Leandro Issa’s second stint in ONE Championship continues on Friday, 24 November, at ONE: IMMORTAL PURSUIT, which broadcasts live from the Singapore Indoor Stadium.
There is little doubt that the Brazilian is of championship calibre, and a shot at Bibiano Fernandes’ ONE Bantamweight World Title in 2018 looks likely if he can get by two or three more contenders. The first of these is Dae Kwan Kim, who will also be embarking on a new campaign in ONE Championship.
Arguably the number one contender in the bantamweight division is Kevin Belingon. With Eduard Folayang having lost his belt in Manila on 10 November, and Danny Kingad having come up short in his challenge on the same card, Belingon becomes the top-ranked Filipino in the promotion.
It is thus a sure bet that Belingon will be a part of ONE Championship’s plans in Manila, with four events scheduled for the Philippines capital in 2018.
This is good news for Kim, who has already beaten Belingon once, albeit almost four years ago. If Kim gets by Issa, he would undoubtedly be pushing for another clash against Belingon, before the Filipino knockout artist gets his second chance at Fernandes.
The same could be said for Issa, who twice danced with inaugural ONE Bantamweight World Champion Soo Chul Kim, splitting the results.
Issa is 14-6 and 34 years old, while Kim is four years younger with the only loss on his 12-1 record being to the reigning titleholder.
Fernandes has been so dominant at bantamweight that his most likely challengers are mostly repeat engagements. Issa has never faced his compatriot, but Brazil versus Brazil in a showdown between two BJJ black belt world champions does sound like a tasty main course for any card.
Issa made his ONE Championship return with a second-round TKO in August against Toni Tauru of Finland, another Fernandes victim. It was only the second time that Issa won a bout via strikes.
After all, both men use submissions as their preferred means of victory – nine of 14 wins for Issa, and six of 12 for Kim. As you would expect, both their submission offense and defense is strong. Only Fernandes has ever submitted Kim in his sole loss, while Issa’s two submission blemishes came a decade ago.
I expect this one to go the distance with Issa taking the unanimous call, as the Brazilian has a wider breadth of experience over tougher opposition than Kim. Although, a late submission is also possible for Issa, if fatigue claims the Korean and he is able to capitalize.
Steve Dawson is ONE Championship’s presenter and commentator, a Fox Sports presenter and public-speaking coach. He can be found on coachsd.com and on Facebook as Steve Dawson.