ONE Championship follows up their huge card in Japan on March 31, 2019 with a sizable event in Manila, Philippines. “ONE: Roots of Honor” marks the return of ONE Featherweight World Champion Martin “The Situ-Asian” Nguyen. He will be defending his title against Mongolia’s Narantungalag Jadambaa in the main event.
The co-main event is a championship rematch that will see newly crowned ONE Strawweight World Champion Yosuke Saruta defend his belt against Joshua Pacio, the man he shocked in January 2019 at “ONE: Eternal Glory” as a late replacement. Here are eight things you should know about “ONE: Roots of Honor.”
1. A Plethora of Countries Represented
Nguyen represents both Vietnam and Australia, and in total, the flags of 16 different countries will be carried in the Philippines.
Each ONE event offers an amalgamation of martial artists from around the globe, and as you can see from the number of regions with athletes in action, “ONE: Roots of Honor” is no different. There will be a wide range of fans with rooting interests in these bouts.
2. 3 Different Disciplines
ONE continues to show its diversity in the world of martial arts. In addition to mixed martial arts, “ONE: Roots of Honor” also features a kickboxing match and two Muay Thai bouts. That should provide a lovely accent of action to augment the martial arts display on top of the mixed martial arts matches on tap.
3. Biggest KO Artists
Many athletes on this card have impressive KO numbers. China’s Kai Tang has eight victories in 10 professional bouts, and all of them have come by TKO or KO. His 100% KO rate is the highest on the card.
Japanese strawweight Akihiro Fujisawa isn’t that far behind him in the area of KO%. Four of his five wins have come by KO or TKO.
The event’s headliner and defending World Champion Nguyen has a KO rate of 64%. Seven of his 11 victories have come by KO or TKO, which is even more impressive when you consider he began his career known primarily for his grappling.
The 39-year-old Luis Santos doesn’t have one of the three highest KO rates, but his 37 wins by KO/TKO is by far the most of any athlete on the card.
4. Greatest Submission Specialists
Eric Kelly has 12 wins in his career, and nine of them have come by submission. His 75% submission rate is the most impressive of any athlete on the card. Also noteworthy in the area of submissions is Leandro Issa’s ten subs in 16 wins and Pacio’s seven submissions in 13 wins. With so many gifted grapplers, it seems inevitable we’ll see at least a few of the matches come to an end via tap out.
5. Promotional Debuts
Indonesia’s Eko Roni Saputra is making his mixed martial arts debut, but the promotional debut that most will have their eyes on is that of Vietnam’s Bi Nguyen. She recently signed with ONE amidst some fanfare, having been a contestant on the hit reality game show Survivor, and she’ll get an opportunity to compete for the first time under the promotion’s banner at ONE: ROOTS OF HONOR. Nguyen comes into her bout with Dwi Ani Retno Wulan with a record of 4-3. The 29-year-old will be looking to gain some traction and take the next step in her career.
6. The Undefeated
There are a few athletes on the card who are very early in their careers, such as Saputra, Wulan (1-0) and even Fujisawa (5-0), but the undefeated martial artist who stands out on this card is the American James Nakashima. He was a coveted prospect before signing with ONE in 2018.
Nakashima will put his undefeated 10-0 record on the line against the dangerous Santos in a significant step-up in competition for the American.
7. Hometown Heroes
The Manila crowd will surely be up in arms for Pacio, but there are more Filipinos set to compete in front of their home crowd. The Kelly brothers Edward and Eric will be joined by Ramon Gonzales who will open the show against the hard-punching Fujisawa.
8. The Champions and Challengers
Martin Nguyen hasn’t competed since losing a battle for the interim ONE Bantamweight World Ttle in July 2018. Nguyen suffered an injury that has kept him out of action since that unanimous-decision defeat.
At one point in 2018, Nguyen was the reigning ONE Lightweight and Featherweight World Champion, and he challenged the great Bibiano Fernandes for his bantamweight belt. He still holds the featherweight strap and is looking to defend it at “ONE: Roots of Honor.”
Former ONE Featherweight World Champion Jadambaa has twice been thwarted by Russia’s Marat Gafurov. This time, he aims for Gafurov’s conqueror, Nguyen. Styles make fights, so we’ll see if Jadambaa can do what Gafurov could not.
Saruta has something to prove. He defeated Pacio via split decision in January after replacing Hayato Suzuki, but the surprise victory wasn’t as definitive as some might desire. Thus Pacio has been granted an immediate rematch in his home country. If Saruta can emerge victoriously, he will have made a statement.