ONE: GRIT & GLORY.
Bigdash does not have the same collection of silverware as his opponent, but he is also supremely talented. His homeland in southern Russia is renowned for churning out athletes with a relentless and smothering grappling skill set.
Furthermore, the Akhmat Fight Team he trains out of in Russia is known as one of the top gyms in the region. Whether they are attacking or defending, these two warriors possess the skills to have a captivating ground battle.
#4 They Have Prepared For Each Other For 6 Months
Ataides and Bigdash have probably never been more ready for an opponent in their careers.
Their preparations began last year, as their match was originally scheduled for ONE: KINGS OF COURAGE in January. However, the bout was canceled after Bigdash suffered an unfortunate staph infection during his training camp.
As soon as the Russian was cleared to compete, he was paired with Ataides once again at ONE: GRIT & GLORY.
These rivals have had an additional three months to fine-tune their techniques, improve their fitness, and study their opponent with their teams. There is a good chance fans will see the very best versions of them when they finally enter the cage together.
#5 There Are Huge Middleweight World Title Implications
The winner of this intriguing contest will have a strong case to be the next challenger to face Aung La N Sang for his ONE Middleweight World Title.
A victory for Ataides would be his third in a row. Adding Bigdash’s name to a run that includes his flying knee KO of Mohamed Ali, and an impressive unanimous decision win against Michał Pasternak, is hard to match.
The Brazilian’s opponent would only just start a winning run if he were to get his hand raised, but he has a case to make for other reasons.
Bigdash is the former ONE Middleweight World Champion, and already has a win over Aung La N Sang – a title defense in their first meeting at ONE: QUEST FOR POWER in January 2017. A victory over “Leo” could show he still belongs at the very top of the weight class.
The stakes in Jakarta are high, and are sure to bring the best out of both men.