KUALA LUMPUR: The largest global sports media property in Asian history, ONE Championship (ONE), closed 2019 on a high note, giving fans another thrilling evening of world-class martial arts action. The Axiata Arena in Kuala Lumpur recently played host to ONE: MARK OF GREATNESS, featuring the absolute best in global martial arts talent.
For the thousands of highly charged Malaysian fans who had converged on the arena on this wet Friday evening, it was the chance to catch their favourite martial arts superstars in action as hometown heroes, Agilan “Alligator” Thani, Jihin “Shadow Cat” Radzuan and Muhammad “Jungle Cat” Aiman returned to the Circle for their final curtain call of 2019. Anticipations were high for a 1-2-3 Malaysian sweep in this sizzling night of martial arts action.
“THE GHOST" HAUNTS "JUNGLE CAT"
It was the Bali-based Muhammad Aiman who was the first to kick-start the action from the Malaysian camp. Looking confident entering the Circle, fans were looking forward to see what this exciting young talent would have up his sleeves against China’s “The Ghost” Chen Rui.
Unfortunately, Chen wasn’t going to let the strongly partisan home crowd upset his rhythm, coming forth with a virtuoso performance against the hometown favourite. Storming out of the gates in round one, the Chinese star pushed the pace with his aggression and successfully hurt Aiman on the back foot on a couple of occasions.
The action continued in much the same vein for the rest of the bout, with Chen landing a handful of big shots while Aiman played defense. Unfortunately, the Negeri Sembilan-born athlete was a shade behind for much of the contest. For all his efforts, Chen bagged a unanimous decision victory across all three judges’ scorecard.
“ALLIGATOR" SNAPS HIS PREY
Malaysia’s Agilan “Alligator” Thani couldn’t have asked for a better welcome reception when he confidently made his way down the long walkway towards the Circle. With so much love emanating from around the arena, the hometown hero would have been buoyed by the home support as he braced himself for his clash against American newcomer, Dante Schiro.
Looking lean and mean, the “Alligator” was entering the Circle after a disappointing defeat against Japan’s Yushin “Thunder” Okami at ONE: Century at the Ryogoku Kokugikan indoor arena in Tokyo back in October. Suffice to say, the 24-year-old was hungry for the taste of victory again.
The bout started well, with Agilan successfully controlling Schiro on the ground in the opening round. But as the minutes ticked, the American rallied in the second and almost finished the bout with a deep rear naked choke. With the crowd rapturously baying for his victory, the Sentul-born “wunderkind” raised his tempo and managed to secure a razor-thin decision win over Schiro after three rounds of scintillating action.
INTO THE SHADOWS FOR JIHIN
The Johor-born Jihin “Shadow Cat” Radzuan has always been a crowd favourite. One of the finest female martial artists to emerge from Malaysia, Jihin, a Wushu World Champion and MIMMA Women’s Champion, has always looked impressive every time she enters the Circle.
It was unsurprising then that anticipation ran high for her clash against the Philippines, Denice “The Menace Fairtex” Zamboanga, who was making her ONE Championship debut on this very night. The arena erupted the moment the action started as raucous support came pouring forth for the “home girl”.
Unfortunately, much to the disappointment of the home fans – and to Jihin’s chagrin – Zamboanga seemed intent on keeping the Malaysian star at arm’s length and appeared to be settling for a defensive game plan.
Frustrations etched on her face, the Malaysian athlete constantly found herself ushering the Filipino to “come and fight”, pointing to the middle of the Circle so that real action could ensue.
When Zamboanga did finally come through, she was relentless, particularly in her takedown attempts, and was able to defiantly control the young Malaysian on the ground in the first two rounds.
The hometown favourite threw everything she had by the third round, with submission attempts after submission attempts; unfortunately, it proved to be too late as the judges awarded the Filipino, in her baptism of fire, a unanimous decision victory.
MARTIAL ARTS SHOWCASE
In the main event, Muay Thai legend Sam-A Gaiyanghadao made history by becoming a two-sport and two-division World Champion by defeating China’s “Golden Boy” Wang Junguang by unanimous decision to become the new ONE Strawweight Kickboxing World Champion.
In a five-round back-and-forth bout, Sam-A’s speed and experience shone through as he out-struck and out-manouvred Wang for the majority of the contest. In the end, it was Sam-A who prevailed, capturing his second World Championship in ONE.
In the co-main event, Alaverdi “Babyface Killer” Ramazanov of Russia survived China’s “Muay Thai Boy” Zhang Chenglong to become the new ONE Bantamweight Kickboxing World Champion. Ramazanov started out strong, using his reach to connect on Zhang, leading to a knockdown in the third round.
Zhang came to life in the later rounds, looking to swing the momentum in his favour. After five rounds of striking action, it was Ramazanov who earned the decision and finally realised his dream of becoming a ONE World Champion.
Former ONE World Title challenger Reece “Lightning” McLaren of Australia returned to the winner’s circle in spectacular fashion, submitting Indian rising star Gurdarshan “Saint Lion” Mangat in the first round. McLaren put on a grappling clinic as he took Mangat down and imposed his will on the ground early.
Towards the closing moments of the first round, McLaren was able to get to the mounted position and seamlessly transitioned into a rear naked choke, forcing Mangat to tap out with just seconds remaining.
For details on the night’s other scintillating action and official results, go to www.onefc.com.