For years now, the Philippines and ONE Championship, the top martial arts organization in Asia, have put on some fantastic events. The next event to be staged in Manila is ONE: Dawn of Heroes on 2 August.
The stakes are high as the card is packed with title bouts and essential matches in several weight classes. Here are five athletes with the most to lose at ONE: Dawn of Heroes.
When an upstart pulls off an upset over a legendary opponent to win his first title, all eyes will be on his first title defense to gauge whether or not the victory was a fluke. That’s the situation Jonathan Haggerty is in after upsetting Sam-A Gaiyanghadao in May at ONE: For Honor in Jakarta, Indonesia, earning him the ONE Flyweight Muay Thai World Championship.
At ONE: Dawn of Heroes, Haggerty will be defending his belt against the dynamic Rodtang Jitmuangnon, who is an explosive striker well worthy of a title shot. Questions have surfaced whether the win over Sam-A was a fluke or if Haggerty is genuinely good. That’s something he has to address in his tough first title defense.
No one has ever arrived with ONE Championship with higher expectations than Demetrious Johnson. He is already considered one of the greatest mixed martial artists in history and, at 32 years old, is still in his prime. Because of his brilliance, Johnson operates in a space where anything short of victory would be disappointing. Tatsumitsu Wada is the next man in line trying to pull off a shocker. Johnson is a huge favorite, but if he were to lose, it would be the biggest upset in mixed martial arts this year.
The Filipino legend, who will be 36 later this year, just lost his ONE Lightweight World Title for the second time in March at ONE: A New Era. Despite how popular he is and how much he has accomplished with ONE Championship, the division is getting super competitive. Eduard Folayang can’t afford to lose two bouts in a row at this stage of his career. The fact that he is competing at home puts more pressure on Folayang. This match with Eddie Alvarez has to feel like a must-win for him.
Similar to Folayang, Eddie Alvarez, though has been with ONE for only a few months now, is facing the same amount of pressure. The two men are close in age and are coming off losses. Alvarez is in danger of going on a three-bout losing streak, which will only fuel the flames surrounding his signing with ONE.
People’s expectations of him might not be as high as with Johnson’s, but it’s close. Alvarez was upset by Timofey Nastyuhkin in his first bout with ONE Championship, and to make matters worse, it came by the first-round stoppage. Alvarez has a lot to prove in Manilla, and a loss would keep him winless — a bad look for a 35-year-old at the beginning of a contract with his new organization.
Folayang isn’t the only Filipino carrying his country’s flag on the main card. Danny Kingad is one win away from moving to the finals of the ONE Flyweight World Grand Prix. It’s expected he’ll face Johnson in the finals, but Kingad cannot look past his opponent, Reece McLaren. An opportunity to compete for the Grand Prix trophy and a chance to potentially face one of the greatest of all time is on the line for Kingad.
The night in Manila should be fun.
This article first appeared on BJPENN.COM on 7/18/2019.