Lead Card: Ok Earns Date With Alvarez, Holzken KOs Parr
After two fiery “ONE on TNT” events, ONE Championship returned to United States prime-time television with the third installment on Wednesday, 21 April.
Here, we recap all the exciting action from the Bleacher Report lead card.
Ok Beats Gafurov, Will Fight Alvarez At ‘ONE On TNT IV’
South Korean rising star Ok Rae Yoon had a debut to remember.
After three hard-fought rounds, the 30-year-old lightweight scored a unanimous decision over former ONE Featherweight World Champion Marat “Cobra” Gafurov in the lead card headliner. With the pivotal victory, he will return to the Circle next week to face American mixed martial arts icon Eddie “The Underground King” Alvarez.
Ok may have won the battle, but it did not come without adversity.
Just seconds after the opening bell, the Team MAD product connected with a whipping outside leg kick, which briefly put Gafurov on the canvas. The Dagestani athlete quickly got up and uncomfortably backpedaled to the Circle Wall, where Ok continued to attack his rival’s lead leg.
But he threw one leg kick too many, which Gafurov caught before bum-rushing the South Korean to the Circle Wall and muscling him to the canvas.
“Cobra” then took the back, secured a body triangle, and went for his signature rear-naked choke. Ok stood up, but Gafurov was stuck on him like a backpack. He spent the remainder of the round softening Ok up with punches to the side of the head and unsuccessfully trying to lock up his trademark submission hold.
The second frame started quite differently, as the South Korean walked down the former featherweight king and exploded with a barrage of rights and lefts to the head. Gafurov quickly latched onto his foe and worked for a double-leg takedown against the Circle Wall, but the Team MAD star defended well and unloaded a plethora of elbows to the head.
Gafurov switched to a single-leg attempt and got the takedown he was looking for, but Ok was active from the bottom. He worked for various submissions, eventually getting his rival in a loose triangle choke and throwing elbows and punches at his face. “Cobra” finally broke free and slid into guard, but he was unable to score any damage before the bell.
Like the previous two stanzas, Ok pushed the pace to start the final round. He backed up a visibly tired “Cobra” to the Circle Wall and methodically attacked him with strikes – most notably, a straight right found its mark, and leg kicks made Gafurov wince.
The Dagestani star eventually went for another takedown and spent a few minutes working to bring Ok to the canvas. Gafurov temporarily got his opponent to the mat, latched onto his back when the South Korean tried returning to his feet, and hopped on to secure a rear-naked choke. When that didn’t work, he went for a last-ditch kimura, but to no avail.
When the 15 minutes were up, all three judges scored the bout in favor of the South Korean debutant.
The victory moved Ok’s career record to 14-3 and gave him the #5 contender spot in the lightweight rankings. More importantly, it earned him a date with Alvarez at “ONE on TNT IV.”
Miao Gets Redemption Against Sawada
Miao Li Tao and Ryuto “Dragon Boy” Sawada battled hard for 15 minutes in their strawweight mixed martial arts rematch, and in the end, the 28-year-old from Beijing leveled the scores via unanimous decision.
Both athletes worked at a frenetic pace for the duration of the opening stanza. Sawada’s first takedown attempt saw him launched across the Circle by his Chinese rival, but that didn’t stop him from pursuing his game plan by constantly chaining his wrestling attacks together.
Whenever “Dragon Boy” brought his opponent to the mat, however, Miao refused to be held down and popped right back up at the first opportunity. The Sunkin International Fight Club representative even had a brief spell in top position and landed some ground-and-pound, while Sawada got back control late in the frame to impress the judges.
Miao’s work to force scrambles in round one seemed to pay dividends, as Sawada was noticeably less forceful with his wrestling attack in the second frame. The Japanese man had an early double-leg takedown stuffed and countered, and Miao then landed punches from the top before taking his rival’s back to score heavily again.
“Dragon Boy” did escape back to his feet, where the rest of the round played out, but the Chinese slugger landed the cleaner shots with some thumping right hands.
It was anybody’s match to win coming into round three.
Miao made the most of his momentum, as he continued to stuff Sawada’s takedown attempts and land his right hand on the feet. Another heavy sprawl saw him take top position, and he dominated the frame from there. Miao smothered the Evolve product and chipped away with punches and elbows until the final bell.
The judges rendered their decision in favor of the rising Chinese star, who pushed his record to 13-5 and earned redemption against his Japanese foe.
Holzken TKOs Parr In Clash Of Striking Legends
When a kickboxing legend and a Muay Thai icon meet in ONE Super Series, striking fans are guaranteed fireworks – and both Nieky “The Natural” Holzken and John Wayne “The Gunslinger” Parr delivered. But it was Holzken who scored the walk-off TKO victory in this Muay Thai affair, defeating the Australian star in the second round with a devastating head kick.
The Dutchman, who was wearing smaller mixed martial arts gloves for the first time, pressed the action early on, forcing Parr on the back foot and refusing to be slowed down by incoming straights to the body. Instead, he swung hooks at “The Gunslinger,” clipping him on the chin and essentially foreshadowing what was to come.
A spinning hook kick from “The Natural” then sent Parr down for an eight-count. Like the warrior he is, the Aussie returned to his feet and stormed forward, unleashing a furious combination of punches followed by a body kick. Next came sledgehammers into Holzken’s torso, and the man from the Netherlands was forced to shell up and absorb the punishment.
With 30 seconds left in the round, Holzken pumped out two jabs and a right that left Parr on one leg, and “The Natural” then launched himself through the air with a jumping knee that wobbled his foe.
Parr cleared the cobwebs and pressed forward in round two, and although he landed clean punches and kicks, those attacks didn’t seem to do any damage. Meanwhile, the buzzing Holzken waited for his chance and then stung the legend standing across from him with an arcing right hand to the chin.
Seconds later, another loopy left hook followed and Parr fell to the canvas for the second time. He returned to his feet and beat the count, but Holzken sensed the end was near.
Once the action resumed, “The Natural” waited for his foe to lower his hands, and when he did, Holzken sent a left kick into the neck. Parr fell, the referee waved off the contest, and the kickboxing superstar pumped his fist with excitement.
The victory, which came at the 1:23 mark of round two, moved Holzken’s record to 94-16 (1NC) and gave him a debut win in ONE Super Series Muay Thai.