2021 was a landmark year for ONE Championship. Asia’s largest sports media property dazzled martial arts fans with the ONE women’s atomweight world grand prix, the inaugural ONE featherweight kickboxing championship battle that saw Superbon ice Giorgio Petrosyan, its U.S. primetime television debut, and much more. After a year of nonstop fireworks, 2022 promises to be even more engaging, with a long list of must-see match-ups between the world’s best martial artists.
As fans, what are we clamoring for the most? What matches add fuel to the impending fire of the new year? Here are five mixed martial arts bouts we would love to see happen as the calendar rolls over to 2022.
Stamp Fairtex vs. Angela Lee
Let’s begin with one match we know we are guaranteed to see in 2021.
Following the rousing success of the atomweight grand prix, Stamp Fairtex emerged as a full-fledged mixed martial arts star. The former Muay Thai and kickboxing world champion not only stopped the wrestling prowess of Ritu Phogat, but she flashed her growing submission game to earn a tap out and a shot at Angela Lee’s ONE atomweight title.
Stamp’s progression as an all-around talent makes this matchup exceedingly exciting. It is no longer just a striker vs. grappler battle. The Thai star has shown no fear in attacking with submissions if she is taken down – and, even to avoid being taken down. Her aggressive grappling may give Lee some pause.
As for the champ, it will be wonderful to see her back in action. But what questions are still there? How much has she improved? Will there be any rust? These are all compelling storylines that will set the stage for a massive atomweight thriller early in the new year.
John Lineker vs. Bibiano Fernandes
Here’s another bout we know is going to happen. Previously announced for ONE X before the event had to be postponed, John Lineker and Bibiano Fernandes will meet for the ONE bantamweight world title when the momentous event gets rescheduled.
The all-Brazilian battle should light up fan’s boards for the new year. Fernandes and Lineker are two of the most exciting athletes on the planet, and they are longtime fan favorites. After all these years, it is finally time to see them in action against one another. And, the match-up would make any martial arts fan drool.
Fernandes has been mentioned on pound-for-pound lists for the better part of a decade, and Lineker’s all-out pressure, with his concrete-like fists, earning him the nickname “Hands Of Stone”, make for an exciting title tilt.
Jarred Brooks vs. Joshua Pacio
After Jarred Brooks dominated Team Lakay’s Lito Adiwang, the stage was set for an epic meeting with ONE strawweight champion Joshua Pacio.
Brooks jumped to number three in the official ONE strawweight rankings following the win, and the budding rivalry between the American and the top gym in The Philippines provides an amazing build towards the prospective title match. However, getting there will not be easy. Also ranked in the top five are, in order, Bokang Masunyane, Yosuke Saruta, Hiroba Minowa, and former divisional king Alex Silva.
But if Brooks can pick up another win inside the ONE Circle, he will have a strong case for a title bid. If Pacio is there waiting, it will be a meeting every fan should enjoy. The storyline building between Team Lakay and Brooks will be something to keep an eye on in 2022.
Christian Lee vs. Ok Rae Yoon
Ok Rae Yoon burst onto the global stage in 2021 with back-to-back primetime performances during the ONE on TNT series, which ended with a win over American MMA legend Eddie Alvarez. That win earned him a quick shot at the king, Christian “The Warrior” Lee.
Ok went on to defeat Lee to become the new ONE lightweight champion, However, it was not without controversy, at least in the eyes of the former champ. Lee was boiling at the decision loss. He believes he was wronged by the judges and did enough to retain the gold. And, given that the bout was incredibly close, Lee could have a case at an immediate rematch against the South Korean.
The second meeting between these two world-class martial artists will be intriguing to watch. It will come down to who makes the right adjustments from their first meeting. This rematch ranks at the top of the list for must-see lightweight action in the red-hot division.
Iuri Lapicus vs. Dagi Arslanaliev
Speaking of lightweights, there is a potential meeting between contenders that could light the mixed martial arts world on fire in 2022.
Rising star Iuri Lapicus and heavy-hitter Dagi Arslanaliev have never met inside the Circle, but they are two of the most exciting stars in the division. If Lee gets his rematch, that opens the door for another impressive lightweight contender’s bout to happen.
While the stakes would be high given their respective spots in the rankings, the truth is, this match would be exhilarating due to the stylistic clash that it would set up. Both men always look for the finish inside the Circle, so there’s no doubt that it would be a barn burner.
On top of this, Lapicus and Dagi post a perfect 100-percent finishing rate in their careers. If that doesn’t excite you, a visit to the doctor may be required. While there is no rivalry to be had, and nothing pointing to this match being on the immediate horizon, it ranks toward the top of the list of bouts we would love to see in 2022 for the sheer excitement it would bring.
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