ONE Championship touches down in Myanmar this week with ONE: Pursuit of Greatness taking place inside Yangon’s Thuwunna Indoor Stadium.
The 11 bout card is headlined by Myanmar’s most celebrated sporting icon, Aung La N Sang, who will defend his middleweight strap against Lebanon’s Mohammad Karaki. Aung La has become a legend in Myanmar so expect to see some of the most passionate fans in MMA when he makes his walk to the cage.
Former UFC fighter Daichi Abe will be making his ONE debut when he steps into the cage against the hulking figure of Luis Santos. Abe comes into this bout on the back of two straight losses and will be hoping to avoid a third when takes on the Brazilian veteran.
A last-minute bout cancellation saw Japanese legend and creator of the famed Imanari Roll, Masakazu Imanari drafted in to compete against Singapore’s Radeem Rahman. The 42-year-old may no longer be as sprightly as he once was but there will not be too many chances left to see him compete, so for MMA fans this is an opportunity not to pass up.
ONE Middleweight Championship
La N Sang (23-10-0, 1 N/C) vs. Mohammad
The name Aung La N Sang may not resonate deeply in the minds of western MMA fans, but for those who follow ONE Championship, the 33-year-old represents one of the promotion's truly transcendent figures. The reasons for this go beyond his success inside the cage. The current ONE middleweight and light heavyweight world champion has the distinction of being the first athlete from Myanmar to earn a major professional title in any sporting discipline. As a result, Aung La has become one of the country’s most well-known and beloved figures, and whenever the “Burmese Python” competes on home turf it becomes something of a national event for the 53 million citizens of Myanmar.
Aung La is a technically sound fighter with high-level cardio who can end fights on the ground or on the feet. 12 of his wins have come via submission and nine via TKO/KO. For this training camp, he has been based in Florida at Hard Knocks 365, only a stone’s throw away from American Top Team where his upcoming opponent Mohammad Karaki trains.
The Lebanese fighter is currently undefeated in a professional career that began in 2012. All but one of his nine bouts have ended in the first round with three coming via TKO/KO and five by way of submission. The 27-year-old has spent his entire career competing for Middle Eastern promotions Phoenix FC and Desert Force. Karaki won the middleweight title in both promotions, but the level of competition he has faced could not be classed as the same level of competition against which Aung La has been competing.
Karaki has been training the house down at American Top Team, and like Aung La, has a very dedicated fan following. Karaki comes from a karate and Brazilian jiu-jitsu background and is a strong and powerful athlete: Karaki has all the mental and physical traits needed to defeat Aung La. However the question is, does he have a well-rounded enough skillset to compete at a higher level. He will enter this week’s bout as a heavy underdog against the more experienced Aung La, but if he pulls off the win, you can expect his profile in both the Middle East and Asia to rise substantially.
Next Fight » Nunes vs. Khabibulaev