ONE Championship returns to Bangkok, Thailand, for ONE: Clash of Legends on Saturday, February 16.
At the top of ONE: Clash of Legends is a duo of Muay Thai bouts, featuring local stars Nong-O Gaiyanghadao and Kongsak P.K. Saenchaimuaythaigym up against Han Zi Hao from China and Alaverdi Ramazanov from Russia, respectively.
It’s the second consecutive event in Bangkok to be headlined by a non-mixed martial arts contest after ONE: Kingdom of Heroes saw Srisaket Sor Rungvisai defeat Iran Diaz in a WBC Super Flyweight World Championship boxing bout. Likewise, the co-main event was a ONE Super Series Kickboxing Atomweight World Championship bout that proved to be the breakthrough moment for Stamp Fairtex, who defeated Kai Ting Chuang after five rounds.
But before then, the promotion would consistently offer up some of the best and most exciting mixed martial arts contests for the fans in Bangkok. In March last year, it was a champion vs. champion showdown between Bibiano Fernandes and Martin Nguyen that featured at the top of the card.
The promotion has been counting on a Thai mixed martial artist to rise through the ranks, but it just hasn’t happened in the last couple of years.
Shannon Wiratchai had his chance when he was booked in a title eliminator against Rasul Yakhyaev in December 2017, but he failed to get out of first gear and lost a decision.
Rika Ishige has always been exciting, but she’s far too inconsistent.
And then there was Kristada Kongsrichai, who has arguably the greatest potential of all the up-and-coming Thai mixed martial artists. He was disqualified for an illegal suplex in March last year but then bounced back with a win over Jeremy Miado in June. He hasn’t been with the promotion since.
So, for as much as this event is all about the Muay Thai bouts at the top of the card, it’s equally as important to realize that Wiratchai and Ishige – the only two Thai mixed martial artists competing on the event – desperately need a victory.
Here’s our in-depth preview of ONE Championship: Clash of Legends
Storylines of ONE: Clash of Legends
Four bantamweight fighters plan to make an impact
The top two mixed martial arts bouts at ONE: Clash of Legends are undoubtedly the bantamweight fights between Dae Hwan Kim and Shuya Kamikubo, and Mark Abelardo and Daichi Takenaka.
All four of these fighters enter this weekend with impressive winning streaks behind them, and the most impressive of all four fighters might jump the back in the quest for bantamweight title glory.
South Korea’s Dae Hwan Kim won two of his three bouts in 2018, defeating Zhikang Zhao and Masakazu Imanari by unanimous decision. He was disqualified in his first bout of 2018 against Diachi Takenaka after spiking his opponent to escape a deep rear-naked choke.
Shuya Kamikubo is undefeated in ONE Championship after two fights with the promotion in 2018. He scored a unanimous decision win against Muhammad Aiman after defeating Sunoto Peringkat by KO/TKO in the second round.
Mark Abelardo has competed all over the place but has seemingly now found a home with ONE Championship. He looked impressive throughout two ONE Warrior Series events, winning against Ali Motamed and Shinechagtga Zoltsetseg.
Daichi Takenaka made his ONE Championship debut in February last year, where he was on his way to a submission win against Dae Hwan Kim if it wasn’t for his opponent’s illegal spike. He hasn’t competed since then after bouts with Roman Alvarez and Kevin Chung fizzled for various reasons.
This is a mini-showcase of the bantamweight division and each fighter will be vying not just to win, but to do so more spectacularly than the victor of the other bout.
Jihin Radzuan’s greatest challenge
Hidden in the middle of the fight card is a fascinating women’s atomweight contest between Gina Iniong and Jihin Radzuan.
Team Lakay’s Iniong has been a dangerous contender in the division ever since her arrival in April 2017. She’s 3-2 with the promotion with defeats only to former title challengers, Istela Nunes and Mei Yamaguchi. Prior to joining ONE Championship, Iniong had secured a split decision win against Yamaguchi and had also competed against the UFC’s Cortney Casey, to who she lost via first-round rear-naked choke. “Conviction” is a tough challenger and a perfectly appropriate next step for Radzuan.
Jihin Radzuan’s 2018 was nothing short of outstanding. She made her ONE Championship debut in February and defeated Puja Tomar by triangle choke in 2 minutes and 23 seconds. Radzuan then snapped Priscilla Hertati Lumban Gaol’s three-fight winning streak before then defeating Jenny Huang in December. The 21-year-old mixed martial artist admits she was ‘shocked’ by the jump up in competition this weekend, but she certainly looks more than ready.
Shannon Wiratchai looks to bounce back
It wasn’t all that long ago when Shannon Wiratchai looked to be nearing in on a lightweight title shot. He had strung six consecutive wins together over four years and finished five of those fights in the first two rounds. But a disappointing effort against Rasul Yakhyaev let the Thai mixed martial artist down in the most important fight in his career. Of course, he’s since gone on to compete against Shinya Aoki, but there were clear title implications during his bout with Yakhyaev, and it was a bout that not many saw him losing.
