ONE Championship returns to the Impact Arena in Bangkok, Thailand, on Saturday, March 11, for ONE Championship: Warrior Kingdom.
ONE women’s atomweight champion Angela Lee is back in action for the first time since winning the title in a “Fight of the Year” contender against former Valkyrie champion Mei “V.V.” Yamaguchi at ONE Championship: Ascent to Power in May 2016. Lee puts her undefeated record on the line when she attempts to defend her title against fellow unbeaten prospect Jenny Huang.
Former ONE strawweight champion Dejdamrong Sor. Amnuaysirichoke makes his return to the cage after dropping his title to the world’s No.1 strawweight and current ONE champion Yoshitaka “Nobita” Naito. Dejdamrong looks to re-enter the win column when he faces Filipino prospect Joshua Pacio, who is coming off his first career loss to the aforementioned Naito at ONE Championship: State of Warriors in October.
Hometown fans will have plenty to cheer for with a total of six fighters from Thailand featured on the card. The most notable name will be a fighter making his MMA debut. Former Lumpinee and Rajadamnern stadium champion Sagetdao Petpayathai debuts against undefeated Malaysian prospect Kelvin Ong. Sagetdao is known as one of the top Muay Thai fighters of the past decade, with big victories over top Muay Thai champions Nong-O, Petchboonchu, Singdam, Jomthong and the great Saenchai.
In other action, former boxing world champion Yodsanan Sityodtong returns to the circular cage against Filipino fighter Ramon Gonzalez, rising Thai fighter Shannon “One Shin” Wiratchai takes on the Philippine’s Richard Corminal, and 20-year-old Thai prospect Pongsiri Mitsatit looks to remain undefeated against Rabin Catalin.
The event airs live at 8:30 a.m. ET on ONEFC.com.
Angela Lee and Jenny Huang are two emerging atomweight competitors. They fight for the title in the evening’s headliner. Which lady keeps her unblemished record intact and leaves with the title? Is either lady on par with the top atomweights currently housed under the Invicta and Deep Jewels banners?
Lee is coming off of her incredible fight with Mei Yamaguchi, but there are some questions for the 20-year-old leading up to this contest. She made her mark in the MMA world with a tremendous back-and-forth fight against one of the world’s best atomweight fighters, and the media and fans were talking about the 25-minute scrap for weeks following the event. Lee proved she belonged among the ONE champions when she took home the title in the toughest fight of her career. The young superstar absorbed some heavy strikes on the feet and turned the tables on the ground to become the inaugural ONE women’s atomweight champ.
Lee will face another strong opponent when she meets unbeaten Taiwanese prospect Huang. The 26-year-old grappler has won all four of her ONE bouts, including three submission victories in her past three fights. Huang’s biggest win came in her last bout against rising Filipino prospect April Osenio at ONE Championship: Age of Domination. Huang survived some hairy exchanges on the feet before finding her way to victory on the mat in the second frame. She will be making her biggest step up in competition yet when she fights for the atomweight belt.
Lee will have a significant height, reach and weight advantage heading into the bout. Despite the fact that fighters weigh in at their “walk weight” due to the promotion’s new weigh-in program, Lee does cut weight to make the atomweight limit. She has never made the traditional 105-pound mark for the division. It was an edge she took full advantage of in her fight with Yamaguchi, a fighter who had only ever lost to Invicta champion Ayaka Hamasaki when fighting at the atomweight limit. Lee will have three inches on Huang and she could potentially be 10 pounds or more heavier than her opponent on fight night.
That size advantage will play a factor. Lee is not afraid to exchange punches on the feet, but this fight seems destined to take place on the ground. Huang doesn’t make her money on the feet either, but that’s why this fight is so intriguing. Both women have taken to the grappling game early in their careers, so a submission over the course of five rounds seems likely. Lee is the more aggressive fighter when the fight hits the mat, but Huang has the skills to defend and give it right back should this fight be contested on the ground. No matter how the fight ends, this showdown of unbeatens is a don’t-miss. It has all the makings of a wild, scramble-filled grappling battle.
As for where these ladies sit in the atomweight rankings, it’s hard to consider either an atomweight when they actually fight at 115 pounds. ONE operates its weight-cutting process differently than every other promotion in the world, which is the result of the tragic loss of one of its young fighters, Yang Jian Bing. The “walk weight” system added about 10 pounds to each weight division, but the names of the divisions remain the same. For example, Bibiano Fernandes is the ONE bantamweight champion, but he now fights at 145 pounds, not the worldwide standard of 135. So, trying to rank Lee and Huang among the world’s best atomweights seems strange.
