ONE Fighting Championship: 10 Matchups the Asian Promotion Should Make
ONE Fighting Championship's first event had a bit of everything, spectacular submissions, one punch knock outs and hard fought decisions. It was a great start, and the 7,000 or so fans who packed into the sold out Singapore Indoor Stadium would all have gone home very happy.
There were winners and there were losers, but with ONE FC set on an aggressive expansion, which will see them recruit up to 150 staff with a view to putting on shows all across the continent, virtually all of the fighters involved are likely to get a second chance.
The eagerly anticipated second show is rumoured to be taking place in December, with Manila and Macau touted as possible destinations. After that, events are going to come thick and fast, 2012 could well be a busy year for any fighters on the ONE FC roster.
ONE FC are on course to be crowned the king of Asian MMA, and people are already starting to speculate about potential matchups. Fight fans in major cities all over Asia will be rubbing their hands in anticipation at the prospect of witnessing the sort of fights ONE FC are in a position to put on.
Here is a list of some of the matchups which I would like to see.
Yoshiyuki Yoshida vs Gregor Gracie
Yoshiyuki Yoshida and Gregor Gracie were the two big welterweight winners at ONE FC 1, and a match between the two of them would make sense.
Both men had the right game plan going into their fights and walked away with decision wins over tough opponents. Gracie dominated Seok Mo Kim but was unable to submit the durable Korean, while Yoshida easily out-muscled Phil Baroni for three rounds.
Although they are at opposite ends of their MMA careers, this could still be a defining fight. Yoshida is on a two fight win streak and is still regarded as being one of the top Japanese mixed martial artists, a position which would be cemented with a third consecutive win.
Gracie is 6-1 and is widely regarded as being the most outstanding prospect among the current crop of Gracie's. He is ready for a step up in competition, and a win over Yoshida would catapult him towards the upper echelons of the welterweight world.
It would be an interesting stylistic matchup, with neither man renowned for their stand up. Yoshida might be more reluctant to put Gracie on his back than he was Baroni for fear of the BJJ black belts world class submission game.
For his part, Gracie will probably find Yoshida a bit tougher to take down than Seok Mo Kim. With ONE FC looking a little light on welterweights this is a matchup which could definitely happen.
Eduard Folayang vs Akihiro Gono
Folayang was very impressive in beating A Sol Kwon in the main event of ONE FC 1. His striking looked sharper than in previous outings, and he showed remarkable composure despite suffering a broken nose, which he believes was caused by a head butt in the opening round.
Folayang will also only have cemented his main event status after his fifth consecutive win. He already has a huge following in the Philippines, where MMA is growing in popularity, and has already forged a reputation as the country's leading fighter.
However, he looks set to miss out in December as he plans to represent the Philippines at Wushu, this means that the much anticipated matchup between him and Ole Laursen will probably have to wait until at least 2012.
With Laursen, who had to pull out of his fight with Folayang earlier this month due to injury, likely to headline the second ONE FC event, matchmakers might well be looking elsewhere for prospective opponents for Folayang.
A UFC veteran such as Akihiro Gono would make sense, as Folayang has shown with his recent performances that he is ready to take on experienced international opponents. Gono has won three out of his last four fights, and been in there with the best in the business—such as Matt Hughes, Mauricio Rua and Dan Henderson.
Gono was at the ONE FC 1 in Singapore and reportedly sees his future as being in the 155 lbs division, there would be no better way of introducing himself to ONE FC fans than with a win over Folayang.
Phil Baroni vs Igor Gracie
ONE FC have confirmed that Phil Baroni will sign on for at least another fight, which must leave them with a slight dilemma as to what to do with him. There is clearly plenty of work going on behind the scenes to add new talent to the roster, but it's going to be difficult to match someone of Baroni's size and experience.
One option would be to bring in a veteran from Korea or Japan, just as ONE FC did with Yoshida, and Denis Kang would be an interesting option if Baroni decided to move back to middleweight. Looking at the current ONE FC roster, the most obvious candidate for a welterweight fight with Baroni would probably be Igor Gracie.
Gracie has fought for both Bellator and Strikeforce, and has a solid professional record of 4-2. He would definitely be a little bit smaller than Baroni, who has spent most of his career as a middleweight, but it would be a huge opportunity for the BJJ black belt to make a statement of intent by beating a big name opponent.
Baroni's reputation, and his customary pre-fight antics, mean he will always make the headlines, and beating the "New York Bad Ass" carries a certain amount of prestige, which means welterweights will be queuing up to face him.
Yoshida probably set out the blueprint for defeating Baroni, and Gracie would be confident that, if he could take the fight to the ground, he would be able to finish with a submission. Baroni would take one look at an opponent who is predominantly a ground fighter and start rubbing his hands in anticipation of the knock out.
