With so many compelling bouts on the main card of the ONE: DAWN OF HEROES show in Manila, it’s easy to forget about the stacked lineup of bouts that are also coming our way. There are at least five under-the-radar scraps that could thrill fans in the Philippines. Edward Kelly vs. Xie Bin Edward Kelly is physically incapable of having a boring match. His aggression and striking ability make him a constant threat and a thrilling performer. At 35 years old, he has become a bit of a gatekeeper at featherweight, and that could be the role he plays when he takes on 21-year-old Xie Bin. Ever since he lost two in a row back in 2016, Xie has been on a rampage. He has won six in a row with all but one of the victories coming by stoppage. Most recently, Xie scored a submission win over Ahmad Qais Jasoor in April at ONE: ROOTS OF HONOR via D’Arce Choke. Facing Kelly is a definite step up in competition for Xie. If he wins, he’ll be looking to elevate to a real contender’s level. Pongsiri Mitsatit vs. Miao Li Tao Thailand’s Pongsiri Mitsatit has already had 12 professional bouts, but he is still an athlete on the rise. The 23-year-old from Thailand bounced back from his first two losses of his career against Joshua Pacio and Hayato Suzuki (arguably the two best strawweights in the world), to KO Robin Catalan in May at ONE: WARRIORS OF LIGHT. Miao Li Tao will be Mitsatit’s opponent in Manila. While the Chinese striker is short on experience with just three professional bouts, he has proven to be long on power. Both of his wins have come by KO with the most recent being a first-round stoppage over Dejdamrong Sor Amnuaysirichoke in May at ONE: ENTER THE DRAGON. You have to favor Mitsatit in this one, but in a battle that seems destined to be contested on the feet, anything can happen. Leandro Issa vs. Daichi Takenaka There is no secret about Leandro Issa’s approach in a match. Most times, he wants to submit his opponent. The Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt will more than likely be looking to force Daichi Takenaka to tap when the two meet in Manila. Issa is a longtime veteran of the sport who has competed all over the world. He’s still chasing championship glory with ONE, and he scored a win to help him on his journey back in April at ONE: ROOTS OF HONOR when he submitted Fu Chang Xin via armbar in the first round. The win snapped a two-bout losing streak. Takenaka could pose a stiffer challenge for Issa. While the 29-year-old from Japan is coming off his first pro loss to Mark Abelardo in February at ONE: CLASH OF LEGENDS, he’s still 11-1 and well rounded. He needs to keep the action standing because if it goes to the ground, few can handle Issa. James Nakashima vs. Yushin Okami James Nakashima has to be knocking on the door of a title shot, and his match with Yushin Okami could be the final hurdle between the American and an opportunity at ONE Championship gold. Nakashima is a perfect 13-0 in his career, but he hasn’t proven to be a finisher. Nakashima got his first TKO win in his last match. He stopped Luis Santos when the veteran Brazilian striker suffered a leg injury and couldn’t continue. Nakashima is a tough and tactical striker who is difficult for his opponents to connect with cleanly. His skills should be put the test against Japanese icon Okami. While Okami lost his ONE debut in May at ONE: FOR HONOR against top contender Kiamrian Abbasov, the 37-year-old still showed the ability to come forward in an attempt to implement his ground game. He’ll have to wade through Nakashima’s defenses and pinpoint striking to win, but if the latter prevails, you’d have to think his next match would be for the ONE Welterweight World Title. Yuya Wakamatsu vs. Geje Eustaquio In defeat, Yuya Wakamatsu was very impressive against Demetrious Johnson in March at ONE: A NEW ERA. Despite his youth and the brilliance of his opponent, Wakamatsu had some brief success in the first round. In fact, he landed a hard right hand that caused some swelling under Mighty Mouse’s eye. Ultimately, Wakamatsu succumbed to a second-round submission, but the 24-year-old still made a statement. He’s now lost two in a row, but they are respectable losses. Before falling to Johnson, Wakamatsu lost to Danny Kingad. Geje Eustaquio will be his next major test. The former champion could be the perfect measuring stick for Wakamatsu at this stage of his career. A third loss in a row would likely send Wakamatsu plummeting in the ranks of flyweights, but a win would push him back into title consideration.
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