Bibiano Fernandes (ONE Championship)

ONE Championship: Age of Domination Preview and Predictions

On Friday, Dec. 2, ONE Championship returns to the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay, Manila, Philippines, for ONE Championship: Age of Domination.

In the night’s main event, ONE heavyweight champion Brandon Vera will make the first defense of his title when he takes on unbeaten Hideki Sekine. The UFC veteran Vera captured the belt in his last outing with a 26-second TKO win over Paul Cheng. Sekine will make his promotional debut after a successful stint with the Deep organization.

The co-headliner will also feature gold on the line. Bantamweight champion Bibiano Fernandes is out to defend his title for the fifth straight time when he goes up against Australia’s Reece McLaren. The Brazilian Fernandes has finished his last three fights in the ONE cage. McLaren enters the title challenge having won six of his last seven, including back-to-back fights under the ONE banner.


In the night’s other main-card action, Filipino prospect Mark “Mugen” Striegl takes on Bulgaria’s Sotir Kichukov, Team Lakay’s Geje “Gravity” Eustaquio fights former Cage Warriors bantamweight champion Toni Tauru, and former ONE title challenger Honorio Banario meets former Super Fight League lightweight kingpin Rajinder Singh Meena.

The event airs live at 5:55 a.m. ET via ONE Championship’s live streaming service.

ONE heavyweight champion Brandon Vera is making the first defense of his title against the undefeated Hideki Sekine. If Vera comes away victorious, who should he face next, and what does the future hold for the ONE heavyweight division?

Vera is one of the promotion’s top stars after ONE Championship pushed the former UFC fighter in his father’s home country of the Philippines. The Manila crowd quickly got behind Vera following his first-round knockout of Igor Subora at ONE Championship: Warrior’s Way. The win gave Vera the momentum heading into his next bout against GLORY veteran Chi Lewis-Parry for the vacant ONE Championship heavyweight title. The fight never came together on what Lewis-Parry believed was the promotion’s desire to see Vera become a star. Despite the controversy, ONE found a late-replacement opponent for Vera to fight on 48 hours’ notice. That opponent was former Canadian Football League player Paul Cheng. Vera won the ONE heavyweight title with a nasty head kick just 26 seconds into the fight.

Now, Vera faces his next challenge in high-level grappler Hideki “Big Body” Sekine. Japan’s Sekine has won all seven of his professional MMA bouts. However, his record should be held under great scrutiny, as his best wins came over Deep Megaton veterans Seigo Mizuguchi and Ryo Sakai, both of whom hold losing records. He wore his signature red mask/helmet while fighting Shigeki Tsuchiya in the Deep cage — yes, while fighting his opponent, he was wearing a large red helmet with make-shift sunglasses; really, you can’t make this stuff up.

What can’t be called into question, however, is Sekine’s grappling ability. He has competed at the highest level in Japan for years and qualified for the ADCC No-Gi Grappling Worlds in 2011, 2013 and 2015. “Shrek” Sekine moved into the quarterfinals of the 2013 99+ kilogram tournament with a victory over American Robby Donofrio. He lost to eventual tournament winner Marcus “Buchecha” Almeida in the heavyweight division and former UFC fighter Dean Lister in the absolute division.

The ground game may be Sekine’s only chance to take out Vera. The Japanese fighter’s striking game doesn’t match up nearly as well as his jiu-jitsu attack. Vera is a dangerous southpaw with 10 finishes in his 14 professional wins. His ability to mount an offensive with a wide array of attacks gives him a huge advantage heading into the bout with the 43-year-old Sekine. Vera isn’t exactly a youngster himself at the ripe age of 39, but he’s fought far better competition for over a decade. “The Truth” will discover Sekine can’t take his power. Vera will establish himself as the champion and best heavyweight in ONE.

