ONE Championship kicks off 2016 in China with the organisation’s first implementation on its new weigh in procedures. The event is headlined by Bibiano Fernandes’ fourth bantamweight title defense – which are now fought at 145lbs weight limit – against Kevin Belingon.
We ask our usual panels of MMA pros on their take on the matchup, which seem to be a one-sided affair with the challenger sporting a 4-4 record in ONE while the champion never lost a match since 2011 and holding the organisation’s record for the most number of title defenses.
Arnaud Lepont, Head of Programming for UFC Gyms Asia
Kevin is a great guy, with top level striking but Bibi showed against Tauru that his striking have improved tremendously. There is nothing much to say about Bibi’s wrestling and top level ground game. Sadly there is nobody in the ONE Championship that can match with Bibi’s skills. Only a rematch against former ONE Championship fighter Masakatsu Ueda would make sense and bring attention.
Bibiano win by anyway he decide to.
Fransino Tirta, ONE Championship fighter
I think Bibiano wrestling is still too strong for Kevin, if Kevin can keep the fight standing and defend Bibiano’s takedown, Kevin will have a very good chance winning the fight.
Martijn de Jong, MMA Head Coach Golden Glory and Tatsujin Dojo
I am personally a big fan of Bibiano. His groundfighting skills are unreal. He didnt lose a fight in 5 years and although he is already 35 years old and in the game for 11 years, he still looks sharp and fit. He is on a 10 fight win streak and is always very confident.
Kevin is an exciting fighter from the Philippines. He is definitely a very strong fighter but his record hasn’t been consistent lately. He is not really a physically big fighter but has great striking skills. If he can keep the fight standing vs Bibiano he has a chance, but personally I think that Bibiano has the wrestling skills to bring him down to the floor and or finalize him there or grind it out for a decision win. Very interesting fight to watch, though!
Pros picking Fernandes: 3
Pros picking Belingon: 0
Pros undecided: 0
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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