Ole Laursen vs Zorobabel Moreira
Ole Laursen will be back in action by the end of the year, making him an obvious candidate to headline ONE FC's second card. With Folayang almost certainly unavailable due to his Wushu commitments, ONE FC will be looking for suitable alternatives, and Zorobabel Moreira must be high on the list.
The Brazilian is a BJJ world champion who has shown markedly improved stand up in his last two fights, posting dominative wins over Andy Wang and Ferrid Kheder. Although Zoro is clearly working hard with the team of trainers at Evolve MMA, which contains multiple Muay Thai world champions, his stand up skills are still nowhere near on Laursen's level.
It would be a classic grappler vs striker match up, with Laursen looking to knock the much taller man out, and Zoro hoping to put the K-1 kickboxing and Muay Thai veteran on his back. Standing 6"3' tall Zoro is an enormous lightweight, who is rumoured to be have no problem holding his own against Dream 155 lbs champion Shinya Aoki when they roll together at Evolve MMA.
He would be a very tough opponent for Laursen, who was born in the Philippines but is now based in Thailand, but Zoro has been knocked out before, by Strikeforce prospect Joe Ray, and Laursen would be confident that he could let his hands go with equally devastating effect.
It is worth noting that the loss to Ray came at 185 lbs but, despite the clear improvements in Zoro's stand up skills, opponents will still be looking to test the Brazilians chin at every available opportunity.
Soo Chul Kim vs Ngoo Ditty
Soo Chul Kim dropped a decision to experienced Brazilian Leandro Issa at ONE FC 1, but impressed a lot of people with his performance. The BJJ world champion was unable to submit the Korean, despite a number of attempts, and the fight was sufficiently close to ensure that the judges decision was by no means a foregone conclusion.
His record stands at 4-1, making him a suitable opponent for Thai fighter Ngoo Ditty, who has a record of 4-2. Ngoo is a blue belt in BJJ, and a veteran of over 100 Muay Thai fights, who trains under BJJ black belt Ray Elbe at Tiger Muay Thai.
It is exactly the sort of matchup which ONE FC should be looking to put on, featuring Thailand's top bantamweight and the most outstanding young fighter in Korea and should generate mainstream media coverage in both these countries.
Ngoo has got his career back on track with back-to-back wins, the latest coming against durable South African Daniel Mashamaite at Dare Championship 1/11. He is ready to step up to the big stage again after being beaten by Kevin Belingon, one of the top bantamweights in the entire continent, in his one appearance for Martial Combat last year.
Kim is looking to bounce back from the first loss of his career but Ngoo, with his enormous Muay Thai experience and solid ground game, would be a very tough opponent. This is a fight which the bookmakers would probably have dead even and, with both men happy to fight on either their feet or the floor, it could be a classic.
Eric Kelly vs Brian Choi
Eric Kelly is the man of the moment, and is one of the most talked about prospects in the world after his hugely impressive submission victory over Mitch Chilson at ONE FC 1.
The 7,000 capacity crowd at the Singapore Indoor Stadium went wild at the end of that fight, and it would be tempting for ONE FC to throw Kelly in with another Evolve MMA fighter, particularly when they put on their next card in Singapore.
Evolve MMA is rapidly establishing a reputation as the top MMA camp in Asia, which also makes them the team to beat, and Brian Choi is one of their top fighters. The prospect of him potentially avenging his team mates loss is one which fans in Singapore would relish.
Choi, from Korea, is unbeaten, just like Chilson was before he faced Kelly, and is dropping down to featherweight after fighting at welterweight and even middleweight. He has a good level of BJJ, professional boxing and Muay Thai experience, and has wrestled at a collegiate level in the US.
The featherweight division is shaping up to be one of ONE FC's most competitive, and Choi (3-0) and Kelly (6-0) are two of the stand out fighters. Kelly is a product of the URCC, the premier promotion in the Philippines, and the success which he and fellow URCC champion Eduard Folayang have enjoyed is testament to how high the standard of fighters in that organization is.
Choi has proven himself extremely durable in fights for both Martial Combat and Dare Championship, winning some hard fought decisions which will have given him valuable experience, the most recent against experienced Frenchman Sebastian Garguier in Bangkok.
A fight between the Korean and the Filipino would pit two nations which are powerhouses of Asian MMA together and, just like the contest between Chilson and Kelly which the bookmakers had dead even, it would be difficult to pick a favourite for this fight.
Leandro Issa vs Kevin Belingon
Leandro Issa improved his record to 9-2 with his sixth consecutive win against Soo Cul Kim, and the BJJ world champion will be a match for absolutely anyone at 135 lbs.
