Just before the ONE Women’s Strawweight World Title is contested at ONE: BEYOND THE HORIZON, a fascinating lightweight encounter will take place.
The match-up between Amir Khan and Honorio “The Rock” Banario will be a meeting of two of the most talented young athletes in the weight class, representing two of the finest mixed martial arts gyms in Asia.
Each man has a number of ways to win, and can move on to even greater things in the division, if they can get their hand raised at the Baoshan Arena in Shanghai, China, on 8 September.
Here are the stats, strategies, and stakes heading into a compelling co-main event.
Tale Of The Tape
Banario (13-6) comes into this contest in red-hot form. No one can match his five-bout win streak in the lightweight division, not even reigning World Champion Martin Nguyen or top contenders Ev Ting and Shinya Aoki.
Since moving up a weight class at the start of 2016, the 28-year-old has looked better and better against increasingly stronger opposition. Unanimous decision victories over Vaughn Donayre and Eddie Ng were followed by an armbar of Rajinder Singh Meena, and then a sensational knockout of Jaroslav Jartim.
His streak was completed at ONE: HEROES OF HONOR in June with another unanimous decision – this time against the teak-tough Adrian Pang.
His training partners at Baguio City’s Team Lakay have all shown huge improvements in their skills this year, and as one of the most experienced members of the squad, it is likely “The Rock” has evolved his game by leaps and bounds as well.
Khan (10-3) cannot match his opponent for consecutive wins, but he does have seven victories in his last nine bouts.
Many of those wins have helped to solidify the Singaporean as the most dangerous man in the lightweight division – and possibly the entire organization. His nine finishes are only matched by his teammate, Christian “The Warrior” Lee in ONE, and he stands above every athlete with his eight knockouts.
Khan has shown the grappling chops to hang with submission specialists on the ground, and his striking prowess is only getting better.
Keys To Victory
There does not seem to be an obvious game plan for either man, as they both specialize in striking, and possess improving grappling skills. That is what is likely to make this a fantastic bout.
There is not a lot to separate them on the feet – they both have to be aware of the other’s power to avoid a knockout in the blink of an eye. Unless one has taken a giant leap beyond the other in the past few months, they will also have to work hard to penetrate their opponent’s submission defense and coax a tap.
The key difference is likely to be made depending on the range at which they exchange.
Banario thrives at distance, where he can move freely and work combinations – leaning on a strong kicking game. He is adept at picking his shots and then circling away out of danger before planning his next attack.
Even if a knockout blow does not land, he could do enough damage to walk away with an impressive decision.
It might be in Khan’s best interest to make this ugly – taking away those advantages and using his physical strength up close.
Though he is exceptional in many of the same ways as Banario, he has shown his power by manhandling opponents more often.
Engaging in the clinch would take many of the Filipino’s weapons, sap his strength, or provide an opportunity for a takedown.
The Spoils Of Victory
Unless the winner wants to sit on the shelf for the best part of a year, a win will not be enough to become the next contender for the ONE Lightweight World Title.
That honor is already promised to the winner of Ting VS Aoki at ONE: KINGDOM OF HEROES, who will challenge for the ONE Lightweight World Championship currently held by Nguyen in Tokyo, Japan, in March 2019.
In short, a ‘W’ will take them one step closer on the road to their ultimate goal, but they can expect another test at the top of the division before the end of 2018.
Shanghai | 8 September | LIVE and FREE on the ONE Super App: http://bit.ly/ONESuperApp | TV: Check local listings for global broadcast