ONE Championship will hold its 73rd event from the Singapore Indoor Stadium in Singapore on Friday, May 18.
ONE Championship: Unstoppable Dreams is headlined by one of three title fights on the night. Women’s atomweight champion Angela Lee and second-time challenger “V.V” Mei Yamaguchi square off in the main event. The undefeated titleholder seeks her third title defense and second win over the top-flight former Deep and Valkyrie champ, who gave Lee the toughest fight of her career in their first encounter.
The co-headliner features the first-ever ONE Super Series title fight under Muay Thai rules between Lion Fight lightweight champion Sergio Wielzen and multiple-time, multiple-division Lumpinee stadium and Thailand champ Sam-A Gaiyanghadao.
In the last title bout of the night, current lightweight and featherweight champion Martin Nguyen defends the latter of those belts against a familiar foe, Christian Lee, who is looking for revenge following his only career loss to Nguyen.
The main card also includes legendary Muay Thai fighter and kickboxer Yodanklai Fairtex, who fights for the second time in 2018 and for the first time under the ONE banner when he takes on the 2015 Combat Press Kickboxing “Knockout of the Year” winner Chris Ngimbi. Meanwhile, former ONE lightweight champions Shinya Aoki and Eduard Folayang return against Russian opponents Rasul Yakhyaev and Kharun Atlangeriev, respectively.
In addition, former Rajadamnern stadium “Fighter of the Year” and Lumpinee champion Singtongnoi Por Telakun headlines the preliminary card against WBC Muay Thai super bantamweight world champ Joseph Lasiri.
The preliminary card opens at 7 a.m. ET on Facebook and Twitter. The main card continues at 8:30 a.m. ET on ONE Championship’s streaming app.
Mei Yamaguchi worked her way back to the title following Angela Lee’s nearly year-long absence from the sport. Will Lee return at the top of her game, or is Yamaguchi going to change the outcome in this rematch?
Lee returns to ONE for the first time in nearly a year and she looks for her third title defense. She was scheduled to fight Yamaguchi in November, but her plans changed abruptly when she rolled her car multiple times and sustained a concussion and other minor injuries. Lee disappeared for awhile. She cited the mental strain becoming as painful as the physical injuries she sustained. After giving herself the time to recover, Lee got back on the mats.
Lee has captivated the ONE audience with her aggressive, fight-finishing style that led her to wins in all eight of her professional bouts. The 21-year-old Canadian-born champ built a massive following in Singapore while training under the Evolve MMA banner. She’s since moved back home to Hawaii under the tutelage of her family gym, United MMA. Lee looked absolutely unbeatable when she first arrived in ONE as a 19-year-old unknown. She used her superior grappling skills, ever-improving striking and downright nasty ground-and-pound to dismantle all of her opponents before the final bell. Until, that is, she met Yamaguchi.
The former Deep and Valkyrie champ Yamaguchi signed with ONE to take on Lee in the inaugural women’s atomweight title bout. Yamaguchi, who held victories over Yuka Tsuji, Mina Kurobe and Emi Fujino, was one of the world’s top atomweights heading into the fight. She gave Lee one hell of a fight. The much smaller Yamaguchi was able to land punches and kicks throughout the bout and scored a big knockdown in the third round to turn the tables on the youngster. Lee’s grappling helped her survive the onslaught and live on to capture the first ONE women’s title. Lee sealed the deal with a never-ending submission attack in the fourth and fifth rounds. Yamaguchi remained game throughout the bout despite slowing down in the championship rounds.
Going into the first fight, size figured to be a major factor. However, the sheer difference in their stature on fight night could not have been predicted. ONE switched to a “walk weight” weigh-in system following the tragic death of Yang Jian Bing, who passed away while cutting weight for a fight. However, the transparency of the details of the system have been cloudy at best. There have been instances, both public and behind the scenes, that lend to the fact that the system might not be 100 percent adhered to across the board for all fighters. The first bout between Lee and Yamaguchi is just one example. Rumors were swirling that Lee missed weight. The inability of the promotion to report its weigh-in results leaves many fans to question just how fair the process really is.
