Another night of unpredictable finishes ended with the quickest of them all, as Kazakhstan's own Igor Svirid stunned previously unbeaten Leandro Ataides to seize the inaugural ONE FC middleweight championship in his spectacular 17-second promotional debut at ONE FC 22.
Svirid (10-1) entered the fight a betting underdog, but the narrative of the fight changed with the 28-year-old's very first punch -- a straight jab which caught Ataides (8-1) flush and dropped him. Ataides quickly staggered back to his feet, but Svirid swarmed and overwhelmed the Brazilian with punches, sending him crashing back down to the mat with a nasty short right against the fence followed by a swift right uppercut. Referee Yuji Shimada jumped in to stop the match, and the shocked Singapore crowd erupted as Svirid was awarded ONE FC's first middleweight belt.
"I have no words, and now I am the champion," said an elated Svirid through a translator. "This was for all of the Kazakhstani people."
In the night's co-main event, former lightweight title challenger Zorobabel Moreira (7-3) started strong but ultimately wilted under the high-pressure attack of Koji Ando (11-3-2), succumbing to a third-round blitz of strikes in the card's most exciting back-and-forth fight.
Ring rust didn't appear to be a problem early for Moreira, a jiu-jitsu black belt who was competing for the first time in over two years. The Brazilian took control of the opening round, snapping off a steady diet of front kicks, jabs, and low kicks from his high Muay Thai stance. But his momentum wouldn't last as Moreira began to fade midway through the second frame while Ando pushed the pace and continually found his mark with straight punches inside the pocket.
Moreira tried to climb back into the contest on the back of his low kicks throughout the third round, but Ando simply suffered them and pressed forward with an increased volume of punches, eventually overwhelming Moreira before dropping him with a devastating flurry of rights and lefts against the fence in the closing minute of the fight. Two more soccer kicks sealed the deal, giving Ando the TKO win at 4:21 of the final frame.
"Next time I enter the cage, I want to challenge the champion," declared Ando. "And I when I leave the cage, I want the belt."
Former TUF Brazil 2 competitor Luis Santos (61-9-1) made an undeniably strong impression in his ONE FC debut, dispatching Azerbaijani welterweight Bakhtiyar Abbasov (12-4) in just 53 seconds, then calling out ONE FC champion Ben Askren. The finishing sequence was a thing of beauty, as Santos sent Abbasov crumpling to the canvas with a brutal knee to the midsection which ultimately forced him to be carted out of the cage on a stretcher.
"I've been training a lot of American wrestling, so I really want an opportunity to fight for the belt," Santos said through a translator. "Please, give me this opportunity, guys."
In the first fight over the last two ONE FC events to stretch a full 15 minutes, Japanese middleweight Tatsuya Mizuno (13-10) outclassed Brayan Rafiq (16-10-1) in all segments of the game to take a unanimous judges' decision. Mizuno controlled the Frenchman on the mat for a majority of the opening two rounds, repeatedly using a kimura grip to roll for takedowns and, especially in the second frame, applying stifling top control. Mizuno switched things up in the final frame and kept the fight standing, but beat Rafiq to the punch all the same to claim his second win in five tries under the ONE FC banner.
Elsewhere on the card, Belgian welterweight Christophe Vandijck (7-1) brought the 10-fight win streak of Trinidad and Tobago native Dwayne Hinds (10-1) to an inauspicious end, securing mount off a judo throw early in the first round, then raining down punches until Hinds conceded and tapped out due to strikes. The official time of the finish came at 2:40 of the opening frame, awarding Vandijck his fifth straight win and first inside the ONE FC cage.
Up-and-coming bantamweight Major Overall (5-1) may have been far from home, but as the only American on the card, he represented his countrymen well. The 32-year-old followed up his thrilling ONE FC debut with yet another gem, dropping Cary Bullos (7-2) with a high kick early, then diving onto his back and putting the Filipino on ice via rear-naked choke in just 29 seconds to earn his fifth consecutive first-round finish.
Kicking off the night's main card, Australian featherweight Martin Nguyen (4-0) survived a flash knockