ONE Championship rolls on with their third consecutive show of 2021 aimed at U.S. audiences, with another event mostly for the more dedicated fan.
While it’s not a poorly-structured event, cancellations managed to hit this one pretty badly. Wrestling powerhouse Amir Aliakbari was supposed to face Russian workhorse Anatoly Malykhin, and Yoshihiro Akiyama (yes, Sexyama himself) was slated to fight Lebanon’s Mohammad Karaki. Without a doubt, it’s unfortunate those fights aren’t happening, but we do have a smaller action-focused event as a result.
The headliner is an utter treat, as one of Brazil’s most violent exports returns to make it 3-0 in the ONE cage. John Lineker dos Santos de Paula (33-9) did well in his decision win against Muin Gafurov and did John Lineker things against Kevin Belingon.
His opponent will be Florida’s Troy Worthen (7-1), a fighter that’s racked up a 3-1 record in ONE including an exciting win over Lei Chen. A well-rounded athlete that’s got some polish, Worthen is an interesting choice for Lineker to make. Originally slated to fight Shuya Kamikubo, that fight also fell apart and now Worthen has the roughest test of his career.
Yuya Wakamatsu (13-4) had a bit of a rough patch, but he’s quickly rebounded from back to back losses against Demetrious Johnson and Danny Kingad to rack up three straight wins. And those are quality wins as well, being as they came against Geje Eustaquio, Dae Hwan Kim and Kyu Sung Kim. And he looked good in those wins, reestablishing himself as one of the most dangerous Japanese prospects alive.
And putting him in the co-main slot of an event like this is a smart move, because he’s up against another action fighter in Reece McLaren (14-7). Seven of those fourteen wins are submissions, including four rear naked chokes. Currently riding back to back wins, he wastes no time getting in his opponent’s space and working them over to get to favorable positions.
Marat Gafurov (18-3) has been with ONE since 2014, and has racked up wins against some of the other stalwarts of the game in Ev Ting and Rob Lisita, and went 2-0 against Narantungalag Jadambaa (both wins by rear naked choke). Despite losses to Iuri Lapicus and Martin Nguyen, he’s had recent wins against Tetsuya Yamada and Lowen Tynanes and has only had five decision wins total. He’ll try to fend of Korea’s Rae Yoon Ok (13-3), repping Team MAD out of Busan. Ok’s struggled and stumbled against more established talents such as Song Yadong and Tom Santos, but has otherwise cobbled together a respectable record against some tough vets on the Asian circuit. The only other thing to consider is some of his lesser experienced opposition, which leads to some questions surrounding who he’s paired up against in the past.
The card will open with a rematch between Japan’s Ryuto Sawada (14-5, 1) draw and China’s Li Tao Miao (5-3). Sawada won their first encounter by decision, and has benefitted from having mostly good matchmaking on his way up the ranks. With only three decision wins, Sawada has more options for controlling or ending a fight and doesn’t rely as much on strength and athleticism as Miao does. However, Miao comes into this bout with back to back losses, but he’s a little tank that can really dish it out.
Finally, the lone non-MMA fight on the card is none other than Nieky Holtzken facing John Wayne Parr under Muay Thai rules. Gonna be hard for that to disappoint.
Full card is as follows:
John Lineker vs Troy Worthen - 145lb bout
Yuya Wakamatsu vs Reece McLaren - 135lb bout
Nieky Holtzken vs John Wayne Parr - 178lb Muay Thai bout
Marat Gafurov vs Rae Yoon Ok - 170lb bout
Ryuto Sawada vs Li Tao Miao - 125lb bout
ONE on TNT 3 takes place this Wednesday with prelims starting on YouTube at 8:30pm EST, and the tape-delayed main card starts at 10:00pm.