ONE: MASTERS OF DESTINY brought a night of unexpected and enlightening results to martial arts fans on Friday, 12 July.
Across 15 Muay Thai, kickboxing, and mixed martial arts bouts, the fans inside the Axiata Arena barely had a moment to catch their breaths.
Many of ONE Championship’s heroes lived up to their expectations, and others surprised the local crowd and global fanbase by showing them outstanding performances.
These are four of the biggest lessons we learned from the action in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
#1 The Featherweight Kickboxing World Grand Prix Is Wide Open
When the ONE Featherweight Kickboxing World Grand Prix was first announced, Giorgio “The Doctor” Petrosyan and “The Boxing Computer” Yodsanklai IWE Fairtex were considered the favorites to go all the way and win the US$1 million grand prize.
The first round is now over, and all of that has changed.
That is not to say the Italian did not perform brilliantly to defeat the multiple-time Muay Thai World Champion at ONE: MASTERS OF DESTINY. The two-time K-1 World MAX Champion was aggressive and as technically superb as ever, as he earned a unanimous decision against one of the most dangerous strikers on the planet.
However, Petchmorakot pushed him all the way once again, which will give the other competitors – including his semifinal opponent, “Smokin’” Jo Nattawut – the idea that he may not be completely invincible like he seemed to be just a few months ago.
#2 Michelle Nicolini’s BJJ Can Dominate The Elite
Some questioned whether her striking was good enough to trouble the best women’s strawweights in her new sport, but her performance in Kuala Lumpur proved that her grappling is more than good enough to tackle a superstar.
Nicolini faced her toughest test on the global stage from the ONE Women’s Atomweight World Champion, but she passed it with flying colors.
The Singaporean may have been allowed to box, kick, and strike on the ground, but she was unable to effectively do any of that, as Nicolini took control with her phenomenal ground game to sweep the scorecards.
#3 Malaysian Martial Artists Can Put On A Show
Three local heroes thrilled their home crowd with stirring performances that showed their skill, as well as bags of heart and determination.
Up towards the top of the main card, Ev “E.T.” Ting had to weather one heck of a storm from Daichi Abe, but he never wilted under the pressure, and his compatriots almost blew the roof off the Axiata Arena when he claimed a second-round submission.
Things looked pretty scary for Jihin “Shadow Cat” Radzuan at one point, too. The 20-year-old looked like she had Jomary Torres in trouble, but then the Filipina lifted the Johor Bahru native up to slam her – and that has cost other athletes dearly in the past.
Despite that threat, Jihin survived and finished the job in the first round via triangle choke to send Kuala Lumpur into meltdown.
The rising star did not back down, however. He went toe-to-toe with the veteran for three rounds to get the win.
#4 ONE Athletes Should Be Wary Of Evolve’s New Recruits
Both Troy “Pretty Boy” Worthen and Aleksi “The Giant” Toivonen joined Evolve after they impressed the coaches in the elite Singaporean team’s global tryouts, and – in different ways – they showed why in their ONE debuts.
Worthen looks like a terrifying opponent for all but the best defensive wrestlers at bantamweight, as he launched the previously-undefeated Chen Rui onto the mat and pounded away until he got the finish.
Toivonen’s method of victory was impressive in a completely different way. Though he did not take total control of Akihiro Fujisawa, he capitalized on the smallest of openings to finish the contest in an instant.
Whoever faces these men next will have a tough assignment.