ONE FC 14: War of Nations fight card breakdown w/ Helen Harper

ONE Fighting Championship is set for its first event of the calendar year this Friday night with its fourteenth installment, titled ‘War of Nations’, set for the Stadium Negara in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

As with previous events, the main card streams LIVE on an online pay-per-view for a price of USD$9.99 at the following link, and airs LIVE on Star Sports in Asia.

The main event pits a blockbuster Welterweight title match-up between two combatants with polar opposite fight styles. Brock Larson (37-7), a fighter whose pro MMA career has spanned for more than a decade, takes on an attorney turned fighter, Nobutatsu Suzuki (10-1-2).

In the co-main event, a Bantamweight tilt of title implications takes place between South Korea’s Dae Hwan Kim (9-0-1), and the Philippines’ Kevin Belingon (12-3).

Phuket Top Team’s Andrew Leone (6-2) locks horns with Shinichi Kojima (13-5-5) in another featured match-up with title ramifications on the main card.

The prelims, meanwhile, will feature a notable Lightweight tussle between former PXC champ Harris Sarmiento (36-25) and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu world champ Herbert Burns (2-0).

I’m once again joined by Helen Harper to give a comprehensive breakdown of Friday’s card in Kuala Lumpur. Helen is a 2-0 fighter out of Phuket Top Team, who writes her very own column titled ‘Road to the Pro’s’ here on Fight Sport Asia.

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PRELIMS

  • Saiful Merican (2-1) vs. Khim Dima (0-1, 1 NC)

Helen Harper: I haven’t seen much of Khim Dima other than the fact he doesn’t seem to be very aware of the rules about not striking the back of the head – let’s hope we don’t have a repeat of that!

He is certainly more of a striker though, with a very basic ground game. Saiful Merican’s only pro MMA loss was to my friend Gianni who is an absolute demon on the ground, but Merican’s Muay Thai is of a very high level so I would assume this fight will be predominantly standing. Merican will be on home turf which always boosts one’s confidence so that coupled with his vast Muay Thai experience would lead me to believe he will come out with the win although I can definitely see it going to a decision.

Thinesh John: Both fighters are strikers by trait so I would expect this to be an all-out striking affair. Merican is a veteran of over 100 Muay Thai fights while Dima is considered an icon in the Kun Khmer circles.

Merican, in fact, fought Dima in Kun Khmer competiton in the past but came up short with a decision loss.

Nonetheless, in MMA, both combatants are still very new to the sport with their grappling game competent, at most. Dima obviously is the taller, lengthier fighter so he’ll have the reach advantage. Having said that, I’ll stick to the old cliché and say this has fight of the night written all over it and fans will be in for a classic stand and bang contest in this one.

  • Harris Sarmiento (36-25) vs. Herbert Burns (2-0)

Helen Harper: On paper this seems like a bizarre match up with Sarmiento’s record standing at 36-25 and Burn’s at 2-0. Sarmiento has more of a stand up game, whereas Burns is a black belt in BJJ.

Although both fighters claim to be ready for the fight to stay standing or go to the ground, it comes down to the age old question: Striking vs Jiu Jitsu. For me, Jiu Jitsu wins every time so I have my money on Burns all the way.

Thinesh John: On paper, Sarmiento is understandably a heavy favourite. He has over fifty MMA fights while Burns has only two.

Furthermore Sarmiento has competed in Strikeforce, he’s a former PXC Lightweight champ and, he’s fought some of the best Asian MMA talents the region has produced to date.

However, as much as I fancy Sarmiento in this tilt because of his vast experience, submissions have been an Achilles Heel of sorts for the Hawaiian in the past. And, considering Herbert Burns’ world class credentials in No-Gi grappling, Sarmiento might struggle should the fight hit the canvas at any point in time.

Besides, current UFC fighter Max Holloway, who was 2-0 back in 2011, defeated an equally experienced Sarmiento who had 53 fights back then via split decision. So don’t count Burns out just yet. The Evolve MMA native does possess tools in his arsenal to pull off a similar feat come fight night.

MAIN CARD

  • Peter Davis (7-3) vs. Bashir Ahmad (2-1)

Helen Harper: A second very last minute replacement firstly for Wes Jaya (due to injury) and secondly (due to visa restrictions) for Waqar Umar will be Bashir Ahmed also from Pakistan.

Massive respect to anyone willing to get in the cage on such short notice. Ahmad doesn’t particularly excel in any one discipline although he is well rounded considering his lack of cage time. Despite the extremely last minute knowledge of this fight I think Ahmad will give Davis a good fight although the lack of preparation may slightly hinder him.

Davis, (who happens to be a mate of mine so obviously I will be supporting him all the way) the Kung Fu master of Malaysia, will be looking to show us his unique style yet again to bag another win under the ONE FC banner.

