ONE: “Roots of Honor” is set for the MOA Arena in Manila on Friday (April 12, 2019) and features two title fights. Joshua Pacio will be looking to reclaim his strawweight strap while Martin Nguyen defends his featherweight belt for the second time.
The Philippines is currently without a ONE Championship titleholder after Eduard Folayang and Kevin Belingon both lost in Tokyo, albeit in wildly different circumstances. Pacio will be looking to rectify that situation when he faces Yosuke Saruta.
Meanwhile, Nguyen faces a former featherweight champion in Narantungalag Jadambaa. The card also features the remaining quarterfinal bout in the flyweight Grand Prix with Tatsumitsu Wada taking on Gustavo Balart.
Here’s my preview of the first seven fights:
125 lbs.: Ramon Gonzales vs. Akihiro Fujisawa (Strawweight)
Ramon Gonzalez (3-2) is a multiple time Karate champion whose life story was recently the subject of a TV drama in the Philippines. Despite coming from such a strong striking background he is coming off back to back submission wins.
Akihiro Fujisawa (5-0-1) had his first pro fight in 2008. He resurrected his career in Thailand a decade later and is riding a five fight winning streak. The Japanese fighter looks to be primarily a grappler.
115 lbs.: Bi Nguyen vs. Dwi Ani Retno Wulan (Atomweight)
Bi Nguyen (4-3) has been in with some very tough atomweights in the U.S. She’s perhaps better known for an appearance on the Survivor TV show than her exploits inside the MMA arena.
However, the Vietnamese American trains very seriously and has been at Tiger Muay Thai to prepare for her ONE Championship debut. She will be a strong favorite against Indonesia’s Dwi Ani Retno Wulan (1-0).
135 lbs.: Muay Thai — Lerdsila Champairtour vs. Kohei Kodera (Flyweight)
Lerdsila Champairtour is a Muay Thai veteran who has won two fights out of two in the ONE Super Series. The 38 year old is good at making opponents miss and then punishing them with a fast right kick.
Kohei Kodera looked very good in his ONE Super Series debut but faces a big step up in opposition here. He won the WBC International 126-pound title but is massively outranked by his opponent in Muay Thai terms.
135 lbs.: Niko Soe vs. Eko Roni Saputra (Flyweight)
Niko Soe (2-1) made his ONE Championship debut in 2016 but has not fought since. He’s been training MMA for the best part of a decade even if his fights have been far and few between.
Eko Roni Saputra is a decorated wrestler from Indonesia who trains at Evolve MMA. Local pride will be at stake here because his opponent fights out of Impact MMA in Singapore.
145 lbs.: Ahmad Qais Jasoor vs. Xie Bin (Bantamweight)
Ahmad Qais Jasoor (5-1-1) was originally scheduled to face Masakazu Imanari in Jakarta but couldn’t get a visa. He might feel he dodged a bullet by missing out on a matchup with the most dangerous leg lock specialist in the sport.
Instead, the Afghan finds himself facing Xie Bin (6-2). The Chinese fighter is on a five-fight winning streak and could establish himself as an unlikely title contender with a win in Manila.
145 lbs.: Muay Thai — Saemapetch Fairtex vs. Ognjen Topic (Bantamweight)
Saemapetch Fairtex is a former Channel 7 star who won one of the biggest tournaments in Muay Thai. He’s a southpaw with a solid left kick and has won all his ONE Super Series bouts so far.
Ognjen Topic is also coming off a ONE Super Series win and has been in with the likes of Saenchai Sor Kingstar and Tukkatatong Petpayathai although he lost both fights and will be an underdog here.
155 lbs.: Eric Kelly vs. Won Il Kwon (Featherweight)
Eric Kelly (12-6) is on a five-fight losing streak and hasn’t won a fight since 2015. He has hard kicks and can slap on rear-naked chokes from unorthodox angles but is a bit flat footed and the division has evolved since his days as a top title contender.
Won Il Kwon (6-1) is one of the tallest fighters in the division but is coming off a first career loss at the hands of Masakazu Imanari.
The entire ONE: “Roots of Honor” fight card will be available to view live and free in some territories using the newly launched app which you can download here. In the U.S. it will be streamed on B/R Live.
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