Breaking down the ONE women’s atomweight world Grand Prix semifinals

Itsuki Hirata (left), Ritu Phogat (right)
Itsuki Hirata (left), Ritu Phogat (right)
Atilano Diaz

The ONE women’s atomweight world Grand Prix kicked off last month at ONE: Empower, with eight of the best atomweight fighters in the world competing against each other in a historic single-elimination tournament.

At stake for the winner is a date with atomweight queen 'Unstoppable' Angela Lee, with the ONE women’s atomweight world title on the line. This bout is expected to happen early next year.

After a thrilling first round to the tournament, four fighters have moved on to the semifinals, and each one is now on the cusp of greatness.

Scheduled for ONE: NextGen, the semifinals will be broadcasted live from the Singapore Indoor Stadium on Friday, October 29. It will feature No.4-ranked atomweight Ritu 'The Indian Tigress' Phogat against Japanese judoka Itsuki 'Android 18' Hirata. The other semifinal matchup will feature former two-sport world champion and No.3-ranked atomweight Stamp Fairtex battling Grand Prix alternate Julie Mezabarba.

ONE atomweight semifinal 1 - Ritu Phogat vs. Itsuki Hirata

Both Phogat and Hirata are grappling specialists, albeit with very different styles, and will be looking to take matters to the ground in this one.

Phogat is a high-caliber wrestler with legitimate credentials to boot. She’s a decorated champion in her native India and comes from a famous wrestling family. Half of Phogat’s career victories since transitioning to MMA in 2019 have come by knockout. The gist of her game involves taking opponents to the ground as soon as possible, controlling them, and dealing damage from the top position.

On the other hand, Hirata comes from a judo background and has a slightly more diverse skill set. She also boasts of a more potent submission game. Hirata is a dangerous finisher, with over 80% of her victories ending inside the distance. Not to mention, she’s undefeated in professional competition and is riding a tremendous amount of hype.

Because both fighters rely heavily upon their top position game, whoever secures this first mount will most likely control the action.

ONE atomweight semifinal 2 - Stamp Fairtex vs. Julie Mezabarba

On the other side of the bracket is a striker versus striker matchup of epic proportions.

Stamp is a former atomweight Muay Thai and kickboxing world champion in ONE Super Series. She transitioned to mixed martial arts in 2018 and has since embarked on an incredible run, winning six of her first seven fights in the circle - this includes three spectacular wins by knockout.

Mezabarba comes to ONE after reaching success in the regional scene in Brazil. She has considerably more experienced than Stamp, which could be an important factor. More importantly, Mezabarba impressed in her ONE debut last month by defeating a highly regarded veteran in Mei Yamaguchi. In that fight, Mezabarba was sharp and powerful and dominated Yamaguchi to a clear-cut unanimous decision.

Stamp versus Mezabarba is all but guaranteed to have action, as neither of the two will be willing to back down. Stamp, however, did express concern about Mezabarba’s distinct size advantage, which she says was the reason for the Brazilian’s victorious ONE debut.

Both of the semifinal bouts will bring spectacular martial arts to the circle, but only two of these four women will make it to the final round – where a date with destiny awaits. Who will go on to face Lee for the world title? Only time will tell. Each fighter is talented and capable, but only one will ultimately rise to the top.

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Edited by Avinash Tewari
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