Thinesh John: I tip my cap off to Ahmad who steps in as a replacement on two days’ notice, after Davis’ original opponents Wes Jaya and Waqar Umar had to withdraw because of unfortunate circumstances.

Anyway, I think Ahmad vs. Davis makes for a far more intriguing spectacle. With all due respect, I felt Jaya was inferior on the canvas and Davis would’ve caught him with an early submission, while Umar was taking a huge step up in competition considering the previous calibre of opponents he faced under the PAK MMA Fighting Alliance banner. They were both, suffice to say, underdogs to a great extent.

Ahmad? Not so much.

The Pakistani is a well-rounded fighter with little holes in his game. But, his lack of preparation for this fight will play a massive role once the cage door closes.

Davis garners a nifty reach advantage too and is known to be unorthodox in his offense. Furthermore, he’s had a full training camp under his belt so I have to fancy the model turned fighter for the victory here.

  • Kotetsu Boku (20-9-2) vs. Arnaud Lepont (10-3)

Helen Harper: Everyone’s favourite French fighter vs. a Japanese monster.

Although I have no doubt that Arnaud will bring a war into the cage, the cocky exhibitionist will have some work to do to keep up with Boku.

Boku, who prefers to keep his fights standing, will no doubt be looking to knock Lepont out. If I was Lepont I would try and keep the majority of this fight on the ground as I think that would be his only chance to take the win home. I predict Boku to take the win via knock out in round two.

Thinesh John: You’ve got to admire Lepont’s will. The charismatic Frenchman just doesn’t take easy fights.

Boku, a former ONE FC champ, is your typical slugger who throws punches with wild intentions. But since that devastating KO victory over Zorobabel Moreira, Boku hasn’t quite found his stride at 155-lbs with consecutive losses to Shinya Aoki and Vuyisile Colossa. Moreover, his ground game has affected him on multiple occasions in the past, and I believe Lepont will be looking to exploit that.

There’s always the danger of Boku landing a killer punch, however, and Lepont will have to do well to stay away from that.

Both fighters need a win to snap the current losing streaks of theirs and well, you can always guarantee fireworks when you pair two finishers up against one another

  • Andrew Leone (6-2) vs. Shinichi Kojima (13-5-5)

Helen Harper: Well this is a no brainer.

Obviously Andrew is going to smash it. (and I am not biased at all because he is part of my gym family!) Really excited to watch these two though, as they both love to wrestle and both love a guillotine.

Kojima does have a strong stand up game but once the fight moves to the floor (which will inevitably be fairly early on) they will be evenly matched. I think Andrew will absolutely out wrestle Kojima and as long as he keeps moving forward. He can bring the win back to Phuket.

Thinesh John: It’s a classic battle between new school and old school.

Kojima has been a mainstay in Asia’s 125-lbs division for a long time, and is a former Shooto champion. The 35-year-old is known for his all round MMA facet given his ability to finish fights both on his feet, and on the canvas. He had a successful ONE FC debut against Rey Docyogen at ONE FC 7: Return of Warriors in February last year, in what was his first fight outside of Japanese shores.

But looking to tame the old Lion will be none other than Phuket Top Team’s Andrew Leone. Leone isn’t as established as his Japanese counterpart yet, but the American starlet is slowly, and surely, working his way up as one of the top 125-lbs talents in the region.

Leone showcased his grappling skills in his lopsided decision victory over Geje Eustaquio at ONE FC 9: Rise to Power, impressing the masses with his sublime mat control and takedown prowess. The up-and-coming Asian MMA star owns victories over Soo Chul Kim and Kyung Ho Kang, but a win over Kojima will certainly be the biggest feather on his cap to date.

Both fighters are very evenly matched and it could go either way. Moreover, with both guys having a great grappling pedigree, it could come down to who’s better at capitalizing in scrambles after transitions.

We could very well see the winner of this fight face the winner of the Urushitani-Moraes scrap for the vacant Flyweight strap in the future.

  • Kamal Shalorus (8-3-2) vs. Ariel Sexton (8-2, 1 NC)

Helen Harper: Both are well rounded and experienced fighters, that have proven on several occasions that they can hold their own with other high level fighters.

Shalorus, the wrestler, will inevitably be the first to attempt the take down, however the BJJ black belt Sexton should be able to defend that with a guillotine and hopefully go on to take a submission victory.

Thinesh John: Shalorus and Sexton are experienced and they’re easily in the upper echelon of ONE FC’s Lightweight division right now.

It’s wrestling vs. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Shalorus will look to score the takedown and grind out a victory with top control and ground-and-pound, while Sexton will be hoping to effectively fight off his back and use his Black Belt pedigree to catch the Iranian with a submission.

With both guys capable of holding their own and cancelling each other out on the canvas, this contest might turn out to be a striking affair. Sexton will enjoy a speed advantage over Shalorus. But, it’d be criminal to disregard Shalorus’ power.

