Aside from an astonishing opening sequence, the ONE FC debut of Ben Askren played out exactly as expected, as the former Bellator welterweight champion utterly blanketed Bakhtiyar Abbasov en route to a first-round arm-triangle choke in the main event of ONE FC 16.
Askren, the undefeated wrestling standout who signed with ONE FC in December after failing to draw interest from UFC officials, abruptly found himself taken down by the unheralded Abbasov in the bout's opening seconds, although in retrospect the Azerbaijani's strategy may have been a bit misguided.
Askren quickly scrambled to take back control and began to impose his will, raining down a relentless volley of short punches and -- due to ONE FC's modified ruleset -- knees to the head, before waltzing into side control and coaxing the fight-ending tapout with 39 seconds remaining in the opening frame.
"You don't go into the spider's web because you're going to get beat down!" Askren proclaimed afterward. "What was he thinking? I don't know. Try to take me down again.
"Listen, Funky Ben had a great time in Asia. He loves the Singapore fans. Funky Ben is coming back to Asia. (ONE welterweight champion Nobutatsu) Suzuki is going to bring me my belt. He can put it right in the middle of the cage and give it to me, or I can take it the hard way."
Askren remains undefeated, improving his record to 13-0 with his third straight finish and first submission win since 2010, while Abbasov falls to 11-3 in defeat.
Lightweight journeyman Vincent Latoel (15-14-2) scored the card's biggest upset in the night's co-main event, knocking out Singapore fan favorite Eddie Ng (7-2) with a crushing salvo 3:16 into the first round.
Latoel caught Ng rushing inside with a hard short right hand, then followed it up with two more punches for good measure. Ng collapsed backwards on the canvas and Latoel strutted off with hands in air, although Ng appeared to be recovering as referee Yuji Shimadi stopped the contest.
"Sorry to beat your favorite," Latoel said to a booing Singapore crowd. "Eddie is a good fighter. I respect Eddie. I respect you as a crowd, I don't care that you're booing me. I love you. Eddie was a good fighter. I was lucky, I punched him."
"I had no excuses going into the fight," said a disappointed Ng. "I know the crowd was booing the stoppage, but the referee, at the end of the day, is here to look after the safety of the fighters ... so if the referee saw in his mind and had an opinion that it was the right time to jump in, then I'm not going to argue. Guys, you need to respect that decision. Singapore fans, I absolutely love you but please respect the referee's decision."
Elsewhere on the main card, former ONE FC featherweight champion Honorio Banario (8-3) got off to a quick start against Mongolian veteran Jadamba Narantungalag (9-3) but ultimately ran out of steam to drop a unanimous decision for his third loss in a row.
Banario showcased his rangy stand-up and improved chain wrestling to control the early portions of the contest, however Narantungalag endured and began to take over during an entertaining final frame, likely securing the decision with a last-second trip takedown to establish himself as an instant featherweight title contender in his ONE FC debut.
After losing three of his last four contests, former Strikeforce standout Caros Fodor (9-4) rebounded with a much-needed win, stopping Willy Ni (15-9) with a kimura midway through the first round. Fodor secured top control after surviving a failed Ni arm-in guillotine attempt, then methodically softened his opponent up with punches before coaxing the tapout 3:29 into the opening frame.
"I really needed this tonight. I'm so happy right now, I can barely speak," the elated American said. "I had an arm in (during the guillotine attempt) so I was fine. I was just hoping he would commit to it and spend more energy, so I was just waiting to see how much he would spend."
The ONE FC debut of six-foot-nine former professional basketball player Chi Lewis-Parry (5-0, 1 NC) ended in unfortunate fashion, as Alain Ngalani (1-1, 1 NC) was rendered unable to continue early in the opening frame after sustaining a nasty inadvertent knee to the groin from within the clinch. After allowing Ngalani five minutes of recovery time to no avail, cageside officials declared the heavyweight bout a no contest.
For more on ONE FC 16, check out complete event results here.