With all that said, Lee and Huang are on their way up the rankings, but the division where they belong is the deepest and best division for women in the world: the 115-pound division. Fighters like Joanna Jędrzejczyk, Claudia Gadelha, Jessica Andrade, Karolina Kowalkiewicz, Rose Namajunas and others reside inside the UFC’s strawweight ranks and are without a doubt the best in the division. Invicta FC also has a strong roster of talented fighters that includes the likes of Mizuki Inoue, Livia Renata Souza and the aforementioned Hamasaki, the world’s top atomweight who moved up in weight to pursue a UFC title. It’s too early to put Lee or Huang in this group. The world’s best are competing against each other in the UFC and Invicta, and neither Lee nor Huang has beaten a fighter of this caliber. Lee’s best win is against a much smaller fighter who, while being extremely talented and among the best atomweights in the world, isn’t ranked anywhere near the top 50 fighters at 115.
Lee and Huang have the potential to become among the best in their division down the road. Lee’s best win came against Yamaguchi, and by a large margin, but the rest of her resume consists of five wins over opponents with a combined record of 10-9 at the time she fought them. Those numbers aren’t exactly a convincing argument for placing her among the world’s best.
Don’t let the rankings discussion confuse you, though. This is a high-level fight featuring two of the best female fighters in Asia. It should be just as good as Lee’s prior outing, but Huang won’t offer the same type of offensive output as Yamaguchi. Lee will defend her belt for the first time and hand Huang the first loss of her career.
The lineup features six male strawweight fighters, including former ONE champ Dejdamrong Sor Amnuaysirichoke and recent title challenger Joshua Pacio. Which three men will emerge with victories, and in what order should they be ranked as title contenders?
ONE’s strawweight division has been slowly built since the promotion added the weight class in 2015. With so many of the world’s top male strawweight athletes residing in the Eastern Hemisphere, the division is perfect for the promotion’s audience. The world’s best strawweight, Yoshitaka “Nobita” Naito, currently holds the ONE strawweight belt. Naito became the first man to defeat Dejdamrong when he won the title at ONE Championship: Kingdom of Champions in the promotion’s last trip to Thailand in 2016. The former Shooto champ continued to cement his resume as the top 115er with his most recent win against the previously unbeaten Pacio at ONE Championship: State of Warriors. Naito laid claim to the No. 1 ranking before signing with ONE Championship, but the promotion’s talent has continued to improve since the emphasis on strawweights has grown.
Obviously, Dejdamrong will get the biggest push if he is victorious against fellow former title challenger Pacio. He is a three-time former Lumpinee stadium champion with over 20 years experience and an exciting fighting style. He is the promotion’s best fighter from Thailand and a member of the Evolve MMA roster. Furthermore, who wouldn’t want a fighter like Dejdamrong as the champion? He’s an exciting striker with a diverse, explosive offensive attack. At the age of 38, he is well into the latter half of his career, but Dejdamrong is still an agile fighter with a knack for putting on fights the fans want to see. He will be a mainstay in the strawweight division whether or not he fights for the title, but it’s more than likely he will be given the opportunity to fight for the belt as long as he stays in the win column.
Pacio proved he a one of the top strawweights in ONE. The young Filipino has already made a name for himself with victories over Kritsada Kongsrichai and Rabin Catalin. At just 21 years old, there is still plenty of time for Pacio to build himself back up to a shot at the title. That’s why this matchmaking from the promotion seems a little strange. Either Dejdamrong hands Pacio his second career loss, or Pacio upsets one of the promotion’s top fighters. Why not slowly build Pacio’s career instead of throwing him in with the division’s best? Pacio’s level of competition prior to his title shot against Naito wasn’t the best, which leaves some room for the promotion to build him as a contender in the future. If he takes another loss here, it won’t destroy his stock as a fighter. However, it could damage some of the hype he earned as an undefeated fighter fighting in the Philippines, one of the promotion’s strongest markets.
Dejdamrong has the tools to keep the fight where he wants it, and Pacio won’t offer enough resistance to change the mind of the judges. Dejdamrong will have an advantage on the feet, a perk he exploits in each and every fight. Pacio could find success if he catches the former champion in a scramble, but the smart money’s on the hometown hero to get his hand raised.
The other strawweight bouts on the card feature Thailand’s Pongsiri Mitsatit against the Philippine’s Rabin Catalin and Cambodia’s Kritsada Kongsrichai fighting Indonesia’s Adrian Matheis.
Mitsatit is undefeated in seven professional fights with five wins by way of knockout. The 20-year-old Team Quest Thailand product will likely get his second win inside the promotion when he faces Catalin. With Dejdamrong likely next in line for a title shot, Mitsatit will likely get a few more fights before he’s considered ready for the next step in his career.
Regardless of whether Kongsrichai or Matheis come out on top in the other strawweight affair, neither man is likely close to a title shot. Both fighters lost in their recent outings inside the circular cage. Matheis fell in his debut against journeyman Rene Catalan. Kongsrichai finished fellow Cambodian fighter Kev Hemmorlor in his ONE debut, but he lost in his most recent outing against Pacio. Kongsrichai will come away victorious, but he will need a few more wins before he becomes a viable contender.