Wiratchai’s career has been full of the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. He’s a dangerous striker, proven by his last two victories in which he managed to finish his opponent in less than 30 seconds. But he was also brutalized by top-tier lightweight contender Shinya Aoki in his last outing. He’s since made an effort to focus more on his jiu-jitsu training, to avoid what ‘panicking’ on the mat as he did when taken down by Aoki.
The Thai fighter will have his chance to return to winning ways when he meets promotional debutant Amarsanaa Tsogookhuu.
Tsogookhuu has three KO/TKO victories to his name after five professional fights. If you’re familiar with Tsogookhuu already, it’s likely due to his time competing with DEEP, where he won his first two fights. Most recently, the Mongolian fighter scored a unanimous decision win at MGL-1 12 against Enkh-Orgil Baatarkhuu, who had a 0-2 record entering the contest.
Tsogookhuu packs power in his hands – much like Wiratchai – and is relatively patient before exploding with combinations. Expect both fighters to gradually work their way into the contest before eventually trading heavy shots – this should be a fun one.
Rika Ishige battles with Nou Srey Pov
There aren’t many other fighters who can ignite the crowd at Impact Arena in Bangkok quite like the way Rika Ishige does.
Ishige is known for her exciting fighting style and tendency to be involved in relatively back-and-forth wars, like her second-round submission win against Rome Trinidad in December 2017. She’s talented on the mat, having earned all of her victories on the back of her jiu-jitsu ability. The always-smiling Thai fighter has earned two rear-naked choke victories and two by way of ground and pound.
Although she’s matched up with a fighter making their professional mixed martial arts debut, this has all the makings of a tough fight for the Thai.
Nou Srey Pov is an accomplished striker training out of Cambodia Top Team. She became a Kun Khmer World Champion and claimed Lethwei World Championship’s “Female Fighter of the Year” in what proved to be a monumental 2018 for the 24-year-old.
She’s never competed in mixed martial arts but is certainly dangerous while standing because of her vicious elbow attacks and powerful combinations at close-range.
Rika Ishige’s pathway to victory is an obvious one – take Nou Srey Pov to the mat, slice through her guard and submit her as soon as possible. But Ishige typically gets walloped as she attempts to close the distance. The Thai fighter is certainly aware of this advantage and has expressed that she has no interest in letting the Cambodian fighter stand for too long.
Emilio Urrutia faces Yoshiki Nakahara
If you enjoy watching ONE Championship, you’ve likely come to love watching Emilio Urrutia compete. The featherweight fighter who trains out of Tiger Muay Thai is almost always an exciting fighter to watch. He’s coming off a defeat to Li Kai Wen in July last year that was one of the very best fights of the year. The two traded heavy shots for as long as it lasted and Urrutia proved his toughness by continuing to march forward despite eating his opponent’s best strikes.
That defeat marked his second consecutive defeat, just one bout after losing to former champion Marat Gafurov by first-round submission. Urrutia had previously managed four consecutive victories, topped off with a beatdown of Bruno Pucci to start 2018.
Urrutia will be facing Yoshiki Nakahara, who is set to appear inside the ONE Championship cage (or ring?) for the first time this weekend. Nakahara is riding a seven-fight Pancrease winning streak dating back to November 2015.
ONE Championship: Clash of Legends Fight Card
Saturday, February 16, 7:00 PM local time – Impact Arena – Bangkok, Thailand
Watch live on B/R app or ONE Super App
Main Card – 8:30 PM ET / 5:30 AM PT
- Nong-O Gaiyanghadao vs. Han Zi Hao – Muay Thai
- Kongsak vs. Alaverdi Ramazanov – Muay Thai
- Dae Hwan Kim vs. Shuya Kamikubo
- Mark Abelardo vs. Daichi Takenaka
- Shannon Wiratchai vs. Amarsanaa Tsogookhuu
- Jo Nattawut vs. Samy Sana – Muay Thai
- Gina Iniong vs. Jihin Radzuan
- Superlek Kiatmoo9 vs. Chetra Lao – Muay Thai
Preliminary Card – 7:00 AM ET / 4:00 AM PT
- Chamuaktong vs. Charlie Peters – Muay Thai
- Emilio Urrutia vs. Yoshiki Nakahara
- Rika Ishige vs. Nou Srey Pov
- Elipitua Siregar vs. Pengshuai Liu
ONE Championship: Clash of Legends is just one of the many major MMA events taking place this weekend. For more information, make sure to read our MMA Geek Guide for February 13-19.
Jake is The Body Lock's Editor in Chief, based in Tasmania, Australia.