Bouts that could steal the show at ONE: Dawn of Heroes

ONE: Dawn of Heroes is turning out to be one of the most stacked cards this year. ONE Featherweight World Champion Martin Nguyen was a relatively late addition to what was already a fantastic card in Manilla on 2 August. The “Situ-Asian” will be defending his title against Koyomi Matsushima

Everyone will be anticipating the Nguyen-Matsushima main event, but four bouts have the potential to steal the show.

Jonathan Haggerty vs. Rodtang Jitmuangnon

The HaggertyRodtang battle for the former’s ONE Flyweight Muay Thai World Championship was initially the main event of ONE: Dawn of Heroes before the Nguyen-Matsushima bout was announced. The Haggerty-Rodtang clash is also worthy of being the featured bout, especially after Haggerty shocked the Muay Thai world with a stunning unanimous-decision victory over Sam-A Gaiyanghadao at ONE: For Honor in May. 

Haggerty’s first title defense won’t be a walk in the park. Thailand’s Rodtang is one of the most explosive and dynamic Muay Thai fighters in the world, and he’ll be looking to cut short Haggerty’s run as champion. Haggerty is aiming to prove his win over Sam-A was no fluke. Rodtang, on the other hand, wants to bring the title back to Thailand. Fans in Manila might be in for a real treat.

Demetrious Johnson vs. Tatsumitsu Wada

Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson is arguably the greatest mixed martial artist in the world. Someone of his caliber could steal any show. When you consider what is at stake for Johnson and his opponent Tatsumitsu Wada, the spectacle becomes more promising. The two men are battling for a spot in the finals of the ONE: Flyweight World Grand Prix where the winner is all but guaranteed a shot at current ONE Flyweight World Champion Adriano Moraes.

Johnson submitted the young and dangerous Yuya Wakamatsu in the quarterfinals, and Wada got the better of Gustavo Balart in a close battle that went to the judges’ scorecards. Just like in the quarterfinals, Johnson will be heavily favored. Wakamatsu put up a much stronger front than many expected, so is it possible that Wada can do the same against the all-time great? If he does, this could definitely turn out to be one of the most discussed bouts when all is said and done.

Eddie Alvarez vs. Eduard Folayang

You’ll never see a more accurate representation than the AlvarezFolayang dream bout. Folayang is one of the greatest performers in ONE history, having held the ONE Lightweight World Title on two occasions. He has been in the circle with just about every great ONE competitor within his weight class. At ONE: A New Era in March, Folayang lost his rematch against Shinya Aoki when he was put to sleep with an arm-triangle choke. 

At 35, and just a couple of months shy of his 36th birthday, Folayang will look to pick up the pieces again to ignite another run. On the same night Folayang lost, Alvarez made his ONE Championship debut against Timofey Nastyukhin in the ONE Lightweight World Grand Prix quarterfinals. Alvarez was expected to win and perhaps to move on to the Grand Prix finals, but Nastyukhin crushed him with strikes and scored a first-round TKO win.

Now in his second match with ONE, Alvarez, who is also 35, is hoping for a better outing than the first. He lost his last two matches and knows that a three-match losing streak at this stage of his career isn’t a good look. With so much on the line for two legends of the sport, we expect to something memorable in this match.

Danny Kingad vs. Reece McLaren

The Philippines’ Danny Kingad will face the tough and dangerous Reece McLaren in the semifinal of the ONE Flyweight World Grand Prix, where the victor will face the winner of the Johnson-Wada pairing. Kingad is a dynamic performer with the ability to finish opponents with strikes or submissions, but McLaren is equally as potent.

This will be Kingad’s most serious test so far in his career, and he’ll be dealing with more pressure performing in front of his countrymen on such a huge card. 

As for McLaren, he’s one of the forgotten participants in the Grand Prix, considering he was a late replacement for Kairat Ahkmetov. With so much attention going to Johnson, Kingad and the former Olympian Balart, few were talking about the 31-year-old Kazakh whose only losses came against former or current champions. Now with Ahkmetov out, people will probably sleep on McLaren. Can he push Kingad to the limit?

Which fights are you most looking forward to at ONE: Dawn of Heroes?

This article first appeared on BJPENN.COM on 7/22/2019.

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