Issa showed some impressive stand up skills in defeating the teenage Korean prodigy, and proved he is ready to face the best bantamweight fighter on the ONE FC roster.
That man is Kevin Belingon, a URCC champion with a 9-0 record, who is arguably as good as any bantamweight in Asia right now. The Filipino has absolutely dominated opponents in domestic promotions such as Legend FC, Martial Combat and the URCC, and has shown that he is ready to test himself on the international stage.
A fight with Issa would be a major challenge because Belingon could comfortably fight at flyweight and is only 5"5'. Issa is a full 5"9' and has spent most of his career at featherweight, but if the Filipino is determined to forge a career at 135 lbs he will need to get used to facing much taller opponents.
Belingon is a product of the Team Lakay Wushu camp, which is also home to URCC champions Eduard Folayang, Honorio Banario and Roy Docyogen. He has some professional boxing experience, and uses his Wushu based wrestling to impose a ground and pound based game on opponents.
Issa is a submission wizard who looks increasingly comfortable on his feet, and a fight between these two would be good enough to grace absolutely any MMA card.
Eddie Ng vs Malik Mawlayi
What next for Hong Kong's Eddie Ng who shocked even Bas Rutten with his punching power by knocking Yuan Chuan Bo out cold? With a record of 4-1 it is probably too early for him to start thinking about facing the likes of Folayang and Laursen, but Afghanistan's Malik Mawlayi could be the perfect opponent.
Mawlayi is 3-2-1, has a purple belt in BJJ and has stopped all of his last three opponents. His only losses came against UFC veteran Tiequan Zhang and outstanding Indonesian Fransino Tirta (who is widely tipped to be signing for ONE FC).
Although Ng has never been graded in BJJ, his grappling is believed to be at close to a black belt level and he will have been working hard on his stand up, under the supervision of the assortment of former Lumpini and Ratchadamnern champions at Evolve MMA.
Mawlayi is not the most technical striker, but he has plenty of professional Muay Thai experience and a black belt in Taekwondo. He has stopped most of his opponents in Muay Thai, and has some dangerous striking skills, making him much more than just a ground fighter.
Ng is widely regarded as one of the top lightweight prospects in Asia at present, and a fight between these two would be a very evenly matched affair involving two very exciting 155 lbs fighters.
Andy Wang vs Adam Kayoom
Andy Wang did not win himself any friends by requesting his fight with Zorobabal Moreira be moved to a catch weight of 159 lbs, and then coming in overweight anyway. He also didn't put in the most impressive performance of his career against the giant Brazilian, who stopped him with strikes in round two.
However there is no doubt that Wang, a BJJ black belt, has potential, and there is huge interest in him in the country of his birth, Taiwan. These two factors should ensure he is given another shot, and with his UFC and TUF experience he would be a good test for an up and coming local fighter.
Malaysian Adam Kayoom is not exactly a name in the MMA world, but people who follow Muay Thai and BJJ know all about him. He is a BJJ black belt who has won numerous BJJ competitions in multiple continents. He has also held legitimate world titles in Muay Thai, and was once ranked top 10 for his weight at Lumpini Stadium.
On top of that, he has held national titles in Taekwondo making Kayoom a true martial artist. He will be looking to improve to 2-1 when he faces Seok Mo Kim (who gave Gregor Gracie a good run for his money at ONE FC 1) at Dare Championship 2/11 next week.
Kayoom is a small welterweight and Wang is a big lightweight, making a catchweight contest between these two an obvious fight.
Either Wang would get his career back on track with a win, or Kayoom would show the world what people in Bangkok, where he lives and trains, have known for a while; that he is a truly top class fighter.
Vuyisile Colossa vs A Sol Kwon
Colossa wants to fight Laursen for the title, and is also desperate for a rematch with Eduard Folayang, but what he wants and what he gets are probably two different things.
The South African is a match for any MMA fighter in the world in the stand up department, and also has a very underrated ground game and good wrestling skills. Kwon looked impressive in his loss to Folayang, and the outcome of that fight could have been very different had he not broken his hand in the opening round.
With Colossa ready for a step up in opposition after demolishing Ming Xue, a fight with Kwon, a veteran of 24 fights who was on a six fight win streak before losing to Folayang, would make perfect sense. Both men could argue that they outstruck Folayang, with Kwon undone by his superior work rate and Colossa by his inability to defend the takedowns in the opening rounds.
Kwon's record of 17-7 is certainly respectable, and the Hong Kong based Colossa improved to 4-1 with his stoppage win at ONE FC 1. ONE FC are not short of options at lightweight, but before Colossa gets the title shot he craves he will probably have to win one more fight, and Kwon might well be the make they pick to face him.