JOHANNESBURG - ONE Championship rings in the New Year by announcing an immense and historic blockbuster of a card for Kings of Courage taking place in Jakarta on the 20th of January. Sitting atop an incredibly entertaining and talent-deep card, the inaugural women's strawweight title will be contested between Singaporean standup starlet, Tiffany “No Chill” Teo who faces China’s Jingnan ‘The Panda’ Xiong.
All Photos: Courtesy ONE Championship.
Teo for the KO.
The rising star from Shandong holds a 10-1 record with her only defeat being to Collen Schneider and is a cracking matchup pugilistically with a boxing record of 13-1. Despite also boasting a superb jits game, she’ll have her gloves full with Teo. ‘No Chill’ will be more than happy to trade in the pocket with nasty hooks and typical Taekwondo range attacks. The undefeated Team Highlight Reel product slapped a snapper onto Puja Tomar’s cubital to take a first round sub victory last November back home in Kallang and I expect her to come out fast and aggressive the moment Olivier Coste drops his hand.
Rahardian is a hardy one.
The co-main event features debutante Muhammad Imran, a former PFC Strawweight Champ and Budokai karateka now entering ONE for the very first time at 57 kilos to face hometown hero Stefer Rahardian which is one heck of a tall order. The undefeated Jakartan has been on a tear with a sweet submission win over Sim Bunsrun at the same venue last September which was itself hot on the heels of an outstanding decision victory over the durable Eugene Toquero. A virginal appearance under the glaring super-troopers of the Jakarta Convention Centre against a vociferous partisan home crowd is going to be a crucible of pure pressure for the Punjabi probate from Pakistan.
Leo from Rio goes headhunting.
Vitaly Bigdash from Rostov Oblast beats his path back to the top having lost his Middleweight buckle famously against Myanmar hero Aung La N Sang and the first step for the formerly dominant grappler begins with the deadly Leandro 'Leo' Ataides from Rio. A powerful finisher with seven victories ending within the distance, he dominated Polish vet Michal Pasternak in his last scrap and stung Mohamed Ali with a highlight-reel flying knee that was named ONE’s Knockout of the Year in 2016. The five-time BJJ World Champ matches well with Bigdash on the canvas but just might cause the upset on the feet.
Marat on the mat may make the Tobikan tap.
Talking of Russian grapplers, one of my favourite Featherweights of all time, former ONE 66kg Champ Marat Gafurov also returns having jaw-droppingly lost his title against Martin Nguyen in August but features here in a grappling super-match against the bad boy of Japanese MMA, the Tobikan Judan, Shinya Aoki, himself looking to rebound from a loss. The bone-collecting 34-year-old Aoki is a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt under the famed Yuki Nakai and has amassed just as many grappling titles as he has headlines. Fresh off that aforementioned loss to the retiring Ben Askren, Aoki is facing a man on a mission in Gafurov whose own shock defeat to the Situ-Asian has lit a fire of revenge within the standout Dagestani. Don’t blink.
Permingkat the Cheshire Cat.
The Terminator will be back in Jakarta as Sunoto Permingkat will look to score one of his spectacular signature finishes against 24-year-old Rin Saroth from Phnom Penh. Both athletes have relentless and attritional forward pressure striking attacks with Saroth holding a terrifying Khun Khmer record of 110-22-0. Saroth steps in on short notice, replacing Cambodian compatriot Thai Rithy. Have the smelling salts on hand for this one.
Masakazu the submission samurai.
It seems that the lower we go down the card, the talent-pool just gets deeper as we witness the return of Sambo world Champion, Yusup “Maestro” Saadulaev fighting out of Moscow. An outstanding Bantamweight with a 16-4-1 record, who can forget his victory over Adriano Moraes, one of only two people to ever best the current ONE Flyweight Champion, the other of course being Kazakhstani neighbour Kairat Akhmetov (also by split decision). He’s facing another superb submission grappler in former 3-time DEEP Champion, Masakazu Imanari whose 36 total victories contain 25 by way of submission. Tap or snap.
Miao Jie shoulders the burden of Chinese hopes.
A superb matchup sees the increasingly popular Chinese grappler Jie ‘Supermom’ Miao welcoming the highly experienced Ukraninan Iryna Kyselova. Whilst Jie holds the record for the fastest finish in ONE women’s history, Kyselova has lightning hands and great transitions with nine finishes out of her ten victories including seven subs and two knockouts. Despite consistently improving every time she sets foot in the cage, Miao is fighting in just her seventh professional bout and it remains to be seen whether she has nine lives against the KSW, XFC and Pankration vet from Donetsk.
You don't mess with the Yohan.
It’s great to see Wushu represented by an Indonesian athlete in Victorio Senduk who marks his ONE return after initially making his debut at ONE 2 - Battle of Heroes in 2012. He’s fought just once since then emerging from both bouts victorious courtesy of a no-quit striking style which will stand him in good stead against compatriot Yohan Mulia Legowo from Java. With just a single victory in 5 ONE fights, the man whose name means ‘Noble’ will need to draw on his early TPI days when he was despatching all-comers, particularly some vicious KO’s back in the day if he’s going to trade in the pocket with a kickboxer the likes of Senduk.
A risky bout for Umar.
Look out for the Leone Brothers in the corner of Bali MMA’s young protogée Riski Umar making his second pro appearance built upon a decent Muay Thai and Taekwondo foundation. ‘King Kong’ as he is known by his rag-dolled teammates faces an equally unpredictable and mercurial striker in Arnol Batubara. The Indonesian making his debut hails from a Sanshou background so sit back and marvel at an unpredictable but highly entertaining kickboxing war.
Quality contender Catalan kickstarts his career.
Buried inexplicably in a truly deep undercard, veteran Rene Catalan from Iloilo City fights relative newbie Xuewen Peng from Zhongshan whose only victory took the fizz out of Phat Soda with a rear-naked in Manila last November. The third Catalan brother is on a three-fight tear and has already decisioned two of Peng’s countrymen with wins over Huo You Ga Bu and You Liang Zhang.
Boniface bound to set fire to the undercard with Pyro.
In a sweet little bookend coincidence the entire event is begun by Hertati Lumban Gaol who lost last February to Tiffany Teo who draws the evening to a close. In this instance, Gaol is up against Audreylaura Boniface who spars with AJ ‘Pyro’ Lias Mansor across the Java Sea in Sabah. Both women on a two-fight losing streak will be desperate to prove their worth to the early birds.
So there you have it, ONE’s first event of 2018 turns out to be an absolute cracker with a mixture of inspired and crazy matchmaking by Matt Hume that is sure to delight the screaming hordes selling-out the Jakarta Convention Centre. Featuring a truly dizzying variety of traditional Asian combat styles and modern mixed-martial arts syncretism there are plenty of experienced veterans and keen hungry neophytes desperate to make history in the fastest growing MMA promotion on the planet. Welcome to 2018, its ONE time!