What a night it was for ONE Championship in Singapore at ONE: ENTER THE DRAGON. Almost nothing went as expected, and as a result, the martial artists treated fans to one of the most unpredictable and exciting cards in a long time.
Samy Sana stunned the heavily favored Yodsanklai IWE Fairtex via unanimous decision, and we could say the same for Regian Eersel who bested Nieky Holzken to become ONE Championship’s first-ever ONE Lightweight Kickboxing World Champion.
As shocking as those results were, they may take a back seat to the following five finishes.
Mei Yamaguchi Submits Laura Balin
Mei Yamaguchi is a Japanese icon who seems to defy size and age limitations without pause. On Friday, she pulled off a slick submission victory over Argentina’s Laura Balin in the very first round. Take a look at the finish:
With the poise of an assassin, Yamaguchi finished Balin with an armbar. However, she quickly transitioned to the graceful role model showing exemplary sportsmanship seconds after forcing her opponent to tap out to the submission hold. That’s how real warriors with honor who understand the sport behave.
The win drove Yamaguchi’s record to 20-11.
Garry Tonon Submits Yoshiki Nakahara
As lovely as Yamaguchi’s performance was if there were an award issued for submission of the night, it would have gone to Garry Tonon. After briefly showing off his improved striking, Tonon attacked Yoshiki Nakahara’s leg, wrapped up a tight heel hook and forced the submission in seconds.
Tonon has only had five professional mixed martial arts bouts, but he might already be the best grappler in ONE Championship. It’s time for Tonon to take on a more serious competitor because he is quickly approaching an elite, championship level. By a fair estimation, he could be three or four wins away from challenging for the ONE Featherweight World Championship.
Saygid Guseyn Arslanaliev Destroys Amir Khan
As tough as Amir Khan is, Saygid Guseyn Arslanaliev reduced him to rubble with a destructive combination in the first round of their ONE Lightweight World Grand Prix match. A left hook did the initial damage, and a right uppercut finished the deal.
The win landed Arslanaliev in the finals of the Grand Prix where he will face the winner of the Timofey Nastyuhkin-Lowen Tynanes bout. At the outset of the tournament, few would have put Arslanaliev in a position of a favorite to win the entire competition. However, he is now one win away from reaching that goal. Arslanaliev moved his record to a sparkling 8-1 with the only loss coming via disqualification.
He is easily one of–if not the scariest–competitors in the Grand Prix.
Cosmo Alexandre Decks Sage Northcutt in 29 Seconds
Sage Northcutt’s ONE Championship debut couldn’t have gone any worse, and that’s no thanks to Cosmo Alexandre. The talented Brazilian striker needed less than 30 seconds to dispatch Northcutt. A clean overhand right landed on Northcutt’s jaw, and he fell face first to the canvas. The referee didn’t bother giving Northcutt a chance to recover. It was clear he was out cold.
When Northcutt came to ONE Championship, hopes were high for the 23-year-old American. All is not lost, as he has proven he can bounce back from defeat in the past. However, this is the first time he’s suffered a KO loss, especially one as devastating as this one. Alexandre has proven to be a striker in the highest order, so there is no shame in being beaten by him. We have to wait and see how Northcutt can respond after such a disappointing defeat in his ONE debut.
Christian Lee’s Comeback KO
In the first round of the main event, it looked as if Shinya Aoki would register a comfortable first-round submission victory over his former training partner Christian Lee. Somehow, the rugged 20-year-old from Singapore withstood the pain from Aoki’s armbar attempt in the first round. Through an unreal pain threshold and constant movement to relieve the pressure, Lee was able to escape.
Much like what happened to Lee’s sister Angela at ONE: A NEW ERA against Women’s Strawweight World Champion Xiong Jing Nan, Aoki appeared to gas out as he exerted all of his energy into finishing the battle with the submission. When he didn’t get it, he was very vulnerable. Lee took advantage in the second round. He powered forward and landed some hard shots on Aoki that forced the champion to the seat of his pants in the corner.
Lee pummeled him until the referee intervened to stop the match. Aoki didn’t like the decision to end the bout, but he looked to be in trouble. In any case, what Lee accomplished against a champion of Aoki’s caliber was impressive. Lee is now the new ONE Lightweight World Champion, and there could be a rematch somewhere down the line.