ONE: Pride of Lions will feature a highly anticipated rematch between Ben Askren vs Luis Santos on the main event. The first time around, we saw Santos repeatedly stuffed Askren’s takedowns, and the bout has gone increasingly in Santos’ favour until an eyepoke from Askren, which was ruled as accidental, ended the bout in a no contest.
On this edition of Ask the Pros, we ask our panel of MMA professionals on their take on this rematch.
Arnaud Lepont – Head of Programming for UFC Gyms Asia
The first fight showed the limit of the most infamous face (or mouth, I should say) of Evolve. Totally helpless on the striking part in front of Santos, which is ready to bring the gold home. However, for once I would agree on Askren’s claims. We only saw 2 minutes of a potential Fight of the year, and Santos was already looking very tired.
As for a 25 minute title fight, 2 minute of dominance doesn’t mean that you will win the fight. Askren’s wrestling and ground and pound are in another galaxy, and he will do his fight camp in the States with some of the best sparring partners he can get. Even if his skills and game plan are predictable it will all go with a few IFs. can Santos tag him? Can Santos handle the path of the fight? Can Santos…
On the other hand, there is not so much of “Can Askren…?”
I still honestly think that the fight is a 60/40 odd for Askren in the first round, and it goes up to 80/20 after the first round is gone.
Pick: Askren by R3 TKO
Bashir Ahmad – ONE Championship Featherweight:
This is a really, really exciting match up and I hope the whole world is watching this one.
Although Ben Askren disagrees, many people thought Santos was winning the fight before it was stopped. I didn’t count Askren out at any moment, but I was on the edge of my seat during that fight which I saw live and Santos could have won it, at the same time when Askren gets on top, we don’t know if you’re ever getting up again.
I think Ben has been defeating people so easily throughout his career that he may have taken Santos lightly. If he saw the same fight the rest of us did, I’m sure he knows Santos is a dangerous, dangerous man and has then prepared extra hard for Santos’s style which he has already felt. That’s why I feel Ben wins via TKO Round 1 or 2.
Casey Suire – ONE Championship Bantamweight
I am super excited to see the Santos-Askren rematch. I had the pleasure of fighting on the previous card in Manila, and was disappointed along with everyone else when it was called. I shared the locker room with Santos, and all I can say is that guy kicks freaking hard. I would not want to take any of those. If he lands one on the head, the fight is over. He was able to defend a few takedowns in the first meeting, but that being said, I think Ben probably thought about that this entire camp and will be looking to exert his will in this one. Santos looks solid, but how will that muscle hold up for 5rds? If he can defend the takedowns early on, he definitely has a punchers chance. If it goes into 3, Askren will suffocate him and keep his title.
Fransino Tirta – ONE Championship Bantamweight
Judging from their last fight… Askren will have to weather the storm in early round, if Ben can survive and Santos gets tired on later round, Ben will take the W.
Martijn De Jong – MMA head coach team Golden Glory & Tatsujin Dojo
I think that Luis Santos has Ben Askren’s number. Ben Askren still got a perfect record of 14-0-0 (with 1 no contest against Santos) and his wrestling is of another level, however, he has zero to none striking skills. He wrestling is so good that he never had to use or develop it as he took anybody down at will.
However, Santos is a very difficult opponent for him to fight. The reason is that:
1. Santos is fighting southpaw which makes it way more difficult to take him down.
2. Santos also has great striking abilities using a lot of knees and kicks which makes it hard for Askren to close the distance, especially when Santos keeps the outside like he did in their previous fight.
3. His wrestling / Judo is of a very high level resulting in him countering some of Askren’s takedowns last time and ending up on top.
4. On the ground, he is also a force to be reckoned with as he has a black belt BJJ from Team Nogueira, who has one of the highest standards in the world.
5. On top of all that, he has a record of 61-9-1, with 1 no contest which means he brings almost 5 times the experience Askren has to the table.
In their last encounter, you could see that Askren got frustrated trying to take him and even panicking a bit which might be the cause of the eye poke.
I put all my money on Santos.
