ONE Fighting Championship’s monumental card in Dubai on Friday night was a stunning spectacle of mixed martial arts, with two out of three title belts finding new owners.
The headlining match saw Shinya Aoki of Japan retain his ONE FC lightweight world championship with his usual sublime grappling skills, latching onto Iranian rival Kamal Shalorus’ back before executing a successful rear naked choke to force the tap-out 2:15 minutes into the first round.
“To be honest, I was really scared to get into the fight, so I practiced really, really hard for two months,” Aoki told MMAFighting.com through a translator.
The victory saw Aoki move to a career record of 36 wins, six losses and one no contest, with 24 victories coming via submission. “Prince of Persia” Sharolus dropped to 9-4-2.
In the co-main event, American wrestling legend Ben Askren dominated reigning welterweight champion Nobutatsu Suzuki from the opening bell, taking down the Japanese veteran almost straight away and unleashing an unstoppable barrage of punches.
The referee dove in to stop the fight after just 84 seconds, handing the unbeaten Askren his 14th straight victory in professional cage fighting, while Suzuki recorded only his second defeat in 15 bouts.
Askren, in his typically entertaining post-fight banter, remarked that Suzuki should have chosen to relinquish his belt without contest. “It would’ve been a lot easier for all of us involved,” Askren told MMAFighting.com.
“Like I told Suzuki, if these other welterweights want it, they can come get it the hard way. It’s not going to be a good night for ’em.
“It’s going to be a long night, it’s going to be a tough night. Probably going to go home with some marks on their face, but come on in.”
In the night’s other title fight, Mongolian warrior Jadamba Narantungalag (10-3) confirmed his meteoric rise to top of the ONE FC featherweight division by grabbing the belt off Japan’s Koji Oishi (25-10-10) via unanimous decision.
Narantungalag’s impressive striking skills were judged to be the difference between the two experienced combatants, with Oishi’s battling through all five rounds with an increasingly swelling left eye to no avail.
Roger Huerta (22-7-1) of the US stamped his return to the ONE FC cage with an emphatic knockout of English lightweight Christian Holley, his first loss in 11 pro MMA matches.
Former UFC fighter Huerta caught a leg strike of Holley’s to take him down before landing blows with knees in side control. Transitioning to his opponent’s back, Huerta rained down fists to claim the stoppage victory.
James McSweeney (14-11) of England showed why he is regarded as one of the deadliest light heavyweight strikers in the world by kicking Cristiano Kaminishi (8-2) of Japan out cold after only 77 seconds.
McSweeney caught Kaminishi flush with a straight punch that sent him tumbling backwards, and a devastating soccer kick to the head ended the contest.
Herbert Burns was simply too much for Japan’s Hiroshige Tanaka (10-2) to handle, allowing the Brazilian to clinch a unanimous decision victory, his fourth in a row for ONE FC.
Mohamad Walid (4-0) of the UAE and Filipino Vaughn Donayre (7-2) were involved in the fasted bout of the night, which ended with Walid securing the submission win little more than a minute in.
Both mixed martial artists came out swinging from the off, but hometown hero Walid quickly shot for a takedown and from full mount position locked in a quick armbar that forced Donayre to tap out.
The matchup between flyweights Dejdamrong Sor Amnuaysirichoke (2-0) of Thailand and Ali Yaakub of Malaysia began with an exchange of thunderous strikes before Amnuaysirichoke demonstrated his newfound ground skills.
The Thai took Yaakub down and moved to secured a rear naked choke just past the two-minute mark in the first round.
Female MMA stars Ann Osman (1-1) of Malaysia and Filipino-American Ana Julaton (1-1) provided the perfect start to the action on Friday, with Osman emerging victorious from a gruelling three-round battle.
Osman came close to winning twice with armbar submissions, but Julaton was saved by the bell the first time and fought out of the other instance. Julaton’s speedy fists were on display to a raucous Dubai crowd, but Osman’s takedowns saw her awarded the win via split decision in the end.
ONE FC will next host their inaugural event in Cambodia at Koh Pich Theatre on September 12.
Tickets are on sale now at CTN TV studio during the week and NagaWorld on the weekend, as well as the indoor hall of Old Stadium on Sundays.
All the action will be broadcast live on local channel MyTV and on Fox Sports.