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ONE Championship “Iron Will” – Recap

ONE Championship put on another MMA spectacle in order to wow the local Muay Thai loving audience. “Iron Will’ was capped of by a competitive champion vs champion bout and also delivered a few other interesting highlights – including some huge disappointments. Let’s break down the main card.

Champion vs. Champion: Bibiano Fernandes def. Martin Nguyen

The, arguably, best bout on the card. Two division champion Martin Nguyen, hailing from Vietnam & Australia, tried to become the first three division champion by taking on Bantamweight champion Bibiano Fernandes from Brasil. While I’m personally not a big fan of multi-division champions, especially three divisions, it was still a rather interesting fight to witness.

Fernandes is, unsurprisingly, a BJJ expert and one could see how careful Nguyen was as soon as the bout went somewhat close to the mat. He always backed up against the fence and did some smart ‘fence walking’ to slip out of Fernandes’ grip. Fernandes kept going for take-downs though and scored a few points going for it while also visibly making Nguyen tired.

Generally speaking the two fighting styles matched up rather well. Not in regards to making it an exciting striking fest, but in regards to seeing which approach to martial arts will come out victorious. Fernandes, the forward moving fighting machine with a very tense stance, always ready to shoot forward vs. Nguyen, the smooth martial artist who goes with the flow and seems to fight more from a ‘feeling it’ approach.

In the end it was definitely interesting and Fernandes would have scored a decisive victory on my card even before knocking Nguyen down. In the end it came to a split decision (how in the world?) but Fernandes kept his streak alive by moving on to a 22-3 record and handing Nguyen his first loss since 2015.

Bibiano Fernandes def. Martin Nguyen via split decision

Jeremy Miado def. Dejdamrong Sor Amnuaysirichoke

Kru Rong made another comeback and was looking to finally get this w back and mark his first victory in his home country. Ever since he lost the title he seemed to have been on a downward spiral and, let’s be honest, father time unfortunately has visibly taken his toll on the Muay Thai grandmaster.

The bout with Miado looked like a huge mismatch from the very beginning. Miado was visibly taller and stronger and I wonder how both of them are in the same weight class. With ONE being proud of not having weight cuts due to their testing program, I’m not quite sure what to make of that. The bout then barely lasted 90 seconds. Kru Rong, Dejdamrong, tried to show some offensive moves but couldn’t really reach Miado who then placed a very nice counter combination to the chin of Kru Rong and knocked him out cold. Dejdamrong was out before he hit the canvas and even had to be stretchered out.

Spectacular KO and I hope Kru Rong is doing well. Maybe it’s time to hang up those gloves and keep focusing on training the Evolve team. What pissed me off at the end was that Miado was dancing and celebrating even while medics attended to Dejdamrong. That’s just not cool and not how a real martial artist should behave.

Jeremy Miado def. Dejdamrong Sor Amnuaysirichoke via KO (punches) at 1:29 of Round 1

Shannon Wiratchai def. Rahul Raju

The ‘new face’ of Thai MMA had his chance to redemption here. After having lost in a terribly boring fight the last time around Shannon, OneShin, Wiratchai, was looking to make up for the lackluster performance last time around.

As always, he entered the arena all dressed up, this time as black panther. I hated on his antics on twitter before but if someone wins, you can’t really argue. And winning he did. While Rahul Raju looked way bigger (but also smaller) than Shannon, he didn’t seem to have much experience. He tried to land a few combinations at the start of the round but missed and then just blindly marched forward with his head down, wildly swinging, so that Wiratchai could easily move out of the way and land a one shot lucky punch for the KO at :21 seconds of round 1.

I’m not saying ONE gave Wiratchai an easy fight to bounce back here, but I think ONE gave Wiratchai an easy fight on purpose to bounce back in order to being able to promote him further. :P Still, you have to make it work first of course.

Shannon Wiratchai def. Rahul Raju via KO (punch) at :21 of Round 1

Angelie Sabanal def. Rika Ishige

Rika “Tiny Doll” Ishige should be the face of female Thai MMA and be part of the MMA power couple together with Shannon Wiratchai. So far the power couple couldn’t manage to score to victories each at the same event though. This time around was just the same.

While official reports speak of Angelie Sabanal as the next ‘filipino superstar’ I didn’t see much of a superstar making fight here. I’m all for supporting young fighters, but that bout was basically dancing without the stars. Lots of hugging, back and forth, no real aggression and a rather unexcited 15 minutes. That is not a knock on the martial artists here, but rather feedback in regards to ONE maybe giving up and coming fighters more time to grow before pushing them into the limelight.

I was quite surprised that there was no home court advantage on the judges cards but can’t argue with the decision.

Angelie Sabanal def. Rika Ishige via unanimous decision

Saygid Guseyn Arslanaliev def. Tetsuya Yamada

Oh god what was that? It was an intense bout but also a really weird one. Yamada spent most of the time on his back. Voluntarily. Every time Arslanaliev seemed to move forward, Yamada fell onto his back and dared the Aserbaidschan born fighter to get down. Yamada went for take downs all the time but barely ever succeeded and then went back to lying on his back again. Really annoying.

Eventually it was Arslanaliev who then reversed an armbar attempt by Yamada into his own armbar which eventually ended this terrible showing by Yamada.

Saygid Guseyn Arslanaliev def. Tetsuya Yamada via submission (armbar) at 2:51 of Round 3

Waqar Umar def. Zhi Kang Zhao

The 23 year old Chinese prodigy who already has 26 bouts on his resume started well and showed some good action arealy on before Umar was able to turn the tables though and then stayed in charge for most of the remaining time of round one. 39 seconds before the bell could save Zhao Umar made him tap via RNC. Good performance there!

Waqar Umar def. Zhi Kang Zhao via submission (rear-naked choke) at 4:21 of Round 1

Garry Tonon def. Richard Corminal

Garry Tonon is a BJJ superstar and now wanted to try his luck in MMA. In his corner he had some of the biggest names of the martial arts game and that showed. Many people might have expected him to shoot for the take down right away but he seemed really confident and wanted to test his stand up. He had a few chances to take Corminal down but decided to keep it on the feet and even showed some jumping kicks (wouldn’t call it flying yet). He got half and full mount a few times and Corminal got saved by the bell in round 1 but in round 2 Tonon eventually went for the finish via g&p from full mount. Great debut!

Garry Tonon def. Richard Corminal via TKO (ground and pound) at 3:40 of Round 2

Some interesting fights again, some very disappointing ones as well though. Moreover ONE still needs to do more in regards to explain MMA to a Muay Thai country. The audience wasn’t that much into the event and I still think that it would make sense to not have events every other week but rather give athletes the time to progress. Nevertheless I am happy that ONE is trying to promote MMA here in Southeast Asia and with the huge amount of martial artist here, there’s no reason why it shouldn’t catch on eventually (one piece of advice: Maybe ONE could make sure that TV commentary and analysts know what they’re talking about because the Thai announcers and commentators clearly have no clue and lack any kind of enthusiasm while comparing everything that happens to classical Muay Thai bouts and rather focus on the looks than the skills).

Sascha Funk

Founder / Editor at
Sascha is the publisher of and switched from an online marketing agency life in Europe to a teaching and education life in Thailand. He also writes about Teaching & Technology.

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