Look at last weekend’s UFC 224 bout between Mackenzie Dern and Amanda Bobby Cooper. Cooper, who has a notoriously difficult weight cut, made the 115-pound limit. Meanwhile, Dern landed in Brazil at a reported 139 pounds, and only made it down to 123 pounds on weigh-in day. Dern carried a huge advantage into the bout with Cooper. Size, strength and mass does play an important factor in fights, especially when the fighters are nearly equal in skill or the larger fighter has a technical advantage.
If Lee comes in heavy for the bout, will it make a difference? Most certainly. Fortunately, Yamaguchi has decided to bulk up from her typical 105-pound frame to compete at the 114.6-pound upper threshold under the ONE system. Yamaguchi showed off her physique in her victories over former title challenger Jenny Huang and past foe Gina Iniong.
Yamaguchi, like Lee, is also a life-long martial artist with an incredibly well-rounded set of skills. The first fight was a “Fight of the Year” contender in 2016, and the rematch, whether it’s a five-round fight or a quick stoppage, will likely garner some award hardware later in the year. Yamaguchi will have to steal the gold in front of Lee’s biggest fan base. She couldn’t do it in the first fight, but she has all of the tools to do it in the rematch. We could be looking at a new atomweight champion once the dust settles.
Sam-A Gaiyanghadao and Sergio Wielzen fight for the first ONE Super Series Muay Thai title. Who wins?
Sam-A ended his 18-month retirement at the beginning of 2018 when ONE introduced Muay Thai rules bouts into the promotion’s future plans. The decision has already paid off for the promotion, as legendary fighters like Sam-A, Nong-O and Singtongnoi have put their coaching responsibilities at Evolve MMA aside at least for one night to return to the ring. The common trend among these stadium champions and legends is that they were fighting and still beating some of the best, even late into their careers.
Sam-A is one of the most technically skilled Muay Thai practitioners of the past decade. His game is defined by his speed, depth of skill and consistently great ability to defend and make his opponents pay with counters. Take every technique in the Muay Thai handbook — Sam-A does each and every one nearly flawlessly. He fights with a true technical brilliance in his defense, kicks, boxing game and clinch work. Sam-A capitalizes on small mistakes, defensive flaws or missed opportunities to turn them into big scoring moments. He retired to take a coaching position with the Evolve camp, but his technique is still considered one of the best today, despite having fought for more than 25 years.
Wielzen has been the measure in which fighters are compared for many years. The Surinamese-born, Dutch-style kickboxer has been fighting at the highest levels against some of the toughest competition from China to the Netherlands. The current Lion Fight lightweight titleholder has challenged himself throughout his career by taking Muay Thai and kickboxing bouts against many of the best the division has to offer, from hungry contenders to world champions. Wielzen holds victories over Lumpinee and Rajadamnern stadium champ Anuwat Kaewsamrit, former top-10 lightweight Mohamed Khamal, Krush GP champ Masahiro Yamamoto and Lion Fight kingpin Ognjen Topić. Wielzen is an excellent fighter with a well-rounded skill set. He throws plenty of punches, step knees and often throws a kick to cap off his combinations. Unfortunately, his speed has dropped off little by little over the years, and he’s struggled with young, powerful kickboxers like Kunlun Fight titleholder Wang Wengfeng and W5 champ Timur Nadrov, who brutally knocked out Wielzen a year ago.
Nong-O’s performance against Fabio Pinca opened the door to these technical gaps that exist under Muay Thai rules. Pinca is one of the best Muay Thai practitioners to hail from France in the past decade, and yet he looked like a fish out of water against the multiple-time stadium champion. Wielzen can compete with top-level fighters, but he’s struggled against the best kickboxers in his division. Sam-A is an elite fighter, so Wielzen will likely be in for another tough night at the office.
Martin Nguyen returns to featherweight following a failed bid to win a third divisional title at bantamweight. Will Nguyen successfully defend his belt, or will Christian Lee shock everyone and steal the belt?
Prior to Nguyen’s five-round defeat at the hands of bantamweight champ Bibiano Fernandes, he was riding a six-fight winning streak that included title-winning knockouts against Marat Gafurov at featherweight and Eduard Folayang at lightweight. The 29-year-old Australian put on a valiant effort against Fernandes, who is widely considered one of the best fighters outside of the UFC or Bellator. Nguyen showcased his excellent takedown defense and counter grappling, an ability to slip away from his opponent’s counters, and an excellent jab that helped him control the distance. Nguyen found his own moments of offensive success. He opened a cut on the forehead of the champ with a grazing right elbow strike and briefly stunned Fernandes with a two-piece combination that momentarily buckled his legs. Nguyen also landed a myriad of low and high kicks that seemed to frustrate the champ. Despite his efforts to unseat the long-reigning champ, Nguyen came up short on the judges’ cards.
Lee will try to erase a loss of his own against Nguyen from more than a year and a half ago at ONE Championship: Heroes of the World. Lee, who was only 18 at the time, came out very aggressively in pursuit of the striking exchanges. Nguyen did a great job of avoiding the heat and getting out of the range of Lee’s kicks and punches. Lee came in, looking for the finish, and ate some big shots from the Australian. Nguyen sat down on his punches and looked for a big right hand counter. Lee’s over-pursuit opened up a huge left-hook counter that floored the challenger. Following the knockdown, Lee was survival mode. Nguyen switch his attack from strikes to grappling and locked up a tight modified guillotine choke that put Lee into sleep mode in the first round.
Following his first career loss, Lee returned to his winning ways with four straight stoppages. He picked up a huge win when he slammed former ONE lightweight champ Kotetsu Boku on his head for a knockout. He cemented a rematch against Nguyen when he submitted former Deep featherweight kingpin Kazunori Yokota with an arm-in guillotine choke.
Lee will have an edge in height and reach over Nguyen. He will need to start off cautious against an experienced counter fighter like Nguyen. Lee had some good moments with his jab and kicks in the pair’s first meeting. However, when Lee got impatient and overaggressive, he ran into the punches of Nguyen. Lee would benefit from switching between his striking and wrestling, which he can achieve by throwing his jab, kicks and feints while mixing in takedown attempts. He needs to make Nguyen work with his back against the cage and in the wrestling exchanges. Lee is a black belt with true fight-finishing ability on the mat, but Nguyen won’t give away opportunities and has showcased solid defensive improvements in his bouts with Fernandes and Gafurov.
This fight comes down to who controls where it takes place. Nguyen’s power is once again the x-factor. The champion’s ability to end a fight with a single shot on the feet will certainly make Lee second guess his usual bulldozer-like pressure game. Should Lee come in patient, pick his shots and work in his grappling, then this fight will feature many back-and-forth exchanges. There is one question that won’t be a mystery after the bout, though. This fight, a match-up between two fighters who have combined for 19 stoppages, is almost guaranteed to end before the final bell. Nguyen shocked the world twice before, but it won’t shock anyone when he puts away Lee for the second time.
Muay Thai legend Yodsanklai Fairtex makes his ONE debut against dynamic kickboxer Chris Ngimbi. Will Yodsanklai continue his incredible success?
The legendary Yodsanklai has racked up an incredible 198 wins and 77 knockouts in his 25-year career. The 32-year-old returned to action against K-1 Max champion Enriko Kehl at Wu Lin Feng in February following a brief retirement. Prior to his time off, Yodsanklai had qualified for the 2017 Kunlun Fight 70-kilogram Final 16 with two victories in one night over Cedric Manhoef and Soichiro Miyakoshi. Yodsanklai is currently riding a 27-fight winning streak that includes victories over eventual 2017 Kunlun Fight 64-man tournament winner Marat Grigorian, top-10 welterweight Yohan Lidon, former Rajadamnern stadium champ Kem Sitsongpeenong, former top-10 fighter Dzhabar Askerov, and top-flight talents Diogo Calado, Vladimír Moravčík, Victor Nagbe and Dzianis Zuev.
Ngimbi broke onto the kickboxing scene as a part-time fighter, soccer player and caregiver for his two younger sisters following the loss of their parents. Ngimbi was forced to move from his birth country of Congo at the age of 11 when civil war broke out in the country. Despite his tumultuous upbringing, Ngimbi quickly made a name for himself with victories over Chahid Oulad El Hadj, Kit Sitpholek, Warren Stevelmans, William Diender and Marco Piqué. He won his first title when he ended the reign of Moroccan Murat Direkçi at It’s Showtime in 2010. Ngimbi defended the title once before dispatching of Direkçi again in the opening round of the 2011 It’s Showtime 70MAX grand prix. Unfortunately, Ngimbi dropped a split decision to eventual two-division GLORY world champ Robin van Roosmalen in the semifinals of the one-night, eight-man tournament.
Ngimbi has fought many of the greats, including Giorgio Petrosyan, Andy Souwer and Artur Kyshenko. Despite falling short against the best in the world, he continued to impress with exciting victories and fights in Kunlun Fight, W5 and Superkombat. Ngimbi scored his award-winning 2015 “Knockout of the Year” in the finals of a four-man W5 71-kilogram tournament. He fell short in his next two tourney bids in W5 and Kunlun Fight, but picked up strong wins against 2017 Kunlun Fight tournament semifinalist Sergii Kuliaba and Romanian Amansio Paraschiv to capture the Superkombat 72.5-kilogram belt. Ngimbi most recently fought kickboxing legend Giorgio Petrosyan in a losing effort, but the Congolese fighter has another chance to knock off a legend when he fights Yodsanklai.
Ngimbi has a pretty straightforward kickboxing style. He utilizes a tall stance, high guard and the typical Muay Thai weapons. His knees are the bread and butter of his game, but he throws a solid jab, a low kick and a left hook to the head and body. Ngimbi does a beautiful job of finding a home for his step knees while engaging inside or on the outside with a jump and a switch. He will need to implement those dynamic attacks against the skilled Yodsanklai.
This bout will be an open-stance battle that favors Yodsanklai, who is one of the best southpaw strikers in combat sports. Yodsanklai throws a destructive left kick that has been the main component for many of his best wins. His hands and boxing game have been elevated to another level as well. Yodsanklai’s subtle footwork, head movement and ability to slip and counter have been mainstays in his career.
Ngimbi is stepping up in a David-vs.-Goliath setting once again. A victory for Ngimbi over Yodsanklai would be considered a monumental upset despite Ngimbi’s own experience in the kickboxing realm. This might be where dreams turn into nightmares, too. Yodsanklai hasn’t lost in kickboxing since he fought pound-for-pound great Artur Kyshenko in an all-time classic in 2011. Ngimbi has a tough task ahead of him.
Women’s AtomW Championship: Angela Lee vs. Mei Yamaguchi
Yamaguchi by decision
Super Series Muay Thai FlyW Championship: Sam-A Gaiyanghadao vs. Sergio Wielzen
Sam-A by decision
FW Championship: Martin Nguyen vs. Christian Lee
Nguyen by knockout
Kickboxing: Yodsanklai Fairtex vs. Chris Ngimbi
Yodsanklai by decision
LW: Shinya Aoki vs. Rasul Yakhyaev
Aoki by submission
LW: Eduard Folayang vs. Kharun Atlangeriev
Folayang by decision
LW: Amir Khan vs. Sung Jong Lee
Khan by decision
Muay Thai: Singtongnoi Por Telakun vs. Joseph Lasiri
Singtongnoi by decision
FW: Meas Meu vs. Xie Chao
Chao by knockout
BW: Shi Hao Huang vs. Xie Bin
Xie Bin by decision
BW: Roel Rosauro vs. Sunoto Peringkat
Peringkat by submission
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