ONE FC 8 “KINGS AND CHAMPIONS”: EXPLORING THE UNDERCARD MATCHES

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ONE FC 8 on April 5, 2013 will see Lightweight Champion Kotetsu Boku make his first title defense againt Shinya Aoki, and the Semifinals of the Bantamweight Grand Prix. It will also showcase the region’s new talent.

With eight eight events in four countries under its (very expensive and heavy title) belt, ONE Fighting Championship is the no-longer-burgeoning behemoth based in Singapore that is now getting its name mentioned alongside the other international heavy-hitters in forums and newsprint alike. It has culled many of the top Japanese fighters such as Shinya Aoki, Masakazu Imanari, Masakatsu Ueda, and its Lightweight Champion Kotetsu Boku. International journeymen are consistently joining the ranks like Melvin Manhoef, Phil Baroni, Rolles Gracie, and Jens Pulver. However, the longevity of the promotion depends upon discovering and developing regionally-based talent.

While countries like Japan, Korea, and the Philippines have a longstanding MMA culture and thus many more young fighters from whom to choose, ONE FC is not limiting itself to easy pickings. They are scouring to find fighters from countries where MMA is practically a brand new sport, most notably Malaysia, as well as Thailand, Pakistan, and Indonesia, where MMA was once televised but has lapsed almost ten years. In its home base of Singapore, MMA may be new but there is already an established fight team amassed at Evolve MMA, which in itself could field an entire ONE FC card (and in fact claims five spots on ONE FC 8). They are starting to crank out some new talent, and they are not alone in Singapore, as the rising MMA tide has brought out several new fighters from other gyms in the country.

With the Wizard Matt Hume at the helm of the matchmaking, and a business plan to take over all of Asia, there’s definitely a strategy to ONE FC fight cards. However, it is all people-based. To understand how ONE FC aims to put together an international fight card that captures local, regional, and international appeal, look no further than the guys who are fighting on the undercard. The undercard of ONE FC 8, with its multiple 1- or 2-fight competitors, provides a very good look at the future of ONE FC, and that of MMA in Asia.

#1 – Flyweight
Chen YunTing (0-0) Muayfit, Malaysia versus Ronald Low (1-0) Fight G, Singapore

Chen YunTing is a young Muay Thai fighter with an amateur record of 3-0 from a single afternoon event in September of 2012. He dominated his opponents standing and when it went to the canvas he followed through with ground and pound techniques. Training out of Muayfit, he has the fortune of going through his fight camp with Coach Arnaud Lepont, who is also fighting in the event on the Main Card against Eddie Ng. He’s also seen other ONE FC fighters do their camps at Muayfit – his coaches: Eric Kelly and Peter Davis.

Raymond Low is a Muay Thai fighter with 7 wins out of 7 matches, and won his first MMA trial in the first round. He has been training for almost ten years, and has transitioned from the stand up arts to BJJ and now MMA. ONE FC is launching his career in his hometown of Singapore. Low has a calculating mind, and is very calm in competition. He’ll be playing to Coach Darren de Silva’s game plan, and approaching the fight with focus that belies his experience.

#2 – Light Heavyweight
Jake Butler (1-0) Evolve MMA, USA versus Swain Cangco (2-0) MCA MMA/Predator Combat, Saipan

Jake Bulter was the captain of the varsity wrestling team at Princeton University. He left a lucrative career in finance to pursue the fight dream, and took up residence at Evolve MMA in Singapore. When he stepped in the ONE FC cage for his inaugural MMA match, he already looked and performed like a seasoned MMA fighter. Butler’s training clips are scary. If his striking has developed as it looks, he is the future of the light heavyweight division.

Swain Cangco is a two week replacement for Butler’s previous opponent. He has fights beyond his given record, all wins. Other than coming into the fight with more MMA experience in cages than Butler has, Cangco has trained with a stable of big guys who compete in MMA regularly. He has gone the distance proving he has endurance, and KOs showing he has finishing power.

#3 – Featherweight
Bashir Ahmad (1-0) PAKMMA, Pakistan versus Shannon Wiratchai (2-0-0-1) BurnShell Team, Thailand

Bashir Ahmad returned to Pakistan with a sole mission – grow MMA. He has opened a gym, found sponsors, and started a fight promotion, all while training diligently day in and day out through rolling black outs in 40 degree temperatures. The last two years of his life have literally been spent immersed in MMA. Ahmad has a 5-2 Muay Thai record and a blue belt in BJJ, proving he has the foundation to be an MMA fighter. In his first fight, he submitted his opponent in 28 seconds. In the lead up to this event, Ahmad is staying at a mosque and training locally.

Shannon Wiratchai, like Ahmad, is himself a proponent of MMA in Thailand. He is also a judoka, a Chinese bagua practitioner, as well as experienced in BJJ and Muay Thai. Like his opponent, he is also highly educated and choosing the warrior lifestyle. Wirachai showed a markedly developed skillset when he entered the ONE FC cage for the first time against Mitch Chilson. Developing himself even further, he chose to do a fight camp with Tiger Muay Thai and the likes of Roger Huerta.

#4 – Flyweight
Alex Silva (1-1) Evolve MMA, Brazil versus Rene Catalan (0-0) Fighting Empire/FCI, Philippines

Alex Silva is a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belt who took gold in the Mundials, medaling several other times as well. His humble upbringing taught him to be dedicated in the pursuit of skill. Like his teammate Butler, he picked up and moved to Singapore to train with Evolve MMA in the hopes of jumpstarting an MMA career. His first outing was a quick submission win, but his second was a decision loss against another up and comer who happened to be a striker – Geje Eustaquio. Silva has had a year to focus on what he learned from that fight and improve. His love for and attention to his Muay Thai game have most likely given him a vast improvement.

Rene Catalan mirrors Silva’s combat accolades, only in striking as opposed to ground work.  He has 4 gold medals in the World Wushu Championships and 3 in the Asian Games. Catalan tirelessly devotes his life to combat sport. Through the sickness and eventual tragic losses of both parents and his wife, he continued to fight for their medical care and the financial support of his entire family. Catalan knew his career would take him to MMA and he has been training his skills to develop in all areas for it.

ONE FC 8 “Kings and Champions” takes place in Singapore on April 5, 2013. For information on ticketing and PPV, see the event website at www.ONEFC.com.

Full Fight Card

#1 – Flyweight
Chen YunTing (0-0) Muayfit, Malaysia versus Ronald Low (1-0) Fight G, Singapore

#2 – Light Heavyweight
Jake Butler (1-0) Evolve MMA, USA versus Swain Cangco (2-0) MCA MMA/Predator Combat, Saipan

#3 – Featherweight
Bashir Ahmad (1-0) PAKMMA, Pakistan versus Shannon Wiratchai (2-0-0-1) BurnShell Team, Thailand

#4 – Flyweight
Alex Silva (1-1) Evolve MMA, Brazil versus Rene Catalan (0-0) Fighting Empire/FCI, Philippines

#5 – Bantamweight
Leandro Issa (10-3) Evolve MMA, Brazil versus Yusup Saadulaev (9-2-1) Uflacker Academy, USA

#6 – Lightweight
Eddie Ng (5-1) Evolve MMA, Hong Kong versus Arnaud Lepont (9-2) Muayfit, France

#7 – Bantamweight Grand Prix Semifinals #1
Kevin Belingon (10-2) Team Lakay, Philippines versus Thanh Vu (3-1) Martial ARts Development, Australia

#8 – Bantamweight Grand Prix Semifinals #2
Jens Pulver (27-17-1) Team Extreme, USA versus Masakatsu Ueda (16-2-2) Paraestra Tokyo, Japan

#9 – Middleweight
Melvin Manhoef (27-9-1) Mike’s Gym, Netherlands versus Brock Larsen (36-7) Get Sum/MIQ, USA

#10 – Lightweight Championship Defence
Kotetsu Boku (20-7-2) Krazy Bee, Japan versus Shinya Aoki (32-6) Evolve MMA, Japan