ONE Championship returned to the Singapore Indoor Stadium with another action-packed event on Friday, April 22. ONE 156: Eersel vs. Sadikovic delivered on all fronts with 15 bouts across three sports.
4 Things We Learned at ONE 156
Fans got to see grappling ace Mikey Musumeci debut on a global platform and secure a submission win over Japanese legend Masakazu Imanari. Fans were treated to pound-for-pound great Anissa Meksen continuing to display her striking dominance. And fans also got to see Regian Eersel overcome some adversity before turning the tide and defending his ONE Lightweight Kickboxing World Championship against Arian Sadikovic.
But there was so much more. After the dust has settled, now is the chance to reflect on what we can truly walk away from ONE 156 with under our caps.
Here are three key things we learned following ONE 156.
Smilla Sundell Is The Real Deal
Jackie Buntan was perfect in her ONE career and entered as the more experienced, powerful athlete. But nobody told 17-year-old Smilla Sundell that she wasn’t supposed to be the best strawweight Muay Thai athlete in the world.
The Fairtex Gym-trained athlete tasted some of the power of Butan early and then never let her inside again. The taller striker utilized her length to stick Buntan repeatedly throughout all five rounds, causing damage that showed how the action played out.
Any time Buntan attempted to mount a comeback and land something heavy, her strikes caught air. Sundell constantly moved forward, peppered her opponent, and was not around for the return. It was a brilliant performance.
At just 17, “The Hurricane” has plenty of room for growth, which should be a terrifying thought for any strawweight looking to upend her. Sundell could be a longtime force to be reckoned with inside the Circle.
Greatest Round Ever?
In the span of 90 seconds, Liam Harrison and Muangthai PK.Saenchai put on one of the most memorable and ludicrous performances in recent memory.
It all began with a strong left head kick from Muangthai that dropped Harrison. The Brit quickly answered the eight-count but was immediately put back to the mat when Muangthai scored with a clean straight left hand. It looked to be all but over.
That is until Harrison rocked Muangthai with a right-hand counter. After a follow-up shot, the Thai star hit the mat for the first time. But Harrison never allowed him to fully recover, dropping him twice more to earn the TKO win.
It was a jaw-dropping comeback but also a jaw-dropping first round of action that will not be replicated. Both Harrison and Muangthai deserve credit for the insane action they delivered. The wild Muay Thai battle showed why the sport in four-ounce gloves is one of the most exciting martial arts on the planet.
South Korea’s Rise Continues
South Korea has been on a roll, and that continued at ONE 156.
Jin Tae Ho put himself on the contender’s list in the welterweight division with a submission win over Agilan Thani, and then he celebrated in tribute to Sakuraba. Later on the main card, Song Min Jong followed up with a win over Chen Rui with a second-round submission.
Following the lead of South Korean stars like Ok Rae Yoon and Seo Hee Ham, other athletes from the nation are beginning to rise in their own divisions.
ONE Chairman and CEO Chatri Sityodtong has already teased a future event in Seoul, and if he can bring all of the South Korean stars to the card, it could be a landmark event for the nation as they can lay claim to some of the best martial arts athletes in the sport today.
Brooks vs. Pacio Is Exactly What We Need
Ever since Jarred Brooks debuted in ONE, he has been after ONE Strawweight World Champion Joshua Pacio. At ONE 156, he won a title eliminator with Bokang Masunyane to finally earn his shot.
And he did so in an impressive fashion. Brooks quickly closed the distance, got Masunyane’s back, and choked him unconscious.
With Brooks exiting the contest as hyped as ever and not suffering a bit of damage, the title tilt should be on the horizon in the near future. And it is a glorious matchup that fans need to witness.
Pacio is a beast who has been widely unheralded, and a premier matchup against Brooks will give him the chance to extend his footprint in the sport. On the other side of that coin, Brooks has a chance to finally add a World Title to his resume. It’s a high-stakes, high-action contest that needed to happen, and now we know it will.