This is no Masters of the Universe. There’s no He-Man. There’s no Skeletor. There’s no She-Ra, either. This is Masters of Fate, the latest offering from ONE Championship. The rivals here are strawweights Joshua Pacio and Rene Catalan, who will tangle for the division’s title belt. The mighty female warrior is Stamp Fairtex, who continues on her journey to becoming a three-sport champion within the organization. The battles don’t take place at Castle Grayskull, but rather at the Mall of Asia Arena in Manila, Philippines. It’s all part of a 14-fight card that takes place at 7 a.m. ET on the morning of Friday, Nov. 8.
Pacio and Catalan are the main attraction. Pacio has played hot potato with the title belt through his last three fights. Now once more the reigning king of the division, he has made his confidence clear in his comments about how he’d fare in a fight with one of the world’s most skilled wushu combatants. Catalan, of course, didn’t take kindly to those words. Once set on avoiding a fight with his fellow countrymen in the ONE promotion, the 40-year-old has now decided he can indeed fight another Filipino in order to defend his own honor.
Fairtex may not hold top-billing here, but her story is worth following for any ONE fan. After claiming championships in the company’s Muay Thai and kickboxing realms, the 28-year-old, who has just two pro MMA fights to her name, has set her sights on the atomweight MMA crown. While her target is current titleholder Angela Lee, Fairtex will have to prove herself first against Bi Nguyen, a King of the Cage veteran whose modest 5-4 record doesn’t do her justice. Nguyen has twice challenged for King of the Cage gold, and she holds victories over the likes of Andy Nguyen, Katie Saull, Jayme Hinshaw and Cassie Robb.
Muay Thai is well represented on this card, too. Fans will be treated to the promotional debut of 22-year-old phenom Sangmanee Sathian, who clashes with GLORY veteran Azize Hlali. Former ONE title challenger Alma Juniku is set for action in an atomweight affair against Anne Line Hogstad. Kongsak P.K.Saenchaimuaythaigym and Tukkatatong Petpayathai are also featured in separate bouts.
Masters of Fate kicks off with a seven-fight preliminary card. Another seven fights make up the main card, culminating in the headlining strawweight title contest. All of the action can be seen via the ONE Championship app.
Rene Catalan is the latest fighter to step up and challenge Joshua Pacio for ONE’s strawweight title. Is Catalan, who stands at a modest 6-2 in his pro career, the easiest ONE opponent yet for Pacio?
Catalan’s record is deceiving. The 40-year-old has been competing in MMA professionally since 2013. He lost two of his first three fights and had the other end in a no-contest, but he’s now won six in a row, including surprising victories over Stefer Rahardian and Yoshitaka Naito. Those two achievements suggest that Catalan has grown from a mid-tier fighter into a legitimate threat in ONE’s strawweight (125-pound) division.
Pacio also beat Naito, and it was for the belt. However, he turned around and lost the crown in his one and only attempted defense against Yosuke Saruta. The Filipino fighter came back to beat Saruta convincingly in their immediate rematch. This put the belt back around Pacio’s waist and set him up for a defense against Catalan, who punched his ticket with the victory over Naito.
The strawweight division can be tricky. Naito appeared to be the king of the mountain, but he’s now stumbled against Alex Silva, Pacio and Catalan. Pacio has had his own setbacks against Naito, Saruta and Hayato Suzuki. Catalan, meanwhile, has early career losses to Silva and Dejdamrong Sor Amnuaysirichoke. However, Catalan’s recent streak makes him the most consistent of the bunch right now.
So, Catalan might actually be one of Pacio’s most difficult foes under the ONE banner. He’s also got a chip on his shoulder after Pacio bragged that he could score the finish in under 15 minutes. Initially, the highly decorated wushu and sanshou practitioner didn’t want to fight a fellow Filipino, but Pacio’s boasts changed Catalan’s mind. Catalan seems to have found his groove in this sport, and he has something to prove now against Pacio. Time is working against the 40-year-old, but he’s coming off two very impressive victories and could find a third — and a title belt — against Team Lakay’s Pacio. Don’t count out Catalan just yet.
As usual, ONE has mixed in some Muay Thai with its MMA offerings. Who should MMA followers have an eye on?
Fans should definitely pay attention to Sangmanee Sathian. The 22-year-old already holds world championships at Lumpinee and Rajadamnern Stadiums. This will be his first fight since inking a multi-fight deal with the organization. Sathian gets a tough test against former GLORY fighter Azize Hlali, who has more than 100 bouts under his belt. Hlali had his struggles in GLORY, where he suffered two losses. The French fighter is a beatable opponent for Sathian, but the two should combine for a fun scrap.
