The first four months of 2019 have had an abundance of memorable performances from ONE Championship athletes, but the following six have stuck out through the first quadrimestre of the year.
Stamp Fairtex Defeats Janet Todd at ONE: CALL TO GREATNESS
It’s not every day an athlete makes history. At ONE: CALL TO GREATNESS in February, Stamp Fairtex became the first-ever two-sport world champion in ONE Championship history. Stamp came in as the ONE Atomweight Kickboxing World Champion, and she battled Janet Todd for the inaugural ONE Atomweight Muay Thai World Title. Stamp pulled out the unanimous-decision victory to immediately vault herself near, or to the top of the pound-for-pound rankings across ONE Championship’s roster.
There is something to be said for Aung La N Sang winning and possessing two world championships in different divisions, and the same goes for Martin Nguyen who pulled off the feat in 2018 as well. However, Stamp’s ability to achieve the highest goal in separate sports is a distinct achievement all to itself.
Xiong Jing Nan Defeats Angela Lee at ONE: A NEW ERA
“The Panda” had proven her dominance over every woman she’d face in the ONE Women’s Strawweight division, but on 31 March at ONE: A NEW ERA, Xiong was faced with her toughest challenge as a professional. ONE Women’s Atomweight World Champion Angela Lee moved up in weight to try to duplicate what Aung La and Nguyen had done by winning titles in two different divisions. After being dominated through the first four rounds, and somehow escaping a seemingly hopeless triangle armbar, Xiong took control in the fifth round.
She took advantage of an exhausted Lee and scored the remarkable, come-from-behind TKO victory to retain her title. It looked for sure we’d see a new champion, but Xiong’s toughness and resilience turned Lee away and denied her a piece of history.
Jonathan Haggerty Defeats Sam-A Gaiyanghadao at ONE: FOR HONOR
Almost no one gave young Jonathan Haggerty a chance to defeat Muay Thai legend Sam-A Gaiyanghadao, but that’s what he did at ONE: FOR HONOR. In one of the most improbable and entertaining martial arts bouts of the year, Haggerty pulled the upset and took Sam-A’s ONE Flyweight Muay Thai World Championship.
The match was a back-and-forth affair, but Haggerty made it known early that he would be a problem for Sam-A. He showed no signs of nerves or inexperience, despite giving up years and a plethora of bouts to the champion. Haggerty stood his ground early and commanded the center of the ring. His counter elbows, knees, and a consistent jab helped to earn him some early respect.
By the middle of the bout, Haggerty’s strength in the clinch and signature lead elbow over the top had weakened Sam-A. At the close of what turned out to be an instant classic, Haggerty had dethroned the champion and positioned himself as the hunted in the division.
Joshua Pacio Defeats Yosuke Saruta at ONE: ROOTS OF HONOR
Never underestimate an opponent. Perhaps that’s what Joshua Pacio did in his first meeting with Yosuke Saruta. The latter stepped in as a late replacement at ONE: ETERNAL GLORY in January and he pulled a stunning upset win over Pacio to take his ONE Strawweight World Title. In the rematch, which took place at ONE: ROOTS OF HONOR in Pacio’s home country, the Philippines, the outcome was much different.
Pacio was more engaged and energetic for his Japanese opponent in the rematch, and he scored one of the most memorable KO’s of the year so far. In the fourth round of the rematch, Pacio caught Saruta in the head with a right high kick that immediately resulted in a KO. Pacio is still so young and filled with potential, but after experiencing a letdown and the loss of his title, he came back stronger than ever to secure the statement-making victory.
Zebaztian Kadestam Defeats Georgy Kichigin at ONE: REIGN OF VALOR
In March, at ONE: REIGN OF VALOR, Zebaztian Kadestam looked like a champion in trouble against Georgy Kichigin. The challenger was controlling the ONE Welterweight World Champion on the ground through most of the first two rounds. Kichigin was overpowering Kadestam with his grappling and not allowing him any room to get any of his offense going while standing.
Kichigin made a tactical error against the cage late in the second round and left himself open for a hard right elbow from Kadestam. The champion caught him flush on the side of the head, and weakened the challenger. Kichigin made it through the final seconds of the second round, but he was unable to answer the bell for the third. Kadestam’s ability to stay dangerous saved his title.
Shinya Aoki Defeats Eduard Folayang at ONE: A NEW ERA
The Japanese legend went through a rough period in his career from late 2016 into 2017. He lost two bouts in a row; the first cost him his title as Eduard Folayang stopped him to win the ONE Lightweight World Title. Fast forward to 31 March in Aoki’s native Japan, with Folayang now in his second run as champion. Aoki had worked his way back into position to challenge for the title, and he made good on his opportunity.
In the very first round, Aoki implemented his dominant grappling and submission game to put Folayang to sleep, and to earn back his championship. Aoki became the second two-time lightweight champion, and the win solidified him as one of the greatest martial artists in ONE Championship history.