Bibiano Fernandes (ONE Championship)

ONE Championship: Heart of the Lion Preview and Predictions

ONE Championship returns home on Friday, Nov. 9, at the Singapore Indoor Stadium in Singapore for ONE Championship: Heart of the Lion.

The originally scheduled headliner between ONE champions Angela Lee and Jingnan Xiong was canceled in the week prior to the event. The ONE women’s atomweight queen Lee sustained a serious back injury in her final week of training. Lee was determined to competed regardless of the injury, but the promotion deemed her unfit to fight.

The night’s new main event features a battle of bantamweight champions. Long-reigning ONE kingpin Bibiano Fernandes steps back into the cage with interim titleholder Kevin Belingon. In their first meeting, Fernandes was able to submit Belingon in the first round at ONE Championship: Dynasty of Champions in early 2016.


Also on the card, Giorgio Petrosyan, one of the world’s best kickboxers, takes on former Lumpinee stadium champion Sorgraw Petchyindee Academy, top grappler Gary Tonon returns against South Korea’s Sung Jong Le, and lightweight prospect Christian Lee meets former UFC fighter Kazuki Tokudome on short notice. Also, elite Muay Thai fighter Muangthai P.K.Saenchai
Muaythaigym makes his promotional debut against Panicos Yusuf.

ONE’s latest offering includes seven preliminary-card bouts streaming live on the promotion’s Facebook and Twitter pages. The seven-fight main card airs live on the ONE Championship app.

Bantamweight champion Bibiano Fernandes already holds one victory over his challenger, interim titleholder Kevin Belingon. Does Belingon have the skills to pick up a win over “The Flash,” or will the Brazilian make easy work of his Filipino opponent once more?

Fernandes has been one of the best bantamweights in the world outside of the UFC for years. The 38-year-old spent more than a decade honing his craft with AMC Pankration in Kirkland, Wash. During that time, he has evolved from a one-dimensional, top-game grappler to a complete, elite mixed martial artists under the watchful eye of Matt Hume. The dominant Brazilian became a compelling target for ONE Championship after running through his competition during his time with the now-defunct Dream organization of Japan. Fernandes was signed by ONE during the second year of the company’s operation.

Since then, Fernandes has only cemented his place as one of the best fighters in his division outside of the UFC. The current bantamweight titleholder has won 11 straight fights since his 2010 loss to Hiroyuki Takaya, which is one of only three career defeats — the other two came against elite talent Urijah Faber and the late, great Norifumi “Kid” Yamamoto. Fernandes shot to the top of the division with victories over champions Soo Chul Kim, Masakatsu Ueda, Koetsu Okazaki, Martin Nguyen, Toni Tauru and Reece McLaren. Now, “The Flash” looks to defend his ONE bantamweight title for a record eighth time.

Since his loss to Fernandes in early 2016, Belingon has won six straight, including a five-round decision over the aforementioned two-division champ Nguyen for the interim title. The talented Filipino striker fights out Team Lakay, which has consistently produced champions and prospects for the promotion. Belingon entered ONE as an undefeated prospect, but back-to-back losses after the signing took away some of his shine. Belingon rebounded by making it to the bantamweight tournament finals, but he fell short in the finals against former Shooto world champ Ueda. Shortly after, Belingon put himself in line to face Fernandes with a victory over another fellow Shooto titleholder, the aforementioned Okazaki.

In his recent run to the title, Belingon defeated every bantamweight near contention. He looked great in stoppage victories over former Cage Warriors champ Tauru, Andrew Leone and the aforementioned McLaren. His impressive run of victories led to an opportunity to foil Nguyen’s plan of becoming a three-division ONE champion. Belingon was able to outwork his bigger opponent by using flashy striking techniques and underrated grappling ability.

Belingon has developed his game to become a more well-rounded threat to his opponents. Will it be enough to take out Fernandes? Doubtful. Belingon is surely going to perform better in the rematch, but Fernandes always has the option to bring this fight down to the mat, where he is the superior grappler and submission artist. Fernandes gets the stoppage victory midway through the contest.

Giorgio Petrosyan is set for another kickboxing bout at this event. Is his opponent, Sorgraw Petchyindee Academy, a threat to hand Petrosyan a loss?

Sorgraw is a talented Muay Thai fighter with a wealth of experience in Thailand. Born into poverty, he has spent his life fighting to better the life of his family. From the small camps in the northeast of Thailand to the biggest stadiums in Bangkok, Sorgraw has competed against some of the best Thailand has to offer. The 25-year-old has won numerous titles, including the prestigious Lumpinee stadium belt, Thailand title, WMC world championship and the Toyota Marathon one-night, eight-man tournament. Sorgraw entered the ONE cage for the first time when he defeated France’s Samy Sana in an exciting battle under kickboxing rules.

Petrosyan has long been considered one of the best kickboxers in the world. The two-time K-1 MAX champion and GLORY Slam tournament victor has compiled one of the best records in kickboxing today. Petrosyan, 32, holds victories in 88 of his 93 pro bouts, including 42 by way of knockout. In his run of success since 2007, Petrosyan has gone on an incredible 42-fight unbeaten streak and defeated almost every top-flight kickboxer on the planet. He has compiled a record of 52-1-2 over the past 11 years. Petrosyan returns to the ONE cage following one of the biggest wins of his career against fellow top-10 lightweight Chingiz Allazov. His second venture with the promotion follows a dominant victory over former Lion Fight champion Jo Nattawut in his debut.

So, does Sorgraw stand a chance? Sure. Every fighter can have an off night, make a reckless mistake or perform above their skill level. However, the likelihood of Sorgraw overcoming the skill disparity, change in rule set and open-stance battle are slim. Petrosyan is the far superior boxer, with slick hands, stellar defense and precise counter striking, hence the name “The Doctor.” Sorgraw is a traditional, orthodox Muay Thai fighter who uses his kicks to wear down his opponent. Petrosyan will likely look to exploit the difference in their punching, but he’ll need to use his own teep kick, left middle kick and deceptive high kick to set up his hands.

Petrosyan is considered one of the best in the sport for a reason. He’s been a dominant force for over a decade against some of the best competitors in the world. Petrosyan keeps his illustrious career intact with a clear decision victory here.

Which fight is the sleeper match-up on this card?

Angela Lee might be off of the card, but her younger brother, Christian, was willing to step up to fill the void. The fight was made on short notice, which is why it is flying under the radar on a card filled with excellent talents like Giorgio Petrosyan, Muangthai and Gary Tonon.

Christian, 20, burst into the limelight early on in his ONE Championship career. After making his professional debut as a 17-year-old, Lee won nine of 10 bouts, including victories over former champion Kotetsu Boku, former Deep kingpin Kazunori Yokota and prospect Keanu Subba. Lee’s run of success led to a title shot against two-division ONE champ Martin Nguyen. However, after five back-and-forth rounds, Nguyen was awarded the split decision. In Lee’s most recent outing, he knocked out Edward Kelly with a slam, but the bout was ruled a disqualification for an illegal suplex based on the new rules instituted by the promotion.

Lee makes his return against exciting Japanese striker Kazuki Tokudome. The UFC veteran has won 18 of his 28 bouts, and he has stoppage victories in 12 of those contests. The former King of Pancrase made his ONE Championship debut in June against former ONE titleholder Narantungalag Jadambaa. Tokudome, 31, wasn’t able to take home the victory in a contest that went the distance.

Tokudome was initially scheduled to face Thailand-based grappler Emilio Urrutia, but the opportunity to fill in on this card against Lee could expedite his path to title contention. However, he’ll have to get past Lee first.

Fight Picks

Fight Pick
Main Card
BW Championship: Bibiano Fernandes vs. Kevin Belingon Fernandes by decision
Catchweight (73 kilograms): Christian Lee vs. Kazuki Tokudome Lee by submission
Kickboxing (71 kilograms): Giorgio Petrosyan vs. Sorgraw Petchyindee Academy Petrosyan by decision
Women’s StrawW: Tiffany Teo vs. Michelle Nicolini Nicolini by submission
LW: Adrian Pang vs. Kota Shimoishi Pang by decision
Muay Thai (FW): George Mann vs. Smokin’ Jo Nattawut Nattawut by decision
Muay Thai (BW): Andrew Miller vs. Alaverdi Ramazanov Ramazanov by decision
Preliminary Card
FW: Garry Tonon vs. Sung Jong Lee Tonon by submission
StrawW: Dejdamrong Sor Amnuaysirichoke vs. Himanshu Kaushik Amnuaysirichoke by knockout
Muay Thai (BW): Panicos Yusuf vs. Muangthai P.K.Saenchai Muaythaigym Muangthai by knockout
Sanda (FW): Shahzaib Rindh vs. Feng Lei Lei by decision
BW: Muhammad Aiman vs. Shuya Kamikubo Kamikubo by knockout
BW: Hisyam Samsudin vs. Xie Bin Bin by submission
FW: Anthony Engelen vs. Meas Meul Meu by submission