It’ll be a close fight but I’m leaning towards Shalorus to take a decision victory.

  • Adriano Moraes (9-1) vs. Yasuhiro Urushitani (21-6-6)

Helen Harper: One thing’s for sure, both these guys are going to bring it.

Urushitani, by far the more experienced fighter, is known for his powerful and accurate kicks whereas Moraes has some extremely slick wrestling and seems very comfortable both on the ground and standing up.

If this fight stays standing I believe it would be anyone’s game however if the wrestler takes over and it goes to the ground I believe a submission will be on the cards for Moraes.

Thinesh John: Although Urushitani is coming off two consecutive victories, he hasn’t quite impressed with his recent performances. Straight off his unsuccessful UFC stint, he took on a young Rey Docyogen in his ONE FC debut in May last year. And well, he was fairly lucky to get the judges’ nod that night. I personally felt Docyogen was robbed.

Then, he followed that up with an unconvincing victory over Jae Nam Yoo at DEEP Tribe Tokyo Fight in October. Suffice to say, age has definitely caught up with the once-dominant Japanese veteran.

His opponent, Adriano Moraes, suffered his first career defeat against Yusup Saadulaev in his promotional debut last year, but still gained the plaudits for his efforts and fighting spirit.

With almost a decade of experience separating the two fighters, you could say Urushitani is the favourite in this one. But I fancy a young and hungry Moraes for an upset. Possibly a stoppage finish too.

  • Kevin Belingon (12-3) vs. Dae Hwan Kim (9-0-1)

Helen Harper: Kim’s last fight for ONE FC back in December was very impressive using a combination of powerful strikes and Jiu Jitsu to overpower Thanh Vu and eventually submit him with a Rear-Naked Choke.

Meanwhile, on the same card Belingon secured an equally impressive victory as he knocked David Aranda flat out in the first round. This will be an exciting fight for any MMA fan and another hard one to call. I would like to see Kim take a submission finish but not too early on – let’s see what these boys are made of!

Thinesh John: I can understand the buzz surrounding this match-up. It’s one to look forward to, for sure.

Kevin Belingon, bar none, is the best fighter out of the Philippines right now. The evolution of this Filipino fighter in the ONE FC cage has been nothing short of spectacular. It was fairly evident that he started off as a Wushu striker, but he’s now developed into a fully-fledged MMA fighter. The fact that Belingon has added takedowns to his game gives his opponents that much more to think about. He now has the ability to mix things up and that’s always a plus point.

Kim, meanwhile, is undefeated and had an absolute war with Thanh Vu in his ONE FC debut. And that’s the sort of fight Kim might be looking to impose against Belingon on Friday night – making the fight a slugfest, and possibly capitalizing on a submission once his opponent buckles.

But I believe Belingon will avoid Kim’s sluggishness by using his elusiveness to great effect and making it a technical affair. I won’t be surprised if the Filipino fighter scores knockout in the latter round either.

  • Brock Larson (37-7) vs. Nobutatsu Suzuki (10-1-2)

Helen Harper: Generally speaking, I am not a massive fan of watching the bigger guys brawl – I prefer a much more technical fight which the smaller fighters usually offer.

Suzuki to date has never even seen the third round of a pro fight so I wonder how his cardio would hold out, although I don’t think this will be the time we will find out as Larson isn’t a fan of leaving it to the judges either.

We are in for a war here, and as much as I would love to see Suzuki keep his 100% knock out record it’s going to take a monster (or another Eric Davila) to knock him out again. I think Larson has this one by knock out.

Thinesh John: A classic grappler vs. striker match-up where as always, I’ll fancy the grappler.

Larson had a brilliant game plan heading into his match-up with Melvin Manhoef in his promotional debut, where he weathered the early storm before using his grappling prowess to outpoint his opponent in rounds two and three.

If he pulls off the same game plan against Suzuki, he could smother the Japanese fighter with ground-and-pound, or pull off a successful submission.

It’s hard to count Suzuki out, though, because he does have legitimate knockout power. But then again, Larson has faced a who’s who of MMA fighters and with over 40 pro bouts to his credit, I’d reckon he should take a victory here.

But I wonder if the winner of this Welterweight title fight will indeed relish the opportunity of making his first title defense against Ben Askren on May 31st in Singapore?

To listen to an exclusive radio show on ONE FC 14: War of Nations, click here.

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Be sure to follow Thinesh John and Helen Harper on Twitter (@ThineshJohnMMA@hhhellraiser) and keep up with the latest Asian MMA news from FightSportAsia.com on Twitter (@FightSportAsia) and Facebook

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Categories: Asian MMA, Featured, Malaysia, MMA, ONE FC

Author:Thinesh John

20, Asian MMA nerd in Singapore.

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