ONE Championship CEO Chatri Sityodtong has talked about challenging the UFC’s champions with his organization’s elite several times. He brought it up again recently in an interview with Forbes’ Brian Mazique.
Sityodtong discussed ONE’s expansion into the United States, and also expressed his desire to pit five of his organization’s elite in a champion-vs-champion event against a handful of UFC titleholders. Mazique nor Sityodtong named the athletes who would be involved, but I came up with five of the most intriguing matchups the two promotions could produce.
Bibiano Fernandes vs. Henry Cejudo
Fernandes is without question, the greatest bantamweight in ONE Championship history, and one of the promotion’s all-time great athletes. As Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson’s Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu coach, Fernandes’ pedigree is known and respected globally despite competing almost entirely in Asia throughout his career. Fernandes’ skills would stand up against anyone in his weight region.
Cejudo is the UFC Men’s Bantamweight and Flyweight Champion. He is one of the world’s best pound-for-pound fighters and he’s proven it with wins over Johnson, TJ Dillashaw, and Marlon Moraes. A battle between these two men would be as big of a fight that could be made from a cross-promotional standpoint.
Fernandes turned 39 in March, which could give some prognosticators reason to lean toward Cejudo, who is just 32. However, Fernandes is naturally a much bigger man and he’s also someone Cejudo doesn’t figure to have a huge advantage over on the ground. It’s a bout that could possibly go either way, and one fans across the world would likely love to see.
Jon Jones vs. Aung La N Sang
Jones might be the best fighter in the world, but if we’ve learned anything about Aung La, it’s that he can never be counted out of any bout. It’s hard to find anyone who would be favored against Jones, but Aung La is the kind of warrior who would be motivated by the naysayers.
Jones has a wealth of talent and physical gifts, but Aung La is as tough as they come, and he is one of the most powerful strikers in the sport. Likewise, his grappling ability is nothing that an opponent can afford to overlook. While some might expect Jones to walk over Aung La, the same was expected from the Eddie Alvarez-Timofey Nastyuhkin bout, and we all know how that one turned out.
If a Jones-Aung La bout were held in Myanmar, it would be the biggest sporting event in the country’s history, and no matter the outcome, The Burmese Python would emerge an even bigger icon when it’s over.
Jessica Andrade vs. Xiong Jing Nan
What happens when two of the most powerful strikers in women’s MMA clash? I have no idea, but I think I speak for most fans of the sport when I say, I’d love to find out. Xiong proved her mettle when she battled to obtain a come-from-behind victory over Angela Lee in March at ONE: A NEW ERA. Xiong’s power, perseverance, and stamina were on full display in the victory via fifth-round KO. However, how would The Panda do against a powerhouse like Andrade?
Earlier this year, Andrade dethroned the ultra-talented Rose Namajunas with an explosive slam that knocked the latter out cold. Andrade’s relentless approach isn’t too dissimilar to the way Xiong competes. The battle between Andrade and Xiong might not last long, but it figures to be explosive and entertaining while it lasts.
Martin Nguyen vs. Max Holloway
The one-time two-division champion Nguyen is one of MMA’s most-dynamic finishers. He has proven he can stop some of the world’s best with just one strike. He’s floored the likes of Eduard Folayang, Marat Gafurov, and Narantungalag Jadambaa with the one-hitter quitter. His style is seemingly a perfect contrast to the steady, dangerous and accurate UFC featherweight champion Holloway.
With impressive wins over Jose Aldo (twice) and Brian Ortega, Holloway has repeatedly shown he is the best featherweight in the UFC. I’d love to see if he or Nguyen are the superior competitors in their division.
Zebaztian Kadestam vs. Kamaru Usman
After a long journey to his first title shot, Usman took advantage of his opportunity when he defeated one of the greatest welterweights of all time in Tyron Woodley. Usman’s smothering style proved too much for Woodley, but it’s an approach ONE Welterweight World Champion Kadestam might welcome. Kadestam loves a brawl and he is efficient in all areas of combat.
He’s a heavy-handed striker who uses all of his weapons to inflict damage. If Usman and Kadestam ever met in the Circle or Octagon, we might be in for one of the most physical battles we’ve seen in MMA in years. For now, this is all just a fantasy, but it seems the martial arts organizations of the world are beginning to soften to the concept of cross-promotional events. Perhaps one day, we’ll get to see these kinds of stellar matchups.