Before the entire world stopped due to the dreaded COVID-19 , several Filipinos were already beginning to build momentum in their ONE Championship campaign.
A long layoff may have side-tracked these athletes’ run to the top, but make no mistake, when the sport opens up, fans can expect these heroes to pick up where they left off and bring about performances that have endeared them to the public.
Here are the athletes to watch out for when The Home Of Martial Arts gets back to business.
Denice “The Menace Fairtex” Zamboanga
Sitting on top of the list is the ONE women’s atomweight number one contender who made a name for herself in the promotion’s last show before the pandemic.
Zamboanga put on a star-making performance against Mei “V.V” Yamaguchi at ONE: KING OF THE JUNGLE to earn a shot at the long-time division ruler “Unstoppable” Angela Lee sometime in the future.
Aside from her deadly striking, which continues to be polished at the Fairtex Training Center in Pattaya, Thailand, Zamboanga has improved her grappling, particularly with her defense and transitions.
Against Yamaguchi, a known grappler, Zamboanga survived rolling with the Japanese phenom long enough to get back on her feet, where she truly had the advantage. And each time the opportunity presented itself, “The Menace Fairtex” made Yamaguchi pay en route to a convincing decision win.
The unbeaten 23-year-old will certainly come in as the underdog against Lee, but given her improvements, it will not be surprising to see the first Filipina World Champion in ONE Championship.
Lito “Thunder Kid” Adiwang
Like Zamboanga, Adiwang has only competed twice in the main roster, but he is already building a massive fanbase with his exciting matches and devastating style.
The fifth-ranked strawweight introduced himself to the world with consecutive first-round wins over tough opponents like Senzo Ikeda and Pongsiri “The Smiling Assassin” Mitsatit.
Now the question is, who’s next for Adiwang?
Among the top five in the rankings, Adiwang is the only one not to compete for a World Title, but that may be an issue given that his teammate, Joshua “The Passion” Pacio, sits on the throne.
He has also considered moving up to the flyweight division to avoid a possible clash with Pacio, and in doing so he would spice up an already competitive weight class bannered by reigning ONE Flyweight World Champion Adriano “Mikinho” Moraes, the legendary Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson, and teammate Danny “The King” Kingad.
Whatever Adiwang decides to do next, fans can expect more action.
Jeremy “The Jaguar” Miado
Miado salvaged 2019 with one of the most exciting wins when he knocked out Miao Li Tao at ONE: AGE OF DRAGONS last November with a flying knee.
Now, the UGB MMA representative wants nothing more than to carry some momentum from that victory into 2020.
A lot of interesting match-ups await Miado when ONE springs back to action, and he has his eyes set on another stud in the strawweight division in Adrian “The Papua Badboy” Matheis. If that does not happen, though, then he could pursue a trilogy with former World Champion Dejdamrong Sor Amnuaysirichoke.
Either way, the possibilities are endless for Miado.
Geje “Gravity” Eustaquio
Perhaps the most notable exclusion in the ONE flyweight rankings is this former World Champion from Baguio City.
While Eustaquio has brushed the snub aside, he is hellbent on proving that he is still one of the best flyweights in the promotion. Though it has been an up-and-down ride for Eustaquio over the past few years, there is no question about the competition he has faced.
Since 2017, “Gravity” battled both Moraes and Kairat “The Kazakh” Akhmetov two times each, splitting his matches against those highly ranked studs.
Perhaps the only blemish in that stretch was his knockout loss to Yuya “Little Piranha” Wakamatsu, but he did get back on track by scoring a walk-off body kick KO against Toni “Dynamite” Tauru before the year ended.
With a chip on his shoulder and momentum following that win, expect Eustaquio to come out of the gates swinging when action resumes.
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