One on TNT III: Main Card Predictions

Tom Taylor@@TomTayMMAContributor IApril 20, 2021

One on TNT III: Main Card Predictions

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    Photo provided by ONE Championship

    ONE Championship returns to TNT for a third consecutive week this Wednesday, and the Singapore-based martial arts organization will do so with an alluring card.

    While the main card is only two fights deep, both contests rank highly in terms of potential. 

    In the main event, former UFC bantamweight contender John Lineker—one of the game's most reliable action fighters—will take on rising American talent Troy Worthen.

    There's a lot on the line for Lineker heading into this fight. The Brazilian has gone 2-0 since joining ONE Championship, first defeating Muin Gafurov by decision, then picking up a TKO win over former ONE bantamweight champion Kevin Belingon.

    The expectation is that if he defeats Worthen, he'll be awarded a crack at long-serving ONE bantamweight champion Bibiano Fernandes, arguably the most accomplished fighter in ONE history.

    Florida's Worthen, on the other hand, will be looking to distance himself from a decision loss to Yusup Saadulaev in his last fight and reassert himself as one of the bantamweight division's most promising contenders in the process. 

    The two-fight ONE on TNT III main card will be rounded out by a clash of ranked flyweight contenders, as the division's No. 4-ranked fighter Yuya Wakamatsu takes on the No. 5-ranked Reece McLaren. 

    Heading into the matchup, Japan's Wakamatsu is on a three-fight streak, having recently sandwiched a decision win over Dae Hwan Kim between knockout defeats of Geje Eustaquio and Kim Kyu Sung.

    The brick-fisted 24-year-old has not lost since he came up short to Demetrious Johnson in 2019, and it's worth noting he gave Johnson a tough fight in that losing effort. 

    Australia's McLaren, meanwhile, is one of ONE's most-established flyweights. He'll be looking to build on the momentum of MMA wins over Gary Magnat and Aleksi Toivonen, and rebound from a stoppage loss to Jacob Wyllie in a late-2020 boxing match, a worrying sign as he heads into his fight with the KO-collecting Wakamatsu.

    In sum, it's a short-but-sweet card, and one that could produce any number of exciting outcomes. Keep scrolling to see how we envision the main card playing out.

John Lineker vs. Troy Worthen

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    Worthen is a great grappler, and he's shown he knows how to beat strikers in MMA, most recently when he shut down human highlight reel Mark Abelardo in early 2020.   

    That being said, he faces a special breed of striker in Lineker, who isn't particularly refined on the feet but is immeasurably aggressive and packs an obscene amount of power in his hands, hence the nickname "Hands of Stone."

    There was a moment in Worthen's 2019 decision win over Chen Rui—a solid boxer with some similarities to Lineker—when he threw a leg kick with no setup. Rui responded to that naked kick by cracking Worthen with a sizzling overhand right.

    Worthen can't make mistakes like that against Lineker, or he'll find himself waking up under the Jumbotron. 

    It's conceivable Worthen could have some success with his grappling in this fight, but Lineker has held his own against high-level grapplers previously, such as T.J. Dillashaw, John Dodson and Ian McCall.

    As such, the more likely outcome is that Worthen eventually makes a mistake on the feet, and Lineker swarms him until the ref intervenes. 

    Prediction: Lineker via TKO, Rd. 2

Yuya Wakamatsu vs. Reece McLaren

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    The flyweight division is among the very best in ONE Championship, and this matchup is evidence of that. Both Wakamatsu and McLaren are extremely talented fighters with bright futures ahead of them.

    When this matchup kicks off, look for the Ryo Chonan protege Wakamatsu to attempt to force a standup fight, while BJJ blackbelt McLaren looks to drag things to the mat.

    It's possible McLaren will succeed in grounding this fight, but even if he does, Wakamatsu has proved incredibly difficult to submit—most notably in his 2019 battle with former UFC champion Demetrious Johnson.

    The 24-year-old Japanese fighter is also extremely athletic and figures to be able to scramble back to his feet with regularity. 

    At some point, while the action is on the feet, Wakamatsu will land something decisive. He's got momentum on his side, and McLaren was stopped out in a boxing match just a few months ago. 

    The stars seem to be aligning for another Wakamatsu KO, potentially the one that earns him a shot at flyweight champ Adriano Moraes

    Prediction: Yuya Wakamatsu via KO, Rd. 1