Marat Gafurov couldn't have asked for a better ONE FC debut. The 29-year-old Russian stormed past Rob Lisita in just 68 seconds on Friday night in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, preserving his pristine record and making a bold statement in ONE FC 21's featherweight main event.
A former M-1 Global champion, Gafurov (10-0) caught Lisita (14-7) flush with a blistering high kick in the opening minute of the bout, then, sensing his moment, swarmed on the downed Australian. Within seconds, Gafurov locked up a tight body triangle onto Lisita's back, and from there the rear-naked choke finish was a mere formality.
The loss dropped Lisita to 0-2 over last two appearances in ONE FC, and the veteran immediately stormed out of the cage in disgust before being brought back by security personnel to hear the official decision.
"Usually I smile all the time, but this week I was very focused," Gafurov told color commentator and former UFC fighter Brandon Vera afterward through a translator. "I was getting concentrated."
In the night's co-main event, Malaysian fan-favorite Peter Davis (9-3) survived a knee injury and some brief trouble to capture his third straight win under the ONE FC umbrella.
Davis, a 33-year-old lightweight who doubles as a popular model/actor in Malaysia, ate several counter rights in the early going, then spent a large portion of the first round trapped underneath Vaugh Donayre (7-3) in bottom position. But the tide turned with 20 seconds left in the opening frame, as Davis slickly swept into mount then unloaded a furious fight-ending salvo of punches and elbows to steal the victory.
"Thank you very much, Malaysia. You are freakin' awesome," Davis said. "I had an injury, tried to keep it hush-hush, spent about two weeks before the fight not training because I couldn't walk properly, so luckily the rest paid off and the work beforehand obviously worked too."
Despite all the fireworks of the finish-heavy card, the event's biggest highlight came from Malaysian bantamweight Ev Ting (8-2). The 25-year-old engaged in a wild back-and-forth contest with Filipino veteran Edward Kelly (5-2), punctuating quick bursts of action with some slick cagework along the fence. The end arrived swiftly in this one, as Ting ended an exchange in the closing moments of the second round by flattening Kelly with a ruthless right high kick.
"I feel like a million bucks, man," Ting said. "To be honest, that was actually my gameplan to take him to the ground in the first round, but I actually failed at that. But I knew if he was tired, then I could definitely have the advantage in the standup, so I guess it all paid off."
In the feel-good story of the night, Malaysian strawweight Ann Osman (2-1) set off a raucous celebration throughout the Putra Indoor Stadium, cementing her second straight win in style by finishing Aya Saeid Saber (2-5) under a hailstorm of heavy blows midway through the first round. Osman seized an early takedown to gain side control, then hopped into mount and rained down a steady diet of punches and short elbows to bring about an end to the contest at 3:15 of the opening round.
"I'm so proud to be representing Malaysia here," said the ecstatic 28-year-old. "This is my first time to be fighting in Malaysia itself. I've wanted this for so freakin' long, I know you guys know that. Malaysia, I love you. It's been a wonderful year and thank you so, so much for your support."
Elsewhere on the card, Pakistani MMA pioneer Bashir Ahmad (3-1) rebounded from the first professional loss of his career to gut out a first-round submission win over Tanaphong Khunhankaew (5-4). Ahmad waded inside the pocket with heavy punches from the opening bell, but things truly turned in his favor once the action hit the mat. The 32-year-old featherweight used a guillotine attempt to sweep into mount, then deftly took Khunhankaew's back and finished the fight with a rear-naked choke in the closing moments of the first frame.
"It'll sink in a little bit, but I'm glad the fight's over. [Khunhankaew] is a friend of mine, so it was kinda weird, but it's good, I'm happy to get the win," Amad said.
"I don't want to make a political statement here, but in Pakistan, for all the people out there, we have a lot of poverty. We need a lot of support, and more than support, they need our respect. That's the number-one thing."
For the second time in as many fights, decorated Muay Thai champion Dejdamrong Sor Amnuaysirichoke (3-0) used his growing submission arsenal to claim victory in the ONE FC cage, stopping Saiful Merican (3-2) with an armbar midway through the second round.
The 35-year-old Thai flyweight picked Merican apart at range, blasting him with hard low and high kicks, before wrestling the fight to the floor and floating into mount during a scramble. Amnuaysirichoke went right to work from there, unloading a procession of punches, then transitioning into the fight-ending submission at 2:12 of the second stanza to preserve his undefeated MMA record.
In the night's pay-per-view opener, 21-year-old Singaporean bantamweight Stephen Langdown (2-1) put on a violent, if brief, show for the Malaysian fans, knocking their countryman Raymond Tan (2-3) out cold with a devastating salvo of first-round strikes. Langdown began his assault by stuffing a takedown attempt against the cage, then cracking Tan with a flurry of Travis Browne elbows to the head. From there Langdown followed his hurt opponent to the mat with knees to the head, before finishing him off with a pair of soccer kicks at 2:28 of the opening frame.