THE final installment of the four-part “ONE on TNT” series of ONE Championship happens on Thursday at the Singapore Indoor Stadium.
The concluding event will be headlined by the world light heavyweight title clash between reigning champion “The Burmese Python” Aung La N Sang and replacement opponent and middleweight champ Reinier De Ridder of the Netherlands.
Also seeing action is Filipino mixed martial arts (MMA) veteran Eduard “Landslide” Folayang against Japanese legend Shinya Aoki in the third encounter of their trilogy as well as Filipino-American muay thai fighter Jackie Buntan against Ekaterina Vandaryeva of Belarus.
The “ONE on TNT” series started on April 8 where the promotion’s fights are broadcast across various platforms in the United States on prime time.
Aung La faces Mr. De Ridder for the second time in seven months.
The two collided in October last year where the Dutch submitted the Burmese fighter (rear-naked choke) in the first round to win the ONE world middleweight title.
Aung La is hoping that he could exact payback and prevent Mr. De Ridder from doubling up on him and taking the light heavyweight title this time.
It is a quick pivot for Aung La though as he saw his original opponent Vitaly Bigdash of Russia pull out in fight week after contracting the coronavirus.
Messrs. Folayang and Aoki, meanwhile, found themselves in an instant trilogy after their respective opponents backed out for varying reasons.
Team Lakay’s Folayang was supposed to face Japanese Yoshihiro Akiyama while Mr. Aoki was to face American Sage Northcutt.
The two former lightweight champions split their first two encounters with Mr. Folayang taking the first fight back in 2016 by knocking out then ONE lightweight champ Aoki in the third round to become the new champion.
The Japanese then exacted payback in 2019 when he submitted the Filipino by way of arm triangle choke in the opening round to reclaim the lightweight belt.
“This is a crucial fight for both men, to be honest. We have to factor in age and their current mentality as well as the technique that they will employ in this fight. These two have fought twice, and are very familiar with one another,” said local fight analyst Nissi Icasiano when asked by BusinessWorld for his thoughts.
“It’s a matter of who has the better game plan coming into the fight. In the case of Folayang, he needs to sport a more cautious and patient approach, leaning on snap kicks and telegraphing long-distance strikes. He has to do this repeatedly for at least two rounds to wear out Aoki, who will try to hunt for a takedown right off the bat and sink the Filipino on the ground,” he added, underscoring that the longer the fight, goes the better for the Filipino’s chances.
Ms. Buntan, for her part, will make her second appearance in ONE Championship and try to solidify her standing as a contender.
Also seeing action in the event is MMA veteran Eddie Alvarez of the United States against Ok Rae Yoon of South Korea.
“ONE on TNT IV” will be broadcast live here over One Sports at 8:30 a.m. with an encore telecast on the same channel on April 30 at 8:30 p.m., and on May 2 at 12 a.m. on TV5. — Michael Angelo S. Murillo