On Friday, Nov. 11, ONE Championship returns to the Singapore Indoor Stadium in Kallang, Singapore for ONE Championship: Defending Honor.
In the evening’s main event, ONE lightweight champion Shinya Aoki returns to the promotion for the first time in 18 months. The two-time defending champion puts his title on the line against popular Filipino striker Eduard Folayang. The Team Lakay representative earned his shot at the title with back-to-back victories over Tetsuya Yamada and Adrian Pang. Aoki has yet to lose in his five fights since joining ONE Championship in 2012.
In the night’s co-headliner, ONE featherweight champ Marat Gafurov faces Narantungalag Jadambaa for the second time in less than a year. In the first meeting, the interim champion Gafurov stole the title from the champion after one of the best back-and-forth fights of 2015. Gafurov sunk in a fight-ending rear-naked choke in the fourth round to unify the featherweight titles and remain unbeaten in his MMA career.
Further down the card, former ONE lightweight champion Kotetsu Boku scraps with exciting Russian prospect Timofey Nastyukhin in a fight that could certainly end with a highlight-reel knockout. The entertaining combatants have combined for an astounding 24 finishes. A potential shot at the featherweight could be up for grabs for the winner.
In the rest of the evening’s action, multiple-time Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu world champion Michelle Nicolini makes her promotional debut against Egypt’s Mona Samir, former UFC and Bellator veteran Roger Huerta hopes to end his two-fight skid against Australia’s Adrian Pang, slick Singaporean striker Amir Khan meets Filipino lightweight Vaughn Donayre and Singapore’s Tiffany Teo makes her much-anticipated debut against Egypt’s Walaa Abas.
ONE lightweight champion Shinya Aoki returns to the promotion after a year and a half outside of the circular cage. With only one fight since his last outing in ONE Championship, is Aoki in danger of getting upset in his return?
Despite never stepping foot inside of the UFC’s Octagon, Aoki is widely regarded as one of the best lightweights to ever compete in MMA. The 33-year-old submission specialist has won his last nine fights and 16 of his past 17. His lone loss in that stretch came against current UFC lightweight kingpin and former Bellator champ Eddie Alvarez. It’s a fitting narrative that Alvarez and Aoki, both of whom fight this weekend, are still vying for positioning at the top of the sport nearly eight years after their first fight. Alvarez puts his title on the line against the sport’s biggest star, Conor McGregor, on Saturday at UFC 205 in the UFC’s inaugural event in New York City.
After losing the rematch to Alvarez at Bellator 66 in 2012, Aoki took a different path. The former Dream and Shooto champion signed with the upstart ONE Championship in the wake of the promotion’s attempt to secure contracts with some of the world’s top fighters. Aoki was joined by Ben Askren and Bibiano Fernandes as the promotion continued to build over the past five years. The “Tobikan Judan” didn’t face much resistance on his path to the title, winning all five of his fights inside the promotion. He submitted Kotetsu Boku in the second round to win the lightweight championship. Aoki has held the title since, defending his belt twice, once against UFC veteran Kamal Shalorus and most recently taking a unanimous decision victory over Koji Ando. The Japanese native will look for his 40th career win when he takes on highly skilled striker Eduard Folayang.
Folayang has had ups and downs since joining the promotion as one of the top fighters from the Philippines. “Landslide” traded wins and losses in his first five fights with the promotion before finally putting together his first winning streak. The 31-year-old turned the corner in 2013 with victories over Dutch striker Vincent Latoel and the aforementioned Boku. He ran into a minor setback in the form of aggressive fight-finisher Timofey Nastyukhin at ONE Championship: Warrior’s Way before getting right back in the win column with his most recent victories over Tetsuya Yamada and Adrian Pang.
Aoki has developed his striking under the tutelage of former Muay Thai champions Sam-A Gaiyanghadao, Petchboonchu FA Group, Orono Wor Petchpun and Nong-O Gaiyanghadao, among others. He has made great strides in his striking game over the past few years. Aoki went from a fighter who almost exclusively had to take the fight down, to a champion that can fend off a top challenger with only his striking ability. The Japanese titleholder may need to find another path to victory against the high-flying acrobatics of Folayang. The Team Lakay product is known for his flashy techniques and relentless kicks.
With Folayang be able to pull off the upset? Aoki has had everything come crashing down in prior fights. However, in his 45 career outings, the Pride veteran has only tasted defeat against some of the best fighters in the world. In fact, Aoki has only lost to Alvarez, former Strikeforce lightweight champ Gilbert Melendez, UFC veteran Hayato Sakurai and Pride vet Joachim Hansen in the past 11 years. Aoki has won 34 of his past 39 fights, and he has 23 finishes in that span. He holds victories over 12 former or current UFC fighters and eight additional wins over Pride and Strikeforce veterans.
Aoki may have never fought in the UFC, but there is no doubt he is one of the best lightweights to ever compete. He has a chance to continue this claim when he defeats Folayang.
Fight Card Predictions
LW Championship: Shinya Aoki vs. Eduard Folayang
Aoki by fourth-round submission
FW Championship: Marat Gafurov vs. Narantungalag Jadambaa
Jadambaa by decision
FW: Kotetsu Boku vs. Timofey Nastyukhin
Boku by third-round knockout
LW: Roger Huerta vs. Adrian Pang
Pang by decision
LW: Amir Khan vs. Vaughn Donayre
Khan by second-round knockout
Women’s AtomW: Michelle Nicolini vs. Mona Samir
Nicolini by first-round submission
Women’s StrawW: Tiffany Teo vs. Walaa Abas
Teo by decision
FW: Benedict Ang vs. Ahmed Mujtaba
Ang by decision
FlyW: Nico Soernarte vs. Muhamad Haidar
Soernarte by decision
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