Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - High-octane MMA clashes set for Singapore fight night

High-octane MMA clashes set for Singapore fight night

High-octane MMA clashes set for Singapore fight night

21 kotetsu boku shinya aoki
Japanese MMA fighter Kotetsu Boku (left) will look to defend his ONE FC lightweight world title belt against compatriot Shinya Aoki (right) in the main event of ONE FC: Kings and Champions at the Singapore Indoor Stadium tomorrow night. www.onefc.com

Japanese MMA fighter Kotetsu Boku (left) will look to defend his ONE FC lightweight world title belt against compatriot Shinya Aoki (right) in the main event of ONE FC: Kings and Champions at the Singapore Indoor Stadium tomorrow night. www.onefc.com

Cage fighting fans across the region are eagerly anticipating tomorrow night’s monumental card in Singapore as Asia’s premier mixed martial arts promotion, ONE FC, returns home to host its Kings and Champions event.

Ten explosive bouts at the 12,000-seater Singapore Indoor Stadium will be headlined by the ONE FC Lightweight World Championship title match between Japanese rivals Kotetsu Boku and Shinya Aoki.

Boku, an MMA fighter in Asia for over a decade whose famous beard accompanies his nickname of “No Face”, will look to defend the title he claimed by beating Zorobabel Moreira of Brazil during ONE FC: Rise of Kings last October.

Boku claims his training at Krazy Bee gym in Tokyo has been “amazing” in the lead-up to tomorrow’s bout.

“This has been the best training camp I have had in my career,” the 35-year-old of South Korean descent told the Post, while noting that he had no injury concerns and was ready to meet his
challenger.

“Shinya Aoki is very good in his submissions so I must make sure I stay aware of them and not get into dangerous situations. I want to keep the fight standing by stopping his takedowns,” said Boku, whose record stands at 20-7-2, which includes seven knockout wins.

Aoki, widely regarded as the best pound-for-pound MMA fighter on the continent, is a formidable opponent with a kung fu film-style nickname “Tobikan Judan” which translates as “Grandmaster of Flying Submissions”. The impressive moniker is backed up by statistics – Aoki has won 29 of his 39 MMA fights to date by way of submission with just a single knockout victory.

As if his global appeal was not enough, the 29-year-old former police trainee should also garner some significant home support as he trains with the Singapore-based Evolve Fight Team.

“We have been pushing each other really hard because five of the team members, including me, will be competing on April 5,” said Aoki, who will also look to avenge the loss of team-mate Moreira.

“Boku will think that I want to take him down, but I have shown in my last fight that I can win by knockout too. I will want to keep him guessing on what I will do.”

Aoki predicted he would end the fight “in the first round, either by knockout or submission”.

Boku, meanwhile, expressed his intent to knockout his compatriot. “I don’t care which round. I am ready to go all five rounds, but I want to keep hunting for the finish.”

While the epic clash of two Eastern MMA veterans will have spectators and home viewers alike hanging on until the very end, the co-main event between two highly-experienced Western brawlers offers an intriguing battle of contrasting styles.

Minnesota-based US wrestler Brock Larson comes up against Dutch-Surinamese striker Melvin Manhoef in a mouth-watering middleweight match.

Larson has fought in numerous UFC and WEC cages (US organisations that have since merged) and holds a 36-7-3 record that features 25 submissions due to his fearsome groundwork expertise.

Manhoef, on the other hand, fighting out of Mike’s Gym in Amsterdam, has recorded knockouts in all but two of his 27 wins.

While Manhoef fought twice at ONE FC last year, Larson is making his debut for the Asian promotion, something that he regards as a “huge honour.”

“I am at the peak of my training camp and will come in at top condition,” said the American.

“I will look to mix up my moves. I want to use a diverse range of moves to keep [Manhoef] constantly guessing. I am extremely confident that I will win this bout. I train for three hard rounds and, if that is what it takes, then I am prepared,” he said.

The Manhoef camp, meanwhile, remained tight-lipped about his condition and tactics for the contest, and it remains to be seen whether his “No Mercy” nickname will be justified come tomorrow night.

Tomorrow night’s action also takes in the two semi-finals of the ONE FC Bantamweight Grand Prix which includes a seasoned match-up between Jens “Lil Evil” Pulver of the US (27-17-1) and Japan’s Masakatsu Ueda (16-2-2) as well as a youthful affray between Australian-Vietnamese boxer Thanh “Aladdin” Vu (3-1-0) and Kevin “The Silencer” Belingon of the Philippines (9-1-0).  

Undercard bouts should promise to provide no shortage of fireworks, with French showman Arnaud “The Game” Lepont vying with fellow lightweight fighter Eddie Ng of Hong Kong, Yusup Saadulaev of Russia taking on Brazilian Leandro Issa in a bantamweight match, and Filipino wushu master Rene “D’Challenger” Catalan pitched in a flyweight battle with Alex ‘Little Rock’ Silva |of Brazil.

Pakistan MMA pioneer Bashir “Somchai” Ahmad will fight Shannon “One Shin” Wiratchai of Thailand at featherweight following the light heavyweight clash of India’s Nuur “Hammer Bull” Muhammad and American Jake Butler.

Opening the night will be a fight to get the home crowd on their feet, as local hope Ronald Low faces Malaysia flyweight Chen Yun Ting.

Viewers will be able to tune in live to watch the event, which starts at 6pm Cambodian time, on local TV channel MyTV or international broadcaster StarSports.

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