One Fighting Championship: Fight-by-Fight Guide to 'Champion vs Champion' Part 1
ONE Fighting Championship is just over a week away, and the fighters are making their final preparations for 'Champion vs Champion' at the Singapore Indoor Stadium on September 3rd.
With 12,000 people inside the venue and millions more watching around the world on ESPN Star Sports or on the free internet stream it will be a make or break moment in the careers of many of these fighters.
It is on occasions like this that reputations are won and lost, and legends are truly made. Which fighters will enhance their career prospects at One FC's debut event, and which ones will be sent straight back to the drawing board?
Here is my fight by fight break down for the main card of ONE Fighting Championship 'Champion vs Champion'.
Eduard Folayang vs A Sol Kwon
Folayang's original opponent, Ole Laursen, had to pull out due to a knee injury sustained in training, and his replacement is a completely different type of fighter.
Kwon is far more experienced than Laursen and is on a six fight win streak meaning that, on paper at least, he looks a more dangerous fighter. However despite the fact that Kwon has had over twice as many fights as Folayang, and has fought against much higher ranked opponents, I think that he is actually a better fight for the Filipino than Laursen would have been.
Why? Because Laursen is a very technical fighter who has won world titles at Muay Thai in kickboxing and had been in there with the best K-1 fighters in the world. His boxing is so good he was even invited to join the Philippines national team.
Kwon, by contrast, is much more wild, and I think that could play right into Folayang's hands. The Filipino likes a slug fest, and will probably look to stand and exchange briefly before shooting in and taking Kwon down.
I would make Kwon the favourite for this fight by virtue of his superior experience, but I think this is a very winnable bout for Folayang. If he can put Kwon on his back, which I believe he will, then he could ground and pound his way to victory.
Kwon will be looking for the knock out from the second the bell goes but Folayang is also a dangerous striker which makes this a very unpredictable contest. If the fight remains on the feet than either fighter could win with a KO at any moment but if Folayang is successful with his takedowns, I think he will emerge victorious.
I expect this to be a real war of attrition from which neither fighter will emerge unscathed.
Phil Baroni vs Yoshiyuki Yoshida
This is a make or break fight for both of these fighters. Neither can afford a loss at this stage of their careers but a win would open up all sorts of exciting possibilities.
Yoshida's chin has been questioned in the past, and the one thing you don't want to take into a fight with Baroni is a weak chin. The New York Bad Ass brings one punch knock out power into every fight and is particularly dangerous in the opening exchanges—famously knocking out Dave Menne in a matter of seconds.
Baroni is actually better than his recent record suggests, and came close to stopping Amir Sadollah in the opening round of their fight. He was also ahead against Brad Tavares when he got caught towards the end of the first round.
He will be at his most dangerous when the opening bell sounds, and Yoshida will probably need to survive an early onslaught. The longer the fight goes on the more it will favour the Japanese fighter who is a much more natural welterweight and won't have had to go through a potentially debilitating weight cut.
Yoshida has some knock out power of his own which means that, one way or another, this fight will probably be over well before the end of the opening round. The dilemma for Baroni is whether to come out swinging, look for the spectacular early knock out and risk burning himself out or whether to employ a more patient approach which might not suit his fighting style.
Yoshida also needs to decide whether he is ready to back himself in a boxing match with Baroni or if he wants to try and drag the fight out and use his world class Judo skills to gradually grind him down.
It will be an intriguing tactical contest but I suspect the point at which both men throw caution to the wind will come sooner rather than later.
Mitch Chilson vs Eric Kelly
This looks like one of the most even contests on the entire card. Kelly is more experienced, has a better record and would probably be the bookmakers favourite, but Chilson has almost a year's training at Evolve MMA under his belt since he last fought.
He will have been working hard on his submission defence with the BJJ Mundials winners there, and is confident that he will have no problem dealing with Kelly on the ground.
The Filipino has submitted all five of his previous opponents but might struggle to finish this fight in the same way given the calibre of Chilson's regular training partners. Being good at grappling in MMA is not the same as being a BJJ Mundials winner, and if Chilson can hold his own with the black belts at Evolve, he should have no problem handling Kelly.
I think this is one fight which could come down to game plans. Kelly has represented the Philippines at Wushu and is no slouch in the stand up department, but if his entire strategy revolves around submitting Chilson, he could be in for a frustrating night.
Given Kelly's reputation as a grappler, Chilson's team is probably preparing on the basis that the URCC Featherweight Champion will work for the takedown. However Kelly could surprise his opponent by relying on his Wushu instead of his ground game, and looking for the knock out rather than the takedown.
By the same token Chilson might even feel he is good enough to submit Kelly and that his key to victory could be to put the Filipino on his back.
Chilson is the Muay Thai champion. Kelly is the submission specialist. It might sound like a classic striker vs grappler match up, but in my opinion, it's not. These are two very well rounded fighters, and it will be fascinating to find out what gameplans the two respective camps have in mind.
Gregor Gracie vs Seok Mo Kim
Gregor Gracie is a name which will need no introduction to MMA fans who know exactly what to expect when a Gracie gets in the cage: devastating submission skills.
There's not a big difference between the records of these two fighters, Gracie is 5-1 in professional MMA and Seok Mo Kim is 2-1.
There is a world of difference when it comes to their ground fighting pedigree. The Korean may have submitted his last two opponents, but Gracie is an ADCC bronze medal winner and a decorated grappler.
Seok must know that if the fight goes to the floor his chance of winning goes out the window and his best chance to win is with a knock out. The only loss of Gracie's MMA career came via head kick KO, and if Seok wants to emerge victorious he is going to have to do something similarly spectacular.
Seok was already preparing for a fight against highly regarded BJJ black belt Adam Kayoom at DARE Championship 2/11 in Bangkok in September when he got the call from ONE FC to replace the injured Wang Sai. So he should already have been training specifically for an opponent with a superior ground game.
The problem for Seok is that to get to Gracie's level when it comes to the submission game, it doesn't simply take weeks, or even months; it takes decades. The Korean does have a background in Judo and kickboxing, and should at least be able to hold his own on the feet and possibly prevent the takedowns.
He would be well advised to do so because allowing Gracie to enter his element by getting a grip on you and taking you down is a mistake that most fighters only ever get to make once.
Zorobabel Moreira vs Andy Wang
The name Zorobabel Moreira is better known in grappling circles than the MMA world, but that could all change with a win over Wang at ONE Fighting Championship.
Zoro put in the most impressive performance of his MMA career when he comfortably outpointed Judo Olympian Ferrid Kheder in an impressive three-round performance at DARE Championship 1/11 in Bangkok earlier this year.
Wang is in need of an impressive performance himself, the Taiwanese born fighter is best known for an unsuccessful stint on The Ultimate Fighter and a loss to Cole Miller on his one and only UFC outing.
An impressive performance on September 3rd in Singapore would go a long way towards dispelling the memories of his unceremonious ejection from Team Penn on the popular reality TV show.
Even though Wang has a considerable advantage when it comes to experience, there are a couple of factors in Zoro's favour. Firstly, he is a BJJ world champion which means that for once Wang, a BJJ black belt, won't be the favourite if the fight goes to the floor.
The second major advantage Zoro has is one of size. He is 6"3' and absolutely enormous for a lightweight whereas Wang is on of the smallest 155 lbers around standing at just 5"6. Zoro has been knocked out before and the man from Taiwan, whose fighting style has been referred to as 'Bang and Wang,' will need no second invitation to go looking for the early knock out in this contest.
Zoro's only loss came as a middleweight and he has been working hard on his stand up since then with a team of trainers at Evolve MMA which includes Thai legends Namsaknoi and Anuwat Kaewsamrit. For once Wang's corner won't be telling him to be patient and work for the takedown, and he will relish having the chance to really let his hands go.
Wang's ground skills are legit and even though he is highly unlikely to submit Zoro he should still have enough about him to fend off the first few submission attempts. It could all come down to which fighter has the better stand up which should make for a pretty entertaining contest.