It seemed as if every time there was an event, we saw some thrillers. The month opened up with Nathaniel Wood & Johnny Eduardo having a fun scrap in Utica, while Timur Valiev and Max Coga went an entertaining 15-minutes in NYC.
The very next weekend we saw UFC 225 go down live from Chicago, Illinois. And in the main event, it seemed as though Robert Whittaker and Yoel Romero had this upcoming Fight of the Month spot on lock.
Well, on the second to last day in June, it was someone surpassed by a middleweight title fight in Myanmar.
Aung La Nsang vs. Ken Hasegawa
In a fight that – quite honestly – originally came out of nowhere, ONE Championship double-champ Aung La Nasang, ‘The Burmese Python,’ took on a legitimate Japanese threat in the form of Ken Hasegawa.
Nsang entered the night with three-straight victories. This streak included a middleweight title win, a bout at heavyweight, and a light heavyweight title win. He was aiming to make the first defense of his title against former DEEP Megaton Champion, Ken Hasegawa.
From the start, the crowd was absolutely rocking for this bout. As it featured a hometown hero in the form of 33-year-old two-division champion Aung La Nsang.
It takes about 6-seconds for the Myanmar crowd to start loudly cheering for their hometown guy in Nsang, and the commentary team of Michael Schiavello and Mitch Chilson might as well have had their microphones muted because you could barely hear a word they said.
Despite the big opportunity in front of him, Ken Hasegawa could not look more relaxed. As he answers the flurries of Nsang with big power punches of his own. Neither really connect with much in these opening exchanges, however.
The challenger Hasegawa responds to Nsang landing a nice body kick by launching a three-punch combo of his own. Two of these punches make a nice connection, but Nsang easily brushes it off.
A few seconds later Nsang whiffs on a headkick before eating a leg kick courtesy of Hasegawa. ‘The Burmese Python’ attempts to respond with a leg kick of his own but he completely misses it. He corrects the mistake seconds later by finally landing a nice inside leg kick.
Hasegawa fires off a left cross to the face of Nsang that connects, this before eating a straight-left courtesy of Nsang much to the delight of the Myanmar crowd. Hasegawa lands a 1-1-2 to the head of Nsang before the two throw simultaneously leg kicks. Hasegawa seems to have done more damage as it causes Nsang to visibly stumble.
Hasegawa has eaten a few body kicks, but he is using his movement excellently for the most part. As even the body kicks don’t make full contact, with Nsang mostly hitting him with the foot as opposed to the shin.
With Nsang being the aggressor, he is doing his best to back Hasegawa up. Constantly moving forward and throwing mostly right-hand (and right-leg) attacks. After a slight feeling out process on the feet, Nsang uncorks with a nice straight right that lands flush. But Hasegawa follows it up with a punch of his own before the two exchange a few heavy shots on the feet.
With one minute remaining in the opening round, Aung La Nsang attempts to be the aggressor and bully Hasegawa, but he eats a right-hand for doing so which makes him back off a little.
Hasegawa floors himself with a wild headkick attempt, but he immediately gets back to his feet which causes a wild exchange along the fence to take place. The round comes to a close and, so far, Ken Hasegawa’s boxing is on point as he’s facing arguably his toughest test to date in the form of Aung La Nsang — and 10,000+ of his hometown fans.
They touch gloves to begin round two and Nsang, almost immediately, launches a nasty body kick to the ribs of Hasegawa. But, again, the Japanese athlete shrugs it off and responds with a punch combination to back Nsang up, putting both fighters closer to the center of the cage.
Barely 30-seconds into round two and both guys are already going for it big time. Nsang is doing his best to batter the body of Hasegawa while Hasegawa is trying to rearrange the face of Nsang with heavy power shots.
Much like earlier in the fight, Hasegawa causes Nsang to stumble with a leg kick. Except for this time it briefly forces Nsang to take a knee. This allows Hasegawa to follow it up with yet another multi-punch combo.
Thus far Hasegawa is the better boxer of the two without question, but he is also seemingly having more success with his kicks when he does decide to throw them.
