ONE Championship makes its way to the Philippines this Friday with ONE: Conquest of Champions taking place in Manila’s Mall of Asia Arena.
A pair of title bouts will headline the card.
In the main event, Brandon Vera returns after a two-year layoff to defend his heavyweight crown against Italy’s Mauro Cerilli. The co-main event will see Team Lakay’s Eduard Folayang locking horns with Singapore’s Amir Khan for the vacant lightweight strap.
The fact that two of the Philippines’ favorite sporting sons are set to compete should make for a lively atmosphere.
The Return Of Vera
Vera has been nothing if not dominant since his arrival at ONE Championship. His three bouts have all been first-round finishes, and it could be argued that “The Truth” has yet to be genuinely tested since moving to the Singapore-based promotion.
Thankfully, the ONE matchmakers have found an athlete who appears to be set on taking the fight to the reigning champion.
The 35-year-old Cerrilli comes into this clash on the back of a five-bout winning streak with four of those victories coming via way of stoppage. The Italian’s last outing was a 15-second demolition of Northern Ireland’s Karl Moore in defense of his Cage Warriors Heavyweight Championship.
“The Hammer” brings with him a reputation for being a heavy-hitting knock-out artist, but it would be doing his skills a disservice to classify him as a simple one-dimensional brawler.
An accomplished grappler, Cereilli holds a black belt in Judo and a purple belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu. He is also, having fought four times in the last two years, match-fit.
Vera is now 41 years old, and while he has consistently competed at a higher level than Cereilli, it remains to be seen how the two-year break will impact Vera when the cage doors close.
Vera will go into the bout as the favorite, but in Cereilli he will face an opponent who can change the complexion of the contest with a single punch.
A Lightweight Champion Will Be Crowned
In September, former ONE lightweight champion Martin Nguyen was forced to relinquish the title following an injury.
Nguyen’s misfortune has presented Folayang, the man he defeated for the strap last November, with an unexpected but not unwelcome chance at redemption. Losing the belt was hard enough for the ONE veteran, but what made the loss harder to swallow was that it took place on his home soil.
Folayang bounced back from his defeat to Nguyen to record back-to-back decision victories over Russian grapplers Kharun Atlangeriev and Aziz Pahrudinov. A decorated wushu expert, Folayang is known for his impressive stand-up abilities but he is also a more-than-capable wrestler.
However, it his stand-up that is likely to be tested this week. Khan is one of the division’s top strikers and currently holds the promotion’s record for most finishes and knockouts.
A product of Evolve MMA, Khan spars daily with some of the world’s best Muay Thai fighters and will not be overwhelmed by the thought of standing and trading with Folayang. The 24-year-old comes into this bout following a comprehensive first-round victory over Folayang’s teammate, Honorio Banario.
Folayang has been something of a point’s machine since joining ONE Championship. He has competed 14 times but has just one stoppage win to his credit. The 35-year-old dominated his last two bouts but was unable to put either of his opponents away despite his clear striking advantage.
In Khan, he will be facing an athlete levels above his recent competition, one who is unlikely to become fatigued and who is capable of capitalizing on the slightest error he makes.
The Filipino will be the favorite heading into the bout, but it would be no surprise to see the ONE lightweight title winging its way to Singapore this weekend.
Nakashima makes his ONE Debut
Outside of the two title bouts, the most intriguing contest of the night will be the debut of former LFA welterweight champion James Nakashima.
The undefeated American will take on fellow newcomer Raimond Magomedaliev in a bout that is likely to set the winner on a path to a title shot.
Magomedaliev, who is also undefeated, should provide a stern test for Nakashima. The Russian has previously fought in Fight Nights Global and comes from a sambo and wrestling background.
ONE: Conquest of Champions Full Lineup
Brandon Vera vs Mauro Cerilli
Eduard Folayang vs Amir Khan
Honorio Banario vs Rahul Raju
Saemapetch Fairtex vs Alaverdi Ramazanov
Raimond Magomedaliev vs James Nakashima
Deividas Danyla vs Hiroaki Suzuki
Samy Sana vs Armen Petrosyan
Alexandre Machado vs Hideki Sekine
Azwan Che Wil vs Han Zi Hao
Jeremy Miado vs Peng Xue Wen
Rockie Bactol vs Akihiro Fujisawa
Rudy Agustian vs Asraful Islam