Pros picking Askren: 4
Pros picking Santos: 1
Highest Ranked Strawweight Outside of the UFC challenged Angela Lee to a title fight in One Championship
28 Years Old, Zhang Weili(16-1) from China has challenged Strawweight champion Angela Lee for her strap in One Championship according to a source close to the Chinese fighter. Zhang who is the champion and fighting for Chinese based promotion Kunlun FC is currently negotiating on a one fight deal to face Angela. According to the source, they would like to determine who is the best women fighter in Asia in a one-off match and would have no problems to fight under the One Championship banner.
Since her pro debut loss in 2013, Zhang has racked up 16 wins in 3 years with a total of 15 finishes. She is the number #6 ranked women strawweight in the World according to Fightmatrix.com, just behind Rose Namajunas who will be facing UFC champion and number #1 ranked strawweight Joanna Jedrzejczyk for the title next month. Angela, on the other hand, is 9 rungs below Zhang at number 15.
While ONE was very eager to have a cross-promotion fight between Angela Lee and Joanna Jedrzejczyk to determine who has the better strawweight, they seem less eager to have a Kunlun FC champion on board for a one fight deal. The source states that ONE would need for Zhang to sign a 2-year exclusive contract first before discussing further for a fight with Angela.
If the source is accurate, ONE seems to be covering their bases this time and would not like for their champion to lose the belt to another promotion without securing Zhang on an exclusive contract. Kunlun, on the other hand, would also not want to lose their best fighter to another Asian promotion. Zhang would be a huge asset to ONE for their expansion in China but it would be tough for them to pry off the Chinese fighter as the source states that Zhang is being paid handsomely on Kunlun FC.
While things are looking bleak for a match between Angela Lee and Zhang Weili to happen in the ONE Championship cage, the fans will be keeping their fingers crossed and hope that they could witness a fight between two of the best women Strawweights in Asia.
Martin Nguyen to challenge Eduard Folayang’s title in Manila for the first champion vs champion fight in ONE Championship
After speculations on who Martin Nguyen’s next opponent when he signed a fight contract, ONE Championship have confirmed that Martin Nguyen is set to challenge Eduard Folayang’s lightweight title in Manila on ONE: LEGENDS OF THE WORLD on 10 November.
The fight is the latest in a series of cross-division fights announced after Shinya Aoki vs Ben Askren and Aung La NSang vs Alain Ngalani, but this will be the first time the reigning ONE Championship titleholders from two weight divisions will clash.
Nguyen’s coach, Fari Salievski, did tease on the idea of Nguyen fighting for the title in different weight divisions , but he teased on a bantamweight division since Martin was underweight for his featherweight title fight against Marat Gafurov.
Despite being on the lighter side of a featherweight division, the new champion decided to challenge the title against a fighter a weight class above him, and opens the possibility of the first fighter in ONE Championship to challenge the title in 3 weight divisions.
“I’m not out only to make a statement, but to go down in history as the best to ever compete under the ONE Championship banner” – Martin Nguyen
ONE: LEGENDS OF THE WORLD will be held in Malls of Asia Arena in Manila on 10 November 2017
Bashir Ahmad embraces new role in ONE Championship
Bashir Ahmad is appointed as the Senior Manager of Industry Partnerships, the role made to develop and strengthen the relationships between ONE Championship and various MMA gyms and promotions.
“Essentially, I see myself doing what I did in Pakistan and working to accelerate the growth of MMA in Asia with other players in the MMA scene,” Ahmad explained.
As the pioneer of Pakistani MMA, Bashir Ahmad has worked to promote MMA in Pakistan, most notably the Shaheen Gym project, a non-profit gym which serves to take at-risk youth off the street with the appeal and focus of MMA. With his new position in ONE, Ahmad believes he will be better positioned to develop MMA in Asia, particularly in his hometown Pakistan.
“I think it’s a win-win. I’ve learned about developing MMA in a really difficult market – Pakistan, and I bring that experience with me.”
“On the flip side, I get work with one of the world’s most professional martial arts brands and bring those lessons to my mission in Pakistan.”
4-3 on his professional MMA career, Ahmad has been fighting for ONE Championship since April 2013 and became the first ONE Championship athlete to make the transition from into the management role in the promotion. Despite this additional role, Ahmad is adamant that his new role in ONE Championship does not take him away from active competition.
“100% not retired. I can certainly train. If Martin can beat Gafurov while being a full-time mechanic, I can certainly train when I work in the MMA industry for a living. It’s about time management and training smart.”
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