As for potential match-ups for Vera going forward, the promotion only has a small stable of heavyweights, with Alexandre “Bebezão” Machado and Alain Ngalani being near the top of contention. It’s likely ONE Championship will need to go outside of the promotion to find a suitable contender for Vera’s title. Vera declared he was going to become a two-division champion when he burst onto the UFC heavyweight landscape 10 years ago. He likely won’t become the fourth man to become a two-division UFC champion. However, becoming a two-division ONE champion might be on his radar. ONE light heavyweight champ Roger Gracie defeated Michał Pasternak to win the vacant title in May. A champion-versus-champion bout in Manila would certainly get the fans excited.

ONE bantamweight champion Bibiano Fernandes will seek to defend his title for a record fifth time. Fernandes has defeated all seven of his opponents inside the circular ONE cage, finishing his past three opponents in under three rounds. Can the skilled Australian Reece McLaren score the upset, or is Fernandes destined to hold onto the ONE bantamweight title until he retires?

There’s no question that Fernandes is one of the best bantamweights in the world. He’s fought the world’s top competition outside of the Octagon and proved his dominance with each and every victory. The AMC Pankration product has won 11 straight fights and 18 of his past 19. There aren’t many fighters in the world that can claim such an outstanding record, especially while fighting against some of the world’s best fighters outside of the UFC. Fernandes holds victories over two-division Bellator champion Joe Warren, two-division Deep kingpins Masakazu Imanari and Takafumi Otsuka, ONE bantamweight king Soo Chul Kim, Shooto champions Masakatsu Ueda, Joachim Hansen and Koetsu Okazaki, Dream titleholder Hiroyuki Takaya and Deep champion Yoshiro Maeda.

McLaren doesn’t have the resume of the dominant champion. However, the 25-year-old has built a strong resume in his home country of Australia. McLaren captured titles in XFC Australia and Eternal MMA to earn his place inside ONE’s cage. He scored a shocking upset of top Filipino prospect Mark Striegl at ONE Championship: Spirit of Champions in late 2015 and returned to Manila with a decision victory over the previously unbeaten Muin Gafurov at ONE Championship: Global Rivals. The Aussie MMA fighter will have the crowd behind him as ONE Championship pushes his father’s Filipino ancestry in its promotional efforts.

McLaren is a good athlete and skilled grappler. “Lightning” has locked up submissions in five of his nine wins, and he has two victories by way of knockout. He will be in for the toughest test of his career against Fernandes. McLaren has gone the five-round distance in a losing effort to UFC fighter Ben “10” Nguyen. It remains to be seen if McLaren can last with a bigger, stronger and more technical fighter over the course of 25 minutes. Fernandes’ continued evolution into an unstoppable, well-rounded mixed martial artist has kept him at the top of the rankings in Asia for over seven years. The Brazilian fought against two of the top lighter-weight fighters in the 2000s, WEC champion and longtime UFC veteran Urijah Faber and K-1 Hero’s and Shooto champion Norifumi “Kid” Yamamoto, in two of his first three fights. He’s done it all and then some in his illustrious career. Fernandes will show off his ever-improving striking and high-level grappling in another winning effort.

The hometown fighters are well represented in the promotion’s return to Manila for the second time in 2016. There are seven fighters from the Philippines on the fight card: Mark Striegl, Honorio Banario, Geje Eustaquio, Eugene Toquero, Edward Kelly, Danny Kingad and April Osenio. Which Filipino fighter has the best performance of the night? Who has the most to gain with a win on Friday?

If many of the hometown favorites land in the win column following Friday night, this question becomes a little harder to answer. There is plenty to be gained with victories for potential contenders Eustaquio, Banario and Osenio.

Osenio, 22, has become one of the promotion’s top female prospects training under Team Lakay. She was upset in her ONE Championship and professional debut when Singapore’s Kirstie Gannaway put her away with a choke. She righted the ship with back-to-back victories against Natalie Hills-Gonzalez and Ann Osman in 2016. A win over undefeated Taiwanese prospect Jenny Huang could be exactly what Osenio needs to get a shot at ONE atomweight champion Angela Lee.

Eustaquio has had mixed results in his time with the promotion, but he turned the corner with an impressive first-round knockout of Saiful Merican and a decision win over top Malaysian prospect Gianni Subba. His win over Subba catapulted “Gravity” into title contention at flyweight. A victory over former Cage Warriors champion Toni Tauru could prove to be enough for Eustaquio to get the next shot at current ONE flyweight champion Kairat Akhmetov. Eustaquio previously fought for the title in 2014 against former champ and current interim flyweight titleholder Adriano Moraes.

