The veteran strawweight stars will square off in a mixed martial arts clash at ONE: NEXTGEN III, which airs from the Singapore Indoor Stadium on Friday, 26 November.
The landscape has changed dramatically since Silva and Catalan went to war on 5 April 2013, but both athletes are still eager to make a dent in their division.
With fight night less than two weeks away, let’s revisit the road that led to this long-awaited rematch.
Their First Battle
Now a seasoned campaigner in the sport, Catalan was making his mixed martial arts debut when he faced off against “Little Rock” at ONE: KINGS AND CHAMPIONS.
At that point, the multiple-time Wushu World Champion had plenty of striking expertise but little in the way of grappling acumen – something BJJ World Champion Silva exploited to score a first-round submission win.
The Evolve representative took “The Challenger” down in the opening exchanges, and despite valiant efforts to defend and escape, he dominated the contest until latching onto an armbar with less than 30 seconds left in the frame.
Keeping It In The Family
With his first victory on the global stage in the books, Silva went on a tear that took him to the very top of the division – but his next two bouts were particularly close to home for Catalan.
“Little Rock” scored back-to-back first-round submissions over two of Rene’s brothers, catching Ruel Catalan in a kneebar at ONE: SPIRIT OF CHAMPIONS and finishing Robin “The Ilonggo” Catalan with an arm-triangle choke at ONE: UNION OF WARRIORS.
Those results undoubtedly prompted the Team Catalan stable to take a serious look at its ground game so the athletes could evolve and thrive in The Home of Martial Arts.
‘The Challenger’ Breaks Through
Following his debut loss to Silva, “The Challenger” continued to deal with setbacks. He took a no contest and suffered another defeat before finally getting the chance to taste victory.
The Filipino’s hard work finally paid dividends at ONE: UNBREAKABLE WARRIORS in September 2016. That evening, he beat Zhang You Liang by decision – and then went on an impressive run with his newfound confidence.
Silva Grabs The Gold
Boosted by three straight wins over the Catalan family, Silva continued his ascent.
The Brazilian defeated Filipino boxing specialist Roy Doliguez by armbar at ONE: THRONE OF TIGERS and then handed Hayato Suzuki the only loss of his successful career with another signature submission at ONE: LEGENDS OF THE WORLD.
This earned “Little Rock” a shot at Yoshitaka “Nobita” Naito’s gold, and he snatched it from the Japanese grappler after five rounds of action to become the new ONE Strawweight World Champion at ONE: WARRIORS OF THE WORLD in December 2017.
Life After The Throne
“Little Rock’s” reign was a short one, however. He lost the belt in an immediate rematch with Naito at ONE: GRIT AND GLORY in May 2018.
Since then, though, he’s never been more than a hair’s breadth away from the gold. He’s consistently battled top contenders and gone down to achingly close decisions. Along the way, he’s added more submissions to his resume over Stefer “The Lion” Rahardian and Peng Xue Weng in 2019.
Moreover, there wasn’t much to separate Silva and Joshua “The Passion” Pacio when they clashed for the World Title at ONE: FIRE & FURY in January 2020. Still, “Little Rock” ended up on the wrong side of a split decision.
Catalan Gets His World Title Shot
Despite the difficult start to his MMA career, Catalan bounced back and put together one of the most incredible resurgences in ONE history.
The win over Zhang served as a springboard to success, and he amassed six straight victories overall, beating the likes of Adrian “Papua Badboy” Mattheis and Rahardian. It all culminated in a TKO over former ONE Strawweight World Champion Naito at ONE: REIGN OF VALOR in March 2019.
It seemed like Catalan’s Cinderella Man story was about to be complete when he challenged for the World Title, but that dream was derailed by his compatriot Pacio when they clashed at ONE: MASTERS OF FATE in November 2019.
With Silva and Catalan now 39 and 42 years old, respectively, this could be the last chance for either man to make a significant run toward World Championship gold.
A setback could see them run out of time to mount a charge, so the result is crucial for both sides at ONE: NEXTGEN III.
Both men have the skill and desire to make an impact, but only one can emerge with their hand raised.
The stakes are high, and that should make for a fascinating rematch at the Singapore Indoor Stadium.