Shannon Wiratchai is on a four-fight winning streak heading into his featured bout against Richard Corminal, a fighter making his ONE debut. Will this be nothing more than an easy win for Wiratchai?
There is no doubt that Wiratchai is one of the better fighters coming out of Thailand. He’s proven his worth as one of the top fighters in the country despite not coming from an extensive Muay Thai or boxing career prior to his debut in 2011. Since joining the ONE ranks nearly five years ago, he has evolved into a complete mixed martial artist. “One Shin” has racked up four wins since taking his only career loss against experienced grappler Bashir Ahmad. Wiratchai stopped Mitch Chilson in the first round to kick off one of the better winning streaks in ONE’s featherweight division. His biggest win, however, came when he out classed Malaysian MMA star Peter Davis to score a big upset at ONE Championship: Unbreakable Warriors in August.
Now, Wiratchai returns home to defend his turf against tough Filipino journeyman Corminal. “Lion Heart” made his name off of exciting fights and big knockout wins in Malaysia, where he currently trains with the likes of the aforementioned Davis and Allamurad Karayev at MuayFit. Corminal picked up a win in his most recent outing against Thai Rithy at Full Metal Dojo 12, but the performance wasn’t one to write home about. Corminal outlasted the Cambodian youngster, but his win was more a product of his opponent’s exhaustion.
Corminal will certainly attempt to brawl his way to victory, but his paths to the win against the more experienced Wiratchai are few and far between. Corminal’s striking output is pretty standard, and it gets less effective as the fight goes on. Wiratchai is a well-rounded fighter with a knack for making his opponent miss before he scores with a vicious counter strike. He is a southpaw who moves well forward and backward. He throws a solid left middle kick and looks to score as his opponent overextends on offensive attacks. This is where Wiratchai will catch Corminal and put him away.
There is only one loss on Corminal’s record, but he’s been stunned in more than one fight. His loss came against Taiwanese fighter Zhang Jing Xiong at PRO FC 10 when he overexerted himself in an attempt to land his offense. He left himself open and his inexperienced opponent put him out with a left hook and one absolutely brutal punch on the ground that left Corminal unconscious in the center of the cage.
Corminal’s 14-second defeat is not a good sign. This match was made to showcase Wiratchai’s talents in front of his countrymen. If Wiratchai can score his fifth consecutive win on Saturday, he should be in line for a step up in competition.
Atomweight Rika “Tinydoll” Ishige is making her pro debut on this card — do we need to know this name?
Ishige is a fighter to watch, but it’s hard to make a claim she is the next star in the sport. It is still way too early in her career to make such a projection.
Tinydoll will be making her debut against another inexperienced, but skilled fighter in Malaysia’s Audreylaura Boniface. Like Ishige, Boniface is still an unknown commodity with only one fight taking place inside of an actual cage. Boniface is a strong top-control grappler who likes to take the back and lock in the rear-naked choke. However, most of her early amateur career has taken place inside of mixed rules competitions that feature no cage, no ropes and limited grappling exchanges. She won the ONE Silat tournament with victories over Nita Dea and Nur Syakinah, but neither opponent showed much in the way of resistance.
Ishige comes from a similar background with little amateur experience in the sport. She made quick work of her amateur fight at the Beer Camp Fight Club in June 2016, but again, her opponent didn’t offer much resistance. She showed off her kicks and then almost immediately took her opponent down and dominated her before locking up an armbar submission just over a minute into the first round. The young Thai prospect looked good, but her current Malaysian opponent will certainly offer more of a fight than her handpicked opponent for her amateur debut. Remember her name, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves here.
|Women’s AtomW Championship: Angela Lee (6-0) vs. Jenny Huang (5-0)||Lee by submission|
|LW: Shannon Wiratchai (6-1) vs. Richard Corminal (4-1)||Wiratchai by knockout|
|StrawW: Dejdamrong Sor Amnuaysirichoke (6-1) vs. Joshua Pacio (11-1)||Dejdamrong by decision|
|62kg: Yodsanan Sityodtong (2-1) vs. Ramon Gonzales (1-1)||Yodsanan by knockout|
|Women’s AtomW: Rika Ishige (0-0) vs. Audreylaura Boniface (0-1)||Ishige by decision|
|FW: Sagetdao Petpayathai (0-0) vs. Ong Kelvin (1-0)||Sagetdao by knockout|
|FW: Ma Jia Wen (3-2) vs. Yohan Mulia Legowo (8-5)||Wen by submission|
|StrawW: Kritsada Kongsrichai (4-3) vs. Adrian Matheis (2-1)||Kritsada by knockout|
|StrawW: Pongsiri Mitsatit (7-0) vs. Rabin Catalin (3-3)||Pongsiri by knockout|