The UFC’s maiden event in South Korea is beginning to take shape, with four fights now confirmed to be taking place in the nation’s capital city of Seoul. The card will be headlined by a welterweight bout between former UFC lightweight champion Benson Henderson and Thiago Alves. The co-main event features MMA legend Mirko Cro Cop as he clashes with Anthony Hamilton. Elsewhere, two other welterweight bouts are slated to take place with Dong Hyun Kim taking on Jorge Masvidal and Yoshihiro Akiyama will face Brazilian Alberto Mina.
The main event has been all but official for a while now and Benson Henderson will be relishing the prospect of main eventing in his mother’s home country. It will be the second welterweight fight of Henderson’s career, the last one being the main event against Brandon Thatch back at UFC Fight Night 60 in February of this year in which Henderson pulled off an incredible rear naked choke win over his far larger opponent in the fourth round. His opponent, Thiago Alves, is attempting to bounce back from the loss he suffered to Carlos Condit at UFC Fight Night 67, in which Alves suffered a gruesome broken nose which caused the fight to be stopped. It had been expected that Alves would be dropping to the lightweight division for his next fight, but that has, temporarily at least, been put on hold.
When he returned to the UFC for the third time earlier this year, few believed that it was a good move for Mirko Cro Cop, but he proved there was still some fight left in the old dog by avenging his 2007 loss to Gabriel Gonzaga by brutalising the Brazilian with a barrage of elbows. At UFC Seoul, he faces former MFC heavyweight champion Anthony Hamilton, who was pulled out of a scheduled October date with Derrick Lewis in favour of the fight with Cro Cop. Hamilton has alternated wins and losses in his UFC career to date, most recently earning a decision win over Daniel Omielanczuk on the same card that Cro Cop defeated Gonzaga.
Hometown favourite Dong Hyun Kim has arguably undergone one of the most unexpected transformations in MMA recently. 7 of his first 8 wins in the UFC were via decision, many of them fairly lacking in excitement, leading to fans labelling him as ‘boring’. However, in winning 3 of his last 4 fights, Kim has had a surge in popularity, engaging in far more entertaining exchanges, knocking out Erick Silva with a thunderous left hand, earning a knockout of the year with a spinning back elbow win over John Hathaway and submitting veteran Josh Burkman via arm triangle in his most recent foray into the octagon. He faces Jorge Masvidal, who fights at welterweight in the UFC for the second time. Masvidal knocked out Cezar Ferreira at TUF 21 Finale in July of this year and is aiming to make a run towards the top 10 of the division.
Asian MMA legend Yoshihiro Akiyama fights at the event for the first time since his September 2014 decision win over Amir Sadollah, a win which stopped a four fight losing skid. It will also be the first time since 2007 that the judoka has fought in Seoul. While Akiyama is unlikely to make a serious run in the division, he remains a huge draw in his home continent and has become an important part of the UFC’s events there, specifically in Japan. His opponent, Alberto Mina, is unbeaten in his career boasting an 11 – 0 record. Not only that, he has finished all of those wins, with only two opponents making it out of the first round. With 6 submissions and 5 knockouts on his resume, one of which was over Shinsho Anzai in his UFC debut in August 2014, Mina is clearly a dangerous opponent with a well-rounded game.
UFC Fight Night 79 in Seoul takes place on November 28th, with more fight announcements to be expected in the coming weeks.
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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