ONE Championship, formerly known as ONE Fighting Championship, might just be the greatest threat to the UFC's market supremacy -- and they haven't even tapped the North American audience!
ONE Championship is currently 24 events in, the first being an ambitious show titled "ONE FC: Champion Vs. Champion", which featured URCC (Universal Reality Combat Championship) champion Eduard Folayang battling A-Sol Kwon, the champion of HEAT FC.
The South Korean, A-Sol Kwon, started off stalking, looking for counter punch opportunities against the favorite from the Philippines. In the early rounds, he was able to keep to his game plan, but quickly fell off-key as he began to tire in the third, and championship stages. Folayang came away with a broken nose, but a unanimous decision victory for his troubles.
"Landslide's" not-so-easy victory was indicative of what you would get in watching one of the Singapore-based promoter's shows. You will see less build-up to their events and fighters -- at least, in stark contrast to the UFC or Bellator MMA. It's all about the excitement, and that's what a vociferous combat sports audience wants to see!
Even perhaps their greatest stake, Japan's Shinya Aoki, is held by a loose-leash. Aoki remains the ONE Lightweight Champion, yet, has been allowed to fight elsewhere, on a Japanese promoter's annual New Years' Eve shows, twice since conquering the belt in April of 2013. He has only since defended his title once, and fought in a ONE Championship Featherweight contest once since. That might have dissipated a relationship between most major promoters and their fighters, but ONE has demonstrated some flexibility in their contracting of fighters; if little compromise on what is expected of them in the cage.
As Asia's leading MMA promoter, ONE has held shows in the cities of Beijing, Manila, Taiwan, and Dubai. They have also showcased events and tournaments in the likes of Singapore, Malaysia, Cambodia, and Indonesia, thus, branching far into markets that the UFC have yet to capitalize on.
ONE FC 25 is on Friday. It will be held at Putra Indoor Stadium amidst the heavily-populated Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur. Their first event in this same venue saw Nobutatsu Suzuki batter American challenger Brock Larson to win the ONE Welterweight Championship. He would lose it in his next fight against Ben Askren, but Suzuki was well-received with this win, despite having not been from Malaysia, much like every other main card participant. One FC has created an environment, much like the UFC has. An environment where nationalism isn't always preeminent, and fighters are appreciated for their own worth.
Adriano Moraes is unlikely to ever fight at home in Brasilia. So long as he chooses to globe-trot under the ONE Championship banner.
At the top of an eight fight card, Moraes, 25, eyes his first defense of his Flyweight title against Asuka Mikami, a fighter without a loss since his third professional fight.
The Brazilian has built his career in ONE FC after a short run in Brazilian Shooto. A 9-0 fighter, Moraes would suffer his first loss in his promotional debut, where he was outhustled by Dagestan's Yusup Saadulaev and dropped a split-decision.
Moraes, having become more acclimated to high-level MMA, turned heads with his Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu skills and ground game. His next opponent, Yashuhiro Urushitani, was submitted with a Rear-Naked Choke at 3:48 of round two.
He would then be positioned for a Flyweight title eliminator. One, in which, he would win handily with an Arm-Triangle Choke over Japan's Kosuke Suzuki. With this win, came a shot at Geje Eustaquio. Eustaquio also won his Flyweight title eliminator at ONE FC 17, and the Pinoy was poised to show that he had the prowess to beat top opponents, like Moraes.
Miserably, he would fail, as "Black Diamond" spent the first round ducking and dodging any attempts and offense, and the second pressing and forcing the fight to the ground. He would score the submission victory at 3:54 with a guillotine choke.
On Friday, he faces 11-2 fighter Asuka Mikami. He'll be looking to shut down the scrappy 29-year-old quickly, much like Eustaquio, if he wishes to avoid becoming a stepping-stone for greater talent.
The fight will take place in the neutral territory of Malaysia, where locals Peter Davis and Ann Osman round out the main card in some of the most challenging fights in their respective careers.
Mens' Lightweight Davis and Women's Flyweight Osman are a combined 5-2 under the ONE banner, with Osman having debuted in the promotion. Their opponents, Rajinder Meena and Walaa Abas Mohamed Kamaly lack the experience they have at this level, but are a respectable 10-3 combined.
ONE Championship's 25th event can be viewed live on independent Pay-Per-View in the United States, and will be available through a variety of television providers and internet services. While it may be out of it's depths when compared to the UFC, ONE has been groundbreaking for Asian MMA and seldom puts on a fight-card worth missing. Be sure to tune in!