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Why Vitaly Bigdash vs Aung La Nsang rematch made sense (or not)

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Aung La NSang was thrust as a title contender when he replaced the injured Marcin Prachnio in Jakarta on ONE: Quest for Power. At the time, the choice made a complete sense as NSang is on a 4-fight win streak which include a submission win against former title title challenger Alexey Butorin.

Nsang’s title challenge in Jakarta came up short with a lopsided unanimous decision loss, but he was granted an immediate rematch less than 6 months later, which made many to wonder why the match should happen after all. As such, we will look at several different perspective on why it made sense (or not).

First and foremost: why give NSang an immediate rematch? An immediate rematch generally reserved for matches with no clear winner, with mostly being split decision victories. While there are cases for immediate rematch following a unanimous decision like Frankie Edgar vs Benson Henderson, the key point here is that there are no clear winner on the initial fight.

In their first fight, however,  NSang lost a lopsided Unanimous Decision, with the Burmese Phyton taking a lot of punishment and pushed into full defensive mode in later rounds. Granted, The Burmese Phyton took the fight on a 10-day notice, but may not be sufficient to compensate for the results from their first fight.

Secondly, why not give Prachnio fight for the title? After all, NSang fought Bigdash as a replacement for Marcin Prachnio, making Prachnio the most obvious challenger for Bigdash’s second title defense.

To answer this, we need to understand that ultimately, ONE Championship is a commercial enterprise, and they need a draw for their shows. In the case of Myanmar, no other fighters have more star power than NSang, which is why having Nsang to headline the event is a must, making Bigdash vs Prachnio a less attractive draw in Myanmar.

But, why should NSang fight Bigdash? Can Nsang have a different opponent in Myanmar? Maybe not.

First of all, it made no sense for Prachnio take the fight against Nsang after getting a title shot earlier in the year. If Prachnio lost the match, he would need to earn a few wins to get another title shot.

Secondly, ONE Championship’s middleweight roster is thin, especially after title contenders Igor Svirid and Alexey Butorin now fighting for ACB in Russia, while the remaining fighters in the division other than Prachnio, NSang, and Bigdash do not seem to have strong case to get close to the title challenge:

  • Leandro Ataides – Recently broke his 3-loss streak, but his last opponent, Mohamed Ali, is 0-4 in ONE Championship
  • Tatsuya Mizuno – Mizuno is 2-3 in ONE’s middleweight division, but his 2 wins were against fighters who never scored a win in ONE Championship
  • Gilberto Galvao – on a 5-fight win streak and won his debut in ONE against Tatsuya Mizuno, but Mizuno’s record does not make a good case for Galvao to position him against a title challenger

Hence, granting NSang an immediate rematch may not be ideal matchup based on merit, but it is the best option that ONE have at the moment for the middleweight division at the moment.

At the end of the day, MMA is an entertainment industry where financial gain is an important factor, promoters and fighters alike need to balance between merit and ability to sell tickets, and when a promoter have to choose between merit and ticket sales, they are likely to choose for the latter.

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Highest Ranked Strawweight Outside of the UFC challenged Angela Lee to a title fight in One Championship

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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.

Zhang Weili(Left) at Kunlun FC 12

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.

Fightmatrix rankings as per 9/10/2017

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.

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Martin Nguyen to challenge Eduard Folayang’s title in Manila for the first champion vs champion fight in ONE Championship

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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

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Bashir Ahmad embraces new role in ONE Championship

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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.

“EssentiallyI 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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