Each athlete gave everything during a back-and-forth battle that stretched into the fifth and final round, but incredibly, both men believe they are fitter, stronger, and more skilled now.
That suggests we could be in for an even more incredible encounter when they rematch for the ONE Middleweight World Championship at ONE: A NEW ERA – or perhaps a more spectacular finish than 2018’s most incredible knockout.
Here are the key tools that World Champion and challenger will bring to the Ryogoku Kokugikan that could be the difference in their quest for a historic victory.
Aung La N Sang’s Multi-Tooled Attack
“The Burmese Python” has always been a finisher – 22 of his 24 victories have come inside the distance.
However, since working alongside legendary striking coach Henri Hooft, he has actually become more dangerous. His stand-up game has come on leaps and bounds and he has delivered a trio of explosive knockouts in his last three outings. What is more, each finishing blow has come from a different source.
Hasegawa fell to a thunderous right uppercut, Alexandre Machado hit the canvas from a right head kick, and a left hook to the body signaled the beginning of the end of Mohammad Karaki’s World Title challenge.
Aung La N Sang can end a contest with punches, knees, elbows, and kicks off any limb, and with every passing day at Hardknocks 365, he has honed and refined his ability to land them.
Hasegawa’s Straight Shooting
Hasegawa may not have the same array of weapons as his rival, but his bread-and-butter boxing techniques alone bring him a lot of success.
The Yokohama southpaw has a punishing straight left, which Aung La N Sang found out repeatedly in their first bout. He is able to use it to overcome a reach differential by throwing it long and without fear.
After he has rocked an opponent’s head back with his straight shot, a lead right hook often follows to capitalize on the opening.
The Myanmar superstar’s chin stood up to everything that came his way last year at the Thuwunna Indoor Stadium, but it might only take a minor adjustment and one clean shot to land on the button for Hasegawa to score a stunning win.
“The Burmese Python’s” Squeeze
There were more than 23 minutes of back-and-forth action the last time around, but only a few moments were spent on the ground.
In those exchanges, Aung La N Sang came close to securing Hasegawa’s neck from the back, but by that point, both men were exhausted, and it did not take much for the challenger to slip away from danger.
If the two-weight World Champion can secure a grounded position in the opening moments, there is a significant chance he could latch onto a submission.
His 12 career submissions, including three in The Home Of Martial Arts, prove he has a dangerous ground game, but he has favored his evolving striking skills in recent contests.
However, he knows from experience that knocking the durable Hasegawa down is not an easy task, so he may switch up his game plan to test his opponent in other areas. “The Burmese Python’s” squeeze could be crucial, as few competitors who find themselves trapped in his guillotine or arm-triangle chokes tend to last long.
With the eyes of millions around the world watching, redemption on his mind, and the Japanese crowd screaming his name, Hasegawa will be more motivated than ever before.
His superhuman effort in front of Aung La N Sang’s home supporters set the bar, but now he has a second chance to become ONE Middleweight World Champion, the 32-year-old wants to raise it, and he is willing to go into the deepest waters.
The former DEEP Openweight World Champion said he is willing to give everything for glory. We have already seen how stubborn he can be in Yangon, when his heart and desire saw him walk through shots that would have finished most men, and he pushed through exhaustion to give the World Champion his most intense battle in ONE.
The bushido spirit is ingrained in Hasegawa’s psyche, and it is unlikely to waver in his homeland in front of so many of his fans. There is no evidence from his career so far that suggests that anything other than a perfect strike or inescapable submission will stop him coming forward until the final bell rings.