The left side of Hasegawa’s body, however, is beginning to visibly light up. As the kicks of Nsang are causing a welt to form. But, to his credit, virtually everytime Nsang connects, Hasegawa does an excellent job at pivoting to either side to land at least one hook to the head of the Myanmar native.
Nearing the two minute mark of round two, Hasegawa for the first time in this fight feints a takedown attempt. Either attempting to get some type of quick reaction from Nsang – which he got – or as a bit of foreshadowing into where his gameplan may be headed.
Hasegawa catches an off-balance Nsang with a double-jab for the first knockdown of the fight, but Nsang is unphased as it was just as much of a slip as it was a knockdown.
A few moments later, Nsang lands quite arguably his best punch of the fight. As he tags an aggressive Hasegawa with a left-hand over the top. It visibly causes a stumble, but Hasegawa continued to waste no time in firing right back.
As alluded to earlier, a couple seconds later we see Hasegawa attempt his first takedown of the fight. Rushing Nsang across almost the entire mat length looking to secure a double-leg takedown. He doesn’t get the takedown, though. As after just a few seconds of cage-fighting with Nsang’s back to the fence, Ken Hasegawa disengages and quickly heads to the center of the cage.
With about 30-seconds remaining, Nsang opens up a cut near the right eye of Hasegawa with a big overhand left. Hasegawa stumbles but is able to compose himself enough to land a nice left-hand of his own. They close out round two swinging for the fences and the crowd is, still, absolutely electric.
Heading into round three, it’s impossible to not notice how exhausted Hasegawa appears to be. Both men seem to be getting worn out, but given the pace, that is going to happen regardless. But it’s obvious to see that Hasegawa is for sure in worse condition than Nsang.
Seems as if all the bodywork from Aung La Nsang is beginning to pay off down the stretch – just like he wanted. So even though Ken Hasegawa has looked very good on the feet through two rounds – particularly when fighting southpaw – the tide is turning in the champion’s favor.
Despite the previous statement, Hasegawa was looking red-hot early in round three, refusing to slow down.
Right after this exchange, we saw Nsang barely miss with a headkick before connecting on a big straight-right. Seemingly nothing that Nsang connects with is phasing Hasegawa. But he does manage to rock him with an uppercut from the clinch.
As Aung La Nsang attempts to capitalize, Hasegawa just continues to be ready, willing, and able to exchange power shots. And he does so.
This wild exchange legitimately lasts for about 45-seconds before the pace slows a bit. And the only reason it slowed is that, finally, the two hit the mat for the first time in the night when Hasegawa gets a takedown by just straight-up forcing Nsang to the mat.
People who have never seen either man fight before this night would assume that both of these guys are anti-grappling or something of the sort. When, in fact, both are highly respected grapplers.
Hasegawa landed in a dominant side control position, a spot that he is typically very dominant from. Unfortunately, he was not able to keep Nsang on the ground for too long. As Nsang sprung to his feet about 25-seconds later when Hasegawa seemed to be working toward a crucifix position.
As soon as the two separated and were back in striking range, the challenger went on the offense. He ate a nice hook and uppercut from the champion along the way, but he was able to bully his way into a dominant clinch position along the fence.
Hasegawa was still not out of hot water, however, as Nsang delivered multiple standing elbows to the face of his foe, forcing a separation. From here there was well over two minutes remaining in the round. And the exchanges were genuinely never-ending.
Despite both being exhausted, particularly Hasegawa, neither man backed down at all. Nsang rocked Hasegawa multiple times with straight punches, but Hasegawa continued to land hooks of his own, even when hurt.
Heading into round four, it is worth noting that these championship rounds are new territory for Ken Hasegawa. And, that may seem obvious to some given just how worn out he is. Aung La Nsang hasn’t been here many times, but it is familiar enough territory. As he showed he can thrive in the championship rounds when he won the middleweight title against Vitaly Bigdash just last year.
As the round opens, the two touch gloves. Both men are wearing the damage on their face, and Hasegawa is even wearing some on his body – as mentioned earlier.
Just a few seconds into the round and Nsang clips Hasegawa with a right-hand that forces him to shoot in for a takedown. He gets in pretty deep on the attempt, but Nsang was able to ultimately defend and hammer away at the body of the challenger some more with vicious knees. Somewhere during this scramble, we see Hasegawa’s mouthguard fall onto the mat. This caused a very short break in the action.
They picked up right where they left off when the action resumed, though. After about a minute and a half of some more punch exchanges, Nsang pops Hasegawa with a big right-hand before grabbing him by the back of the head and forcing him to the canvas.
This is the first time that Nsang brought the fight to the mat all night, and, fittingly, the excitement continued. Nsang looked for a choke but Hasegawa reversed position in what was the start of multiple reversals before he eventually forced a stand-up. Just wild stuff.
Both men went right back into the exchanges when they stood back up. After roughly two minutes of doing so, Nsang was able to time a beautiful trip takedown. He was able to close out the round from back side control, peppering Hasegawa with strikes the entire way.
Keep in mind, four minutes through and the crowd just continues to get hotter by the minute. After round four ends, the two head back to their corners as Despacito plays on the loudspeaker. And the crowd sings along with it before heating up again for their guy in this insane fight at the start of round five.
No glove touch before the final round. Instead, they meet in the center, shake hands, and hug each other. A few seconds later they’re back to slugging it out.
A little over two minutes into the final round and Nsang is able to score yet another takedown on a beautifully timed trip, but he was unable to keep the fight there for more than 20-seconds or so.
About a minute passes and, by this point, Hasegawa’s output is virtually nonexistent. Nsang staggers him with dirty boxing from the clinch which sends Hasegawa reeling. The champion smells blood and he begins to hunt for the finish.
He gets exactly what he’s looking for as he knocks Ken Hasegawa unconscious late in round five with a brutal right uppercut to the jaw.
Aung La Nsang defends his ONE Championship Middleweight Title with a devastating fifth round KO over a stupidly tough challenger in the form of Ken Hasegawa. This means not only are we looking at a Fight of the Year candidate, we are also looking at Knockout of the Year material!
The finish comes and the crowd absolutely erupts. “The Burmese Python” improves to 23-10, remains ONE Championship double-champ, and wins his fourth-straight.
This ‘breakdown’ does not do the fight justice. Watch it for yourself! You won’t regret it.
Considering just how insane the month was, the top two fights were – at least in my opinion – easy to come up with. Let’s look at the top three!
1. Aung La Nsang vs. Ken Hasegawa
ONE Championship: Spirit Of A Warrior
2. Robert Whittaker vs. Yoel Romero II
3. Daniel Torres vs. Filip Wolanski
This is the second consecutive month a ONE Championship main event has earned the honors of Fight of the Month. Check out the May 2018 FOTM here! Now, here are 20 honorable mentions.
- UFC FN 131 | Nathaniel Wood vs. Johnny Eduardo
- PFL 1 | Timur Valiev vs. Max Coga
- UFC 225 | Chris De La Rocha vs. Rashad Coulter
- UFC 225 | Claudia Gadelha vs. Carla Esparza
- Contender Series 1 | Chris Curtis vs. Sean Lally
- CES 50 | Adam Acquaviva vs. John Doumas
- CES 50 | Andre Ewell vs. Dinis Paiva
- ACB 88 | Karol Celinski vs. Luke Barnatt
- Cage Warriors 94 | Donovan Desmae vs. Hubert Geven
- Shamrock FC 306 | Bobby Voelker vs. Justin DeMoney
- PFL 2 | Brandon Halsey vs. Smealinho Rama
- LFA 43 | Cameron Graves vs. Jordan Titoni
- UFC FN 132 | Shane Young vs. Rolando Dy
- UFC FN 132 | Leon Edwards vs. Donald Cerrone
- ONE: Pinnacle of Power | Danny Kingad vs. Haobin Ma
- ONE: Pinnacle of Power | Geje Eustaquio vs. Adriano Moraes
- Bellator 201 | Valerie Letourneau vs. Kristina Williams
- LFA 44 | Matthew Frincu vs. Christian Aguilera
- Shooto Brasil 85 | Vinicius Salvador vs. Luiz Guerreiro
- DEEP 84 | Yuki Motoya vs. Je Hoon Moon