Dawson: 'One FC Rise of Kings' preview

Two weeks after Singapore waved goodbye to the Formula One Grand Prix, it's saying hello to a One Fighting Championship Grand Prix.

Kevin Beligon Masakazu Imanari MMA

The Singapore-based outfit has already hosted large-scale mixed martial arts events in Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur Manila and Singapore (twice). On Saturday evening at the Singapore Indoor Stadium, it's third promotion here hosts a ‘super fight' (Shinya Aoki vs Arnaud Lepont), two inaugural championship bouts but perhaps most intriguing of all, the start of an eight-man ‘grand prix' event at bantamweight.

Three of the four first-round contests will take place on Saturday night with the fourth, I can exclusively inform, to take place in a yet-to-be announced event in Kuala Lumpur.

Kevin Belingon may be an obvious contender for the event but the Filipino can't seem to get a decent break with ONE FC. When he arrived on the scene at ONE FC 3 in Singapore, he had an impressive 9-0 record having battled in some of the continent's premier mixed martial arts events.

But to make his ONE FC debut against the freaky leg-lock specialist from Japan, Masakazu Imanari, was hardly a gentle introduction. Sure enough he submitted under the intense pressure of a reverse heel hook.

His next ONE FC venture threw him straight back in the deep end against Soo Chul Kim, a fighter who simply had to win to keep his career alive. The Korean's will was indomitable in taking the decision and as a result it is he who fights for the bantamweight title on this same card, against Singapore-based Brazilian Leandro Issa of the Evolve MMA Gym.

Against Yusup Saadulaev, Belingon once again finds himself between a rock and a hard place. The Russian has only lost one of his 11 fights and at 27, is at the very top of his game. He's a veteran of the respected Japan-based Dream events and despite finishing his last fight against the highly-regarded Hideo Tokoro with a devastating slam, like Imanari, he specialises in submission holds.

Saadulaev is a Pan Asian Games gold medalist in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, so will want to take the fight to the ground. Belingon is a wushu specialist with excellent endurance and fast hands who likes to keep the fight standing up.

The clash of styles makes for an enthralling duel with the winner being right up there as a favourite for the entire grand prix.

In the other two quarter finals, one of the world's top bantamweights Japan's Masakatsu Ueda fights Min Jung Song of Korea who holds a 2011 decision over countryman Jae Hoon Moon, a fighter who earlier this year, beat Soo Chul Kim.

The last quarterfinal of the evening pits a 19-year old Chinese fighter Zhao Ya Fei against 37-year old American Jens Pulver. The Iowa native has had a roller coaster career and indeed life, which seems to give him a perspective that too few of us have, in not taking for granted the here and now.

Pulver, a former Ultimate Fighting Championship title holder was stopped in Manila just over a month ago by a Eric Kelly, an undoubted star of ONE FC. But he now drops down to a more familiar fighting weight in an effort to shake up some of these young punks, looking to ride on his name and still dangerous skills.

Steve Dawson commentates on ONE FC events, available on ESPN and Star Sports. He has just published his second book, How To Be The Greatest Like Muhammad Ali.



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