ONE: ROOTS OF HONOR - Athletes With The Most To Lose And Gain
ONE: ROOTS OF HONOR takes place on 12 April from the Mall of Asia in The Philippines. Two ONE World Titles will be on the line.
In the co-main event, Japan’s Yosuke Saruta will defend his ONE Strawweight World Title against former champion (the man he dethroned) Joshua “The Passion” Pacio. In the main event, ONE Featherweight World Champion Martin “The Situ-Asian” Nguyen springs back into action with his first title defense in nearly a year after suffering a serious knee injury.
Nguyen will defend his belt against a former champion in Narantungalag Jadambaa. There is obviously a lot on the line for several athletes, but I’ll break down which ones have the most to gain and lose at ONE: ROOTS OF HONOR.
Most to Gain
Having already reigned as champion in his ONE career, Jadambaa doesn’t have a void when it comes to his career with the promotion. He’s already been to the proverbial mountaintop. Also, he is already a 43-year-old legend in his country of Mongolia. If he can defeat the favored and 13 years younger champion, Jadambaa moves into a different level with ONE Championship. He might then be seen as one of the promotion’s greatest of all time having owned a victory over someone of Nguyen’s ilk.
There is a title at stake, that in itself is almost enough to say that Pacio has among the most to gain. Even more than Jadambaa, Pacio stands to gain a great deal if he can regain his title from the man who shockingly upset him earlier in the year at ONE: ETERNAL GLORY. Moreover, Pacio has an opportunity to accomplish these things in front of his adoring fans. The proud Pinoy warrior can avenge a loss, regain his title and have one of the most memorable moments of his career in a building where he’s never lost as a pro.
Accomplishing that in front of diehard fans would be an unforgettable moment for Pacio.
Tournaments and Grand Prix are always fun and high stakes. The ONE Flyweight World Grand Prix is no different. Tatsumitsu Wada will take on Gustavo Balart in the last quarterfinal matchup and the winner gets a date with all-time great Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson. It’s a great honor to compete against Johnson and obviously a major challenge as well.
If Wada, an experienced 30-year-old Japanese athlete can come through with the win, he will be included in the most high-profile match of his career while also having an opportunity to move into the finals of the Grand Prix.
Likewise, Balart has the same opportunities. However, he has even more to gain. The bout with Wada is the promotional debut for the former Olympic wrestler from Cuba. Balart is a 4’11” powerhouse whose ability to ground opponents has resulted in a stellar 8-1 professional record. A win would validate his amateur wrestling pedigree and make him a serious contender for the flyweight title–if he can get past Johnson.
A Balart-Johnson scrap would be interesting because it would mark perhaps the only time Johnson wouldn’t be the shorter man in the cage. For that reason alone, it’s an interesting potential bout.
Most to Lose
When a champion is in action, there is always much to lose. Belts are valued in ONE Championship and Martin Nguyen holds the featherweight crown. Aside from the possibility of losing his title, Nguyen faces the possibility of dropping his first match in almost a year. Also after stringing together six straight wins from November 2015 to March 2018, Nguyen is faced with potentially losing consecutive matches for the first time in his career.
A loss to Jadambaa could create some serious doubt for Nguyen.
Just as The Passion has a lot to gain, he also has a lot to lose. If he fails to regain his title, he will have to work his way back up the ladder to get another shot. It would also be devastating to lose for the first time in the Mall of Asia. Where there is an opportunity for glory, there is pressure for the young Filipino athlete.
The 30-year-old American comes into his bout with the veteran Luis Santos with an unblemished record. Not only is his undefeated streak on the line, but he may also be in line for a world title shot if he can win.
There is a lot on the table for Nakashima.
At 36 years old, Kelly is on the downside of his career. He’s also going through a very rough patch professionally. He’s lost his last five bouts heading into his match with Kow Won Il. Clearly, Kelly doesn’t want a six-bout losing streak, and he certainly doesn’t want to lose in his home country.
The stakes are indeed high for him as well.