Four athletes to watch out for in ONE Championship

ONE Championship is one of the elite martial arts organizations in the world.

We’ve seen martial artists like Sage Northcutt and Eddie Alvarez come from other promotions and have a difficult time with the opponents they have faced in their debuts.

Also, many ONE athletes have battled top-notch talent from other organizations in the past, and they have won their share of those bouts. When we think of the ONE athletes who are undoubtedly talented enough to shine against any competition, there are several that come to mind.

We’ll take a look at four who stand out most of all. These are the guys you should keep an eye on if you’re new to ONE.

Demetrious Johnson

Perhaps the most obvious addition to this shortlist is Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson.

The 33-year-old American is arguably the best mixed martial artist in the world. He was an undefeated world champion for seven years. During that time, he successfully defended his world title a record-breaking 12 times.

Johnson’s only loss during that time is a controversial split-decision defeat to former Olympic gold medalist and two-division champion Henry Cejudo.

The series between Johnson and Cejudo is currently split 1-1. Johnson won their initial meeting definitively. He scored a TKO win over Cejudo who looked overmatched against “Mighty Mouse.” 

It’s easy to make the argument that Johnson is superior to Cejudo.

Since joining ONE’s roster, Johnson has continued his winning ways. He defeated Yuya Wakamatsu, Tatsumitsu Wada, and Danny Kingad en route to winning the ONE Flyweight World Grand Prix Championship.

He is now set for a championship opportunity against reigning ONE Flyweight World Champion Adriano “Mikinho” Moraes in 2020. Adding another world title would only cement his legacy as perhaps the greatest mixed martial artist of all time.

Bibiano Fernandes

Long-time ONE Bantamweight World Champion Bibiano “The Flash” Fernandes is someone who could have easily had a championship-level career with any organization. 

Even at 39-years-old, Fernandes remains one of the best in the world in his weight region and on a pound-for-pound basis. He’s won three of the four meetings with rival Kevin Belingon, with the only loss being a disputed split decision in 2019. 

With that rivalry seemingly settled and Fernandes emerging as the better man, the Brazilian is now on to bigger challenges. 

Fernandes’ Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is the foundation of his formidable skills. In fact, he has been Johnson’s Jiu-Jitsu trainer for years. 

In addition to the grappling, Fernandes is also an excellent athlete whose striking defense and offense are above average. Put Fernandes in the ring with anyone from 135 to 145 pounds, and the action will be intense. We’ll wait to see who Fernandes clashes with for his next match.

Martin Nguyen

You would be hard-pressed to find a 155-pound athlete in any organization who would dominate or even defeat “The Situ-Asian” Martin Nguyen. After all, he is a former two-division champion who nearly won a title in a third weight class, but he was narrowly defeated by Fernandes in his quest to claim the ONE Bantamweight World Title.

The ONE Featherweight World Champion possesses the kind of well-rounded martial arts game that allows him to be a threat to his opponent in any situation. He has sudden speed and quick-twitch athleticism. This gives him extraordinary one-strike KO capabilities. This has been on display against world-class opponents like Eduard Folayang and Marat Gafurov

Nguyen’s submission skills are also formidable. He has pulled off noteworthy finishes with his grappling against current ONE Lightweight World Champion Christian Lee and others. 

Nguyen is coming off a second-round TKO victory over Koyomi Matsushima in August. Perhaps he’ll be back in the ONE Circle in the first quarter of 2020 to defend his title. 

Garry Tonon

This may appear to be a premature designation for Garry “The Lion Killer” Tonon, but it isn’t. Tonon hasn’t yet risen to championship level with ONE, but if there is a sure bet to seriously challenge for a title amongst athletes who are still on the rise, this multiple-time BJJ World Champion should be at the top of the list. 

When Tonon is in action, it’s clear to see what he’s trying to accomplish. He wants to take the action to the ground because almost no one can compete with his world-class grappling skills.

However, Tonon is becoming more than a one-trick pony. With every passing bout, Tonon proves that his striking skills are being upgraded. 

He’s gone from being a martial artist who had to get the action to the ground to have any success to someone who can set up their grappling with solid striking. A Nguyen-Tonon matchup seems almost inevitable, and you can bet Tonon could give anyone a run for their money.

This article first appeared on BJPENN.com on 1/27/2020.