ONE Championship will hold its final event of the year on Friday, Dec. 7, from the Axiata Arena in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The promotion closes out 2018 with its 23rd event of the year from the seventh different country they have visited this year.
ONE Championship: Destiny of Champions features one of the most popular Muay Thai fighters and kickboxers in the past decade, Yodsanklai Fairtex. The decorated Thai champion has racked up an astounding 200 wins with 77 knockouts in his illustrious career. The legend welcomes top Australian Muay Thai ace Luis Regis to the promotion in his first opportunity to headline with the promotion.
In the night’s co-main event, Malaysia’s own Agilan Thani looks to rebound against Kyrgyzstan’s Kiamrian Abbasov, who has won 11 of his past 12 bouts. Thani, 23, has finished seven of his eight career victories, all of which took place inside of the circular cage.
In the evening’s main card action, Japanese prospect Daichi Takenaka puts his undefeated record on the line against Kevin Chung, former ONE flyweight champion Alex Silva returns against Japan’s Yosuke “Tobizaru” Saruta, and former two-division Lumpinee stadium titleholder Petchmorrakot Petchyindee Academy hopes to return to the win column when he welcomes the United Kingdom’s Liam Harrison.
Also, former ONE women’s atomweight title challenger “V.V” Mei Yamaguchi takes on Filipino Jomary Torres.
The preliminary card airs live at 5:30 a.m. ET on ONE Championship’s App, Facebook, and Twitter pages. The main card continues live at 7:30 a.m. ET on ONE Championship’s App and YouTube.
This card continues the ONE Championship trend of a mixed MMA and kickboxing effort. It comes one week after Bellator’s similar offering of Bellator 211 and Bellator Kickboxing 11. Is this card more important than Bellator’s show, in terms of both combat sports?
The growing trend among combat sports promotions to mix up their ruleset to appease fans has expanded into all parts of the world. Among the industry leaders in crossover promotion, ONE Championship and Bellator have been able to draw more interest to their MMA products because they’ve added kickboxing bouts, or in ONE’s case, Muay Thai, Lethwei, boxing and grappling as well.
It’s not a new trend in combat sports. Promotions like K-1, Shooto, DEEP and ZST have held multi-sport events for over a decade. However, the recent exposure from crossover bouts and growing expansion of kickboxing and MMA in Asia, especially China, has increased the demand for martial arts. Industry leaders in kickboxing in the Asian region like Kunlun Fight and WLF have brought in mixed martial arts talent to increase their reach in the market.
ONE Championship decided to add more combat sports in 2017. The move has turned out to be one of the most successful decisions the promotion has made since its inception six years ago. Although ticket sales haven’t been great, this show features some incredible talent from the kickboxing and Muay Thai world. Well-known fighter Yodsanklai Fairtex headlines a fight card for the first time since signing with the promotion earlier this year. The 33-year-old superstar looks for his 30th consecutive victory against Australia’s Luis Regis, who has been at the top of the billing for years in the Oceania region. Three-time Sports Writers of Thailand Muay Thai fighter of the year Panpayak Jitmuangnon makes his promotional debut against Portugal’s Rui Botelho. Two-time Lumpinee stadium champion Petchmorrakot Petchyindee Academy, 24, takes on one of the UK’s most decorated Muay Thai champs Liam Harrison.
Bellator held its 11th kickboxing rules event last weekend in combination with an all-MMA show Bellator 211. Bellator’s fight card featured the return of champions Gabriel Varga and Raymond Daniels, who were both successful in defending their belts against Shan Cangelosi and Zakaria Laaouatni. Varga impressed by stopping Italy’s Cangelosi inside of one round, but Daniels struggled with the tough French-Moroccan Laaouatni, winning a majority decision after five, hard-fought rounds. In the night’s other high-level action, Yuri Bessmertny knocked off former top-10 welterweight Karim Ghajji and Gabriele Casella bested Dani Traore.
Bellator has done a good job of catering to its stars in kickboxing, but has yet to really capture the North American audience. Unfortunately for those people hoping that will change, it just doesn’t make sense with the large majority of the best kickboxers and Muay Thai fighters competing in the eastern hemisphere, specifically Europe and Asia. ONE Championship has done a better job overall of integrating the rulesets into their typical events by featuring multiple different combat sports on one event. The promotion has brought in top tier talent in the kickboxing and Muay Thai realm. However, they’ve combined those names with local talent in the hopes to build their product for the future.
Is this card more important in the grand scheme of both martial arts? Not really. It’s clearly the better card if you account for the talent in each combat sport, but neither event from the promotions has major ramifications on the combat sports world.
On the MMA side of the show, Daichi Takenaka is perhaps the brightest prospect in the lineup. Will he maintain his unblemished record when he takes on fellow bantamweight Kevin Chung? Should a victory here be enough to punch Takenaka’s ticket to a title shot?
Should Takenaka look impressive in his debut, sure, he could be considered for the next title shot. However, it all depends when and where the newly crowned champion Kevin Belingon defends his title for the first time. Looking at ONE Championship’s schedule in 2019, they haven’t announced a main event for the fight card in Manila, Philippines on Jan. 25 or Tokyo, Japan on March 31. Belingon is just one of four Filipino champions – not including Brandon Vera, who has a Filipino family lineage. The current bantamweight champion could potentially headline or be featured on the card in Japan should Takenaka cement his spot as the top contender.
Takenaka, 28, made a successful debut when he locked in a fully applied rear-naked choke on contender Dae Hwan Kim, only to be spiked illegally according to the rules. Regardless of how the fight ended, Takenaka was rightfully awarded the victory to extend his winning streak to 10 fights. The Shooto and Vale Tudo Japan veteran has finished seven of his 11 victories including wins over current Shooto bantamweight champion Shoko Sato, former BAMMA bantamweight champ Alan Philpott, and Japanese prospect Jun Doi.
Takenaka should be the heavy favorite leading into his fight with Kevin Chung, who has won five of his six professional bouts. The 25-year-old fighter earned a second-round knockout victory in his debut against Qingya Zhong at ONE Championship: Light of a Nation. Chung fell short in his most recent bout against bantamweight titleholder Belingon at ONE Championship: Legends of the World in November 2017.
After more than a year away from the cage, Chung will be swimming upstream against his talented Japanese opponent. Takenaka will at the very least put himself in the discussion for the next title shot with a stoppage victory. Takenaka gets it done inside the distance with his work on the ground.
Which fight is the sleeper match-up on this card?
Former Shooto strawweight champion Yosuke Saruta makes his ONE Championship debut following a devastating defeat against Takumi Tamaru in July. Saruta moved up in weight to challenge the 22-year-old prospect, but fell short after getting injured from a spectacular kick in the third round. Prior to the loss, Saruta was riding an eight-fight undefeated streak with seven victories. During that streak, “Tobizaru” defeated former King of Pancrase champ Kiyotaka Shimizu, Ryuta Sawada, and prospect Koha Minowa.
Former ONE atomweight titleholder Alex Silva looks to spoil the Shooto champion’s debut after dropping his title to another former Shooto champ Yoshitaka Naito in May. The Evolve MMA gym member has impressed during his run with the promotion by winning six of his eight bouts with the company. “Little Rock” earned the spotlight after a dominant performance against Roy Doliguez, an incredible armbar victory over Hayato Suzuki, and his title winning performance against “Nobita” to close out 2017.
This fight should be a well-matched, competitive bout wherever the fight takes place. Both fighters have the ability to stop the bout at any moment. However, the skill level alludes to this materializing into a back-and-forth contest. After three hard fought rounds, the winner will surely make a name for himself.
|Muay Thai (FW): Yodsanklai Iwe Fairtex vs. Luis Regis||Yodsanklai by decision|
|WW: Agilan Thani vs. Kiamrian Abbasov||Thani by decision|
|BW: Daichi Takenaka vs. Kevin Chung||Takenaka by submissio|
|Women’s AtomW: Jihin Radzuan vs. Jenny Huang||Huang by decision|
|Muay Thai (FW): Petchmorrakot Petchyindee Academy vs. Liam Harrison||Petchmorrakot by decision|
|FlyW: Gianni Subba vs. Hao Bin Ma||Subba by decision|
|MW: Yuki Niimura vs. Vitaly Bigdash||Bigdash by knockout|
|StrawW: Yosuke Saruta vs. Alex Silva||Silva by submission|
|Muay Thai (BW): Mohammed Bin Mahmoud vs. Stergos Mikkios||Mikkios by decision|
|Women’s AtomW: Mei Yamaguchi vs. Jomary Torres||Yamaguchi by decision|
|Muay Thai (FlyW): Panpayak Jitmuangnon vs. Rui Botelho||Panpayak by decision|
|FlyW: Abro Fernandes vs. Chan Rothana||Rothana by knockout|
|Women’s FlyW: Savannah Nahry Em vs. Iryna Kyselova||Kyselova by decision|