Brandon Vera now knows the feeling of having championship gold strapped around his waist.
Vera knocked out Paul Cheng in the first round of their One Championship 35 “Spirit of Champions” main event on Friday at the Mall of Asia Arena in Manilla, Philippines, capturing the Singapore-based promotion’s vacant heavyweight crown. Cheng (5-2) met his end 26 seconds into round one, and it was brutal.
There was no feeling-out process. Vera (14-7) tagged the Taiwanese export with a pair of leg kicks, dropped him to a knee with a short left hand and leveled him with a subsequent head kick as he rose to his feet. The hammerfists came next, as referee Yuji Shimada intervened on the fallen Cheng’s behalf.
The 37-year-old Vera has recorded back-to-back victories, both of them first-round finishes, since being cut loose by the Ultimate Fighting Championship in 2013.
In the bantamweight co-headliner, Reece McLaren submitted Evolve MMA rep Mark Striegl with a third-round rear-naked choke. The favored Striegl (14-2) tapped out 3:33 into round three.
A replacement for Jordan Lucas, McLaren (8-3) overcame a series of takedowns and a second-round knockdown against the Pacific Xtreme Combat veteran. Leg kicks were the antidote, as the Australian methodically chipped away at Striegl. McLaren countered a weary takedown attempt in the third round, pounded away with elbows and advanced to the back before sinking the fight-ending choke.
Meanwhile, blue-chip women’s strawweight prospect Angela Lee kept her perfect professional record intact, as she submitted Lena Tkhorevska with a rear-naked choke in the second round of their clash at 115 pounds. Tkhorevska (3-2) bowed out 3:26 into round two.
The 19-year-old Lee (4-0) has finished each of her first four opponents.
In other action, Eugene Toquero (8-2) forced the previously unbeaten Li Wei Bin (3-1) to retire on his stool between the second third rounds of their flyweight scrap; Russia’s Irina Mazepa (2-0) took a unanimous decision from Ana Julaton (2-2) in their three-round encounter at 125 pounds; Evolve MMA’s Bruno Pucci (4-1) tapped Anthony Engelen (3-1) with a rear-naked choke 2:19 into the second round of their featherweight battle; Alex Silva (3-1) submitted Ruel Catalan (2-7) with a kneebar 3:53 into round one of their pairing at 125 pounds; and Christian Lee (1-0) wiped out David Meak (1-5) with punches 29 seconds into the first round of their featherweight tilt.