One Championship returned with its first live event in months, and its main MMA fight did not disappoint.
The “One: Battleground” headliner pitted strawweight muay Thai champ Sam-A Gaiyanghadao against Prajanchai PK.Saenchai Muaythaigym. While many expected a surgical performance from the titleholder, his young opponent surprised with his audacity and recklessness. The defending champion did not fare well in the early going, getting dropped right at the end of the round with a big right hand. Sam-A composed himself in the second stanza, but Prajanchai carried his momentum into quick attacks and flashy combinations in the second and third rounds.
As the fight advanced in the championship rounds, the challenger seemed to slow down, with inexperience possibly playing a factor as he fatigued. Sam-A tried to keep his opponent’s aggression at bay with body kicks, and his strategy paid dividends as the clash continued. The defending champion hunted for a knockout, hoping that Prajanchai would drop his guard as he grew tired, and he connected with a stiff left hand in the fourth round. The challenger, possibly in danger, made the most out of a break from an unintentional low blow to catch his breath. Sam-A came out strong in the fifth frame, but it was not enough to sway the judges. The scores were not read, but enough judges sided with Prajanchai – and at least one had it a draw – who captured the belt with a majority decision victory.
The co-headliner brought the MMA main attraction on the card, with a catchweight contest at 210.8 pounds. Former two-division king Aung La N Sang (27-12, 12-3 One) bounced back from back-to-back defeats to Reinier de Ridder by smashing Leandro Ataides (11-5, 5-5 One) in the opening stanza. Even though he missed weight by over six pounds, Aung La put on a smart performance where he effectively controlled his opponent’s aggression. After a few boxing exchanges with body kicks mixed in, “Leo” shot in for a successful takedown. With a fresh memory of two bouts where he was soundly outgrappled, “The Burmese Python” showed that he did his homework with his back on the mat. The ex-champ defended a back take attempt from Ataides, and promptly returned to his feet.
Aung La waited for the referee to separate the two after an uneventful grappling phase against the fence, and then went on the attack. The Brazilian fighter looked comfortable defending his opponent’s strikes at first, but Aung La kept advancing and forcing Ataides to back himself into a corner. “The Burmese Python” seized the moment to grab hold of a body lock and push his opponent against the wire. In a split second, Aung La bailed on the clinch to drill Ataides in the liver with a knee, and begun to hammer his foe with a barrage of blistering blows. One particularly loaded right hand sent “Leo” crashing to the canvas, forcing the referee to stop the contest after 3:45 in Round 1.
Elsewhere, 2012 Olympics vet Gustavo Balart (9-4, 1-3 One) scored his first promotional victory by capturing a unanimous decision over Ryuto Sawada (14-7-1, 3-3 One) in One’s strawweight division; commonwealth wrestling gold medalist Ritu Phogat (5-1, 5-1 One) bounced back from her first career defeat by upending fellow One atomweight Heqin Lin (14-3-1, 1-1 One) via unanimous decision; Jeremy Pacatiw (10-4, 1-0 One) laid claim to a unanimous decision victory over Rui Chen (9-3, 5-3 One) in the first foray of “The Juggernaut” in One’s bantamweight category.
The card opened with 17-year-old prospect Victoria Lee (2-0), who easily tapped out One newcomer Luping Wang (3-3, 0-1) with a slick triangle armbar at 3:22 of Round 1.