After a slow start One Fighting Championship is going full speed ahead booking the best fighters out there and making the sort of fights the fans want to see. The first four fights of the event which it is holding in Malaysia on June 23rd got announced this week and it just goes to show why One FC is already light years ahead of the competition in Asia.
Seems like Brazil vs Asian will be the theme for One FC's fourth installment with the first three fights that were released all containing this combination. Renato Sobral fights Tatsuya Mizuno in a fight fit to headline a big show, Leandro Issa fights Masakazu Imanari, and Gregor Gracie fights Adam Kayoom.
The fourth of the four fights announced is between Eddie Ng from Hong Kong and Arnaud Lepont from France. One FC has been getting steadily better, the first two events were OK but One FC 3 and One FC 4 are taking the matchmaking much closer to a UFC level although without losing the strong emphasis on local fighters.
The one name on this list which people might not recognize because he has never fought for One FC before is Kayoom but I did some checking up on him and was pleasantly surprised. This is one Malaysian who really knows martial arts and he has won his place on the card through merit not just nationality.
Renato Sobral needs no introduction, he's fought Chuck Liddell, Fedor, Shogun, Dan Henderson and Chael Sonnen, has challenged for the UFC title, won the Strikeforce title and would still be in the UFC had he not decided to teach David Heath a lesson by not releasing an anaconda choke.
Tatsuya Mizuno is not such a big name, and a .610 winning percentage might be enough to get a basketball team into the playoffs, but is nothing to write home about in MMA. This could be because fighters in Asia aren't afraid to take fights, and Mizuno's been up against Melvin Manhoef, Gegard Mousasi, Sergei Kharitonov and a prime Mirko Cro Cop.
If there is a better Asian 205-pounder, I don't know who he is. Mizuno could beat Sobral, but I think that the bookmakers will be expecting Sobral win this one. After not fighting for a year-and-a-half, this is a massive chance for the former Strikeforce champion to show he still has what it takes at age 36, but he will not be expecting an easy fight.
Masakazu Imanari is the premier leg-lock specialist in MMA. Opponents know what he is looking to do, but they still seem unable to stop him from doing it. His latest victim was unbeaten Filipino Kevin Belingon, who tapped to a reverse heel hook early in the first round of their fight at One FC 3.
Leandro Issa's a world champion BJJ black belt, who has a very good ground game, but his main priority will be to avoid getting caught up by one of Imanari's leg locks. He beat Soo Chul Kim in a good fight at One FC 1, where it was his Muay Thai more than his BJJ that helped him to win the fight by decision.
The most likey outcome is that Issa will fall victim to an Imanari leg lock, but he has time to prepare at Evolve MMA where Imanari's ex-teammate Shinya Aoki might be able to give him a tip or two. There are lots of BJJ black belts and world champions there who must be adept at leg locks themselves, so he should have plenty of chances to practice avoiding them.
Issa is bigger and has better Muay Thai, and if Imanari can't catch a hold of one of his legs, I could see the Brazilian winning by unanimous decision.
There is a lot of hype surrounding Eddie Ng, who easily won his first two fights for One FC and seemed to have won himself a lot of fans at the same time. The fighter from Hong Kong will not have it so easy at One FC 4, because he is being matched with 8-1 French fighter Arnaud Lepont, who is coming off two big wins at Dare in Thailand.
Lepont lives in Malaysia and fought a lot in France and Germany before coming to Malaysia. He is very strong and has power in his punches. Ng's ground-and-pound is phenomenal and there aren't many fighters who can knock you out from in your guard, but he is one of them.
Another Evolve MMA fighter, Ng's specialty is the ground, so he will want to take Lepont down. But the Frenchman can win this fight if he keeps it standing and lets his hands do the talking.
This fight should get the crowd going because it is the only one which involves a Malaysian. Adam Kayoom is only 2-1, but check out his Wikipedia entry to see why he has got a lot of people excited. He's won it all from BJJ to Taekwondo to Muay Thai to Muay Khmer.
Gregor Gracie is a BJJ black belt—I think members of his family are automatically awarded them at birth—but seriously, he has superior ground skills to Kayoom and much more MMA experience, which in most people's eyes, will probably make him the favourite for this fight.
Kayoom is a BJJ black belt, too, but his ground is not on Gracie's level. He does have the advantage in the stand-up and if he can avoid being taken down, he will have no problem at all using his Muay Thai/Taekwondo/Muay Khmer to win because stand-up is not Gracie's strong point.