5 reasons ONE: A New Era could be one of the best cards of 2019

Eddie Alvarez, Demetrious Johnson, ONE Championship

ONE Championship is set to debut in Tokyo, Japan on March 31 with the stacked ONE: A New Era card. Even now, when the card is still not fully booked, it looks like it could be one of the best events of 2019. Here’s why:

ONE Championship Debuts in Japan

For the first time in history, ONE Championship will present an event in Japan. Major martial arts events in Japan are always a major deal. Really, it’s worthwhile for any significant promotion to have a presence in Japan.

ONE has made a substantial mark in several countries in Asia, and now it’s time for the Asian MMA powerhouse to launch its efforts in the Land of The Rising Sun.

Angela Lee

3 World Title Fights

Topping off a card with a title bout is customary, and it’s usually enough to sell an event to the public. Yet ONE: A New Era has not one, not two, but three championship fights scheduled.

ONE women’s strawweight queen “The Panda” Xiong Jing Nan will defend her title against the current ONE women’s atomweight champ Angela Lee. ONE light heavyweight and middleweight kingpin “The Burmese Python” Aung La N Sang will defend his title against Ken Hasegawa, and finally, Team Lakay‘s Eduard Folayang will defend the ONE lightweight title against Shinya Aoki. It’s an almost unprecedented list of title matches stacked on the same card.

Angela Lee Returns

After a strong, but rough 2018 that featured a successful title defense and an injury, Lee returns to the cage in search of her second world title. Lee has reigned over the women’s atomweight division since mid-2016. However, as a maturing athlete, she is outgrowing the division.

Taking on Xiong represents perhaps the biggest challenge of Lee’s career. Lee would become ONE’s first-ever female double-champion with a victory over Xiong. History is on the line, and Lee will be determined to add to her growing legacy.

Don’t expect Xiong to be deterred or intimidated. This bout has already been postponed (it was originally scheduled for ONE: Heart of the Lion in November), and “The Panda” will be chomping at the bit to prove she is the promotion’s best female martial artist.

Demetrious Johnson
Promotional Debuts for Eddie Alvarez And Demetrious Johnson

During the fourth quarter of the year, ONE Championship made a flurry of moves to add to the organization’s roster, not least of which were the acquisitions of Demetrious Johnson and Eddie Alvarez. The two former UFC champions bring an enormous amount of experience and talent to the flyweight and lightweight divisions.

Both Johnson and Alvarez will make their promotional debuts at ONE: A New Era. Johnson faces Yuya “Little Piranha” Wakamatsu. Alvarez’s first bout with ONE will be against Timofey Nastyukhin. Both bouts are massively important for ONE Championship, and for the larger combat sports landscape. 

Two Epic Championship Rematches

We mentioned the Aung La-Hasegawa and the Folayang-Aoki title clashes before, but it’s important to note that both matches are rematches.

Aung La had perhaps the best year of any ONE athlete. He was a perfect 3-0, became a double champion, and he scored one of the year’s most memorable knockouts against Hasegawa.  After a grueling June battle at ONE: Spirit of a Warrior, Aung La dazed and then dropped Hasegawa with a thunderous uppercut.

The punch dropped the Japanese warrior to his knees and forced the referee to call a halt to the bout immediately. In the first meeting, Aung La had the home-field advantage. The match took place in his native Myanmar. The rematch lands in Hasegawa’s backyard and the challenge should be a significant one for Aung La N Sang.

Folayang will be in a spot similar to Aung La. He too won his first meeting with Aoki.

Back in November 2016, Folayang scored a third-round TKO victory over Aoki at ONE: Defending Honor. 

It’s taken more than two years for Aoki to climb back to the top of the lightweight division. The reward for his hard work and determination is a date in his home country with the Filipino champion. Aoki held the lightweight title from April 2013 to November 2016 when he was dethroned by Folayang.

“Landslide’s” reign lasted almost a year until he was stopped by a one-punch KO at the hands of Martin Nguyen at ONE: Legends of the World. Nguyen would be forced to vacate his title in September after suffering an injury during training. Folayang would regain his title with a win over Amir Khan in November at ONE: Conquest of Champions.

If Aoki can win, he’d become only the second two-time champion within the same weight class in ONE.

As packed as the card already is, there are still several prelims and a kickboxing match featuring the legendary Yodsanklai IWE Fairtex against Andy Souwer.

All this to say that when ONE Championship debuts in Japan with ONE: A New Era, it will definitely be worth your while to tune in. 

This article first appeared on BJPENN.COM on 12/27/2018.