ONE Championship returns to Yangon, Myanmar, this Friday on 7 October for another blockbuster fight card at the Thuwunna Indoor Stadium.
As always, there will be winners and losers. Great things await those who are willing to risk all, so let’s take a look at what’s at stake for the fighters at ONE: STATE OF WARRIORS.
Jordan Lucas and Yusup Saadulaev
Former BRACE champion Jordan “Showtime” Lucas (8-1) may have not gotten what he wanted when he debuted for ONE Championship in March, but that’s not stopping him from getting right back in the cage in search of his first victory for the promotion.
Lucas is young and talented at 22 years of age, with an upside that looks bright despite a loss to Filipino featherweight stalwart Edward Kelly in his previous bout, which was also in Yangon.
He’ll be taking on Russian groundfighting “Maestro” Yusup Saadulaev (14-4-1, 1NC) in another stern test as a professional. It doesn’t look like Lucas is going to catch a break and get an easy fight, as Saadulaev is a tenacious cage veteran and would be out to test Lucas’ mettle.
This will be Lucas’ second try inside the ONE Championship cage, and if he can get past Saadulaev, he could start cashing in on his potential with more high-profile bouts.
Kevin Belingon and Muin Gafurov
Kevin “The Silencer” Belingon (13-5) is back, and ready to pick up where he left off before running into ONE Bantamweight World Champion Bibiano “The Flash” Fernandes this past January. The 28-year-old got his shot at ONE Championship gold, but was unable to showcase the world-famous wushu that he and his Team Lakay brethren are known for and was submitted in the first round.
That’s not a knock on Belingon, but a testament to just how great Fernandes is as a champion. Regardless, Belingon’s next assignment is by no means an easy one as he’ll be taking on Tajikistan prospect Muin Gafurov.
Gafurov is a tremendous grappler, and a former Combat Sambo World Champion with a 10-1 record. If Belingon is able to carry the improvements his team has made towards their ground game, then this is a potentially interesting matchup.
For one, not many fighters will be able to hang with Belingon in the stand-up, Gafurov included. So the Tajik will most likely aim to get this fight to the ground as soon as possible, where he has the advantage. That’s easier said than done. Many who have tried to drag Belingon to the mat have been meet with the dynamite in his fists.
If Belingon can beat Gafurov, himself a highly-touted prospect, it will put him right back in the mix at bantamweight.
Aung La N Sang and Michal Pasternak
You’ve got your world champions in different divisions, and there is no doubtt they command the attention of fans all across Asia. The golden hardware may shimmer with prestige and is the envy of everyone not in possession of it, but some fighters don’t need belts to rally a crowd.
“The Burmese Python” Aung La N Sang (18-9, 1NC) returns to Yangon for another time this year, and he is the undisputed king of the Thuwunna Indoor Stadium. The way the home crowd chants his name and the atmosphere it gives the arena is truly unique, and borderline legendary.
Aung La’s not taking on just anyone next in Yangon, though. Michal Pasternak (11-1) is a legitimate contender, and one of Poland’s most talented fighters. He’s also a man who managed to grind out a unanimous decision over a tough opponent in Rafael Silva despite injuring his knee and being barely able to stand.
Whoever prevails on the night could very likely set up an epic showdown for the ONE Middleweight World Championship, and the stakes could not be higher.
Joshua Pacio and Yoshitaka Naito
He’s Team Lakay’s youngest member, and he’s challenging for a world title just three fights into his young ONE Championship career. That’s no surprise, however, given his undefeated 8-0 record where he has finished all of his opponents to date.
Newly minted ONE Strawweight World Champion Yoshitaka Naito (11-0) did a number on former champion Dejdamrong Sor Amnuaysirichoke earlier this year, meaning it is him facing Pacio this Friday in Yangon.
A former Shooto champion who vacated his belt to fight with ONE, Naito has established himself as the number one strawweight in the world according to several worldwide rankings, and it is now up to him to build his legacy. Given his stellar record, he is the overwhelming favorite to stand triumphant against Pacio.
However, although Pacio may be young and relatively inexperienced, he does have the beaming confidence of an undefeated 20-year-old — and that’s always a dangerous thing.
Win or lose, Pacio will gain experience, championship experience at that, and it will go a long way into turning him into a bonafide star. If he beats Naito, he will become one of the youngest to ever do it, similar to how Angela Lee captured the ONE Women’s Atomweight World Championship at just 19 years of age.
The Philippines has a gem in Pacio, and if he plays his cards right, he could end up the country’s newest world champion.