That’s not the only intriguing Muay Thai affair in the lineup, either. On the women’s side, Alma Juniku is set to square off against ISKA champ Anne Line Hogstad. In additional men’s action, fans will be treated to decorated fighters Han Zhi Hao, Kongsak P.K.Saenchaimuaythaigym, Tukkatatong Petpayathai and Hiroaki Suzuki. None of these fighters are necessarily household names, but they’re not exactly scrubs.
Juniku is a WBC and IPCC titleholder. She snagged both belts within a few months of turning 18. She wasn’t as fortunate in her title bid against ONE champ Stamp Fairtex, but it made for a significant promotional debut for the Aussie. Norway’s Hogstad also has a trophy case full of titles. Hogstad did suffer a loss under the Glory of Heroes banner in 2018 and could fall victim to a similar fate against Juniku.
Hao will have his hands full with three-time Lumpinee Stadium champ Kongsak. The Thai fighter has over 200 fights under his belt, but he’s suffered nearly 60 career losses. Hao doesn’t hold anywhere near the accolades of his adversary, and he’s already suffered 23 losses of his own, including a six-fight skid early in his career. Kongsak should be able to find the victory in this contest.
Evolve MMA’s Petpayathai has more than 20 years experience. He’s a two-time Channel 7 Stadium champion who has competed in more than 270 pro fights. He’ll make a tough opponent for Shoot Boxing titleholder Suzuki. The 34-year-old Japanese fighter has had mixed results in the Muay Thai realm and could be in over his head against Petpayathai.
The main card — and even the top end of the prelims — feature some former champions and title contenders. Which fighters bounce back and re-establish themselves as a threat in their respective divisions?
Former lightweight kingpin Eduard Folayang is a strong pick to rebound when he meets the outgunned Amarsanaa Tsogookhuu. The 29-year-old Tsogookhuu is making just his second appearance with the company, and he’s just a six-fight veteran tossed into the cage with a beast of an ex-champ. Team Lakay’s Folayang is on a two-fight skid, but those losses came against former UFC champion Eddie Alvarez and the legendary Shinya Aoki. Tsogookhuu marks a dramatic drop in competition for Folayang.
We could also see a turnaround from Yoshitaka Naito, a strawweight standout. “Nobita” has been the Shooto and ONE champion at several points throughout his career. He most recently dropped the strap to current titleholder Joshua Pacio and then stumbled against Rene Catalan, but he has since recovered with a victory over Alex Silva, another member of the division’s elite. He now draws Pongsiri Mitsatit, who has dropped three of his last four outings. It would be a surprise if Naito can’t get past his Thai opponent.
Which fight is the sleeper match-up on this card?
It would certainly be tempting to pick Li Kai Wen’s return to action against Paul Lumihi. Wen is no title contender, but he is on a three-fight winning streak that includes two stoppages that each came in less than one minute. Lumihi has plenty of finishes as well, but he’s on a two-fight skid and could help to further bolster Wen’s current streak.
However, the real sleeper, if we can even call it that given it’s high-profile placement here, is the clash between Stamp Fairtex and Bi Nguyen. Fairtex is on a quest to add more gold to her collection after already claiming ONE titles in Muay Thai and kickboxing. She’s not quite there yet, but a victory over Nguyen, a two-time King of the Cage title challenger, could be the final step before ONE pairs her with its current women’s atomweight MMA champ Angela Lee. Fairtex has already head-kicked Rashi Shinde into oblivion and impressed in a submission victory over the formerly undefeated Asha Roka. Nguyen keeps fights close, but Fairtex’s superior skill set should carry her to victory.
MMA (StrawW Championship): Joshua Pacio vs. Rene Catalan
MMA (LW): Eduard Folayang vs. Amarsanaa Tsogookhuu
Muay Thai (BW): Sangmanee Sathian vs. Azize Hlali
MMA (FlyW): Geje Eustaquio vs. Toni Tauru
MMA (Women’s AtomW): Stamp Fairtex vs. Bi Nguyen
Muay Thai (Women’s AtomW): Alma Juniku vs. Anne Line Hogstad
MMA (BW): Paul Lumihi vs. Li Kai Wen
MMA (StrawW): Yoshitaka Naito vs. Pongsiri Mitsatit
Muay Thai (BW): Han Zhi Hao vs. Kongsak P.K.Saenchaimuaythaigym
MMA (StrawW): Robin Catalan vs. Gustavo Balart
MMA (FW): Jae Woong Kim vs. Rafael Nunes
Muay Thai (BW): Tukkatatong Petpayathai vs. Hiroaki Suzuki
MMA (FlyW): Kim Kyu Sung vs. Akihiro Fujisawa
MMA (FlyW): Roshan Mainam vs. Khon Sichan
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