Former ONE featherweight champion Banario returned to the win column with victories over Vaughn Donayre and Eddie Ng. Banario won the vacant title with a fourth-round stoppage over Eric Kelly in 2013. He hit a rough patch after losing the title to Koji Oishi. He lost five straight, including two bouts against Oishi for the title. In fairness, Banario’s bouts with Oishi were incredible back-and-forth encounters with both men taking heavy damage. Now, Banario has a chance to make his mark in a new weight division. If he can pick up the victory over SFL champion Rajinder Singh Meena, Banario could potentially become the first fighter in ONE history to win titles in two different weight classes.

Edward “The Rock” Kelly has quietly strung together three wins in his past four bouts, including finishes over Jordan Lucas and Vincent Latoel. Kelly will be looking to entertain the fans against rising Indonesian prospect Sunoto Peringkat, who has also won three of his past four. A victory over Peringkat will likely move Kelly back into title contention in the promotion’s deepest division.

Two Filipino fighters square off when Eugene Toquero meets the unbeaten Danny Kingad. Toquero has produced three victories and three defeats inside the circular cage. He picked up stoppage victories over Brianata Rosadhi and Li Wei Bin and became the first man to defeat talented youngster Gianni Subba. Kingad earned a first-round stoppage over Muhamad Haidar in his ONE debut on the promotion’s last trip to Manila. The Team Lakay fighter has another chance to impress in front of the hometown crowd against another top Filipino fighter. Kingad has the most to gain with a victory, as a win over Toquero would be the best of his career.

Striegl will make his long-awaited return to ONE after getting submitted in the third round of his second ONE Championship bout against title challenger Reece McLaren. Striegl was considered one of the best prospects outside of the promotion before making a successful debut against Casey Suire in 2015. Striegl garnered much attention with strong victories over The Ultimate Fighter 24 alum Kai Kara-France, former PXC champion Crisanto Pitpitunge, Legend FC titleholder Yusuke Kawanago, ROAD FC eight-man tournament finalist Bae Yong Kwon and ONE veteran Ev Ting. “Mugen” has a chance to redeem himself with a victory over Bulgaria’s Sotir Kichukov after dropping his most recent bout to the aforementioned McLaren.

The fighter with the most to gain of these athletes is Eustaquio. The promotion has already hinted that he could earn the next shot at the flyweight title, or potentially the bantamweight strap, if he is victorious on Friday. He’s put in the work to fight for the flyweight strap, but the question is whether he would rematch Adriano Moraes for the interim title or meet Kairat Akhmetov upon his return from injury. If “Gravity” can’t get past Tauru, Striegl and Osenio likely have the most to gain with victories.

Fight Card Predictions
Fight Prediction
HW Championship: Brandon Vera (14-7) vs. Hideki Sekine (7-0) Vera by knockout
BW Championship: Bibiano Fernandes (19-3) vs. Reece McLaren (9-3) Fernandes by decision
67.5kg: Mark Striegl (14-2) vs. Sotir Kichukov (13-4) Striegl by decision
BW: Toni Tauru (10-4-1) vs. Geje Eustaquio (8-4) Eustaquio by decision
LW: Honorio Banario (10-6) vs. Rajinder Singh Meena (8-2) Banario by decision
MW: Leandro Ataides (8-3) vs. Mohamed Ali (10-10) Ataides by submission
FW: Edward Kelly (8-3) vs. Sunoto Peringkat (5-2) Kelly by submission
FlyW: Eugene Toquero (8-3) vs. Danny Kingad (5-0) Toquero by decision
Women’s AtomW: Jenny Huang (4-0) vs. April Osenio (2-1) Osenio by knockout
FlyW: Pengshuai Liu (1-0) vs. Sim Bunsrun (2-3) Bunsrun by submission
BW: Mario Satya Wirawan (5-4) vs. Xie Bin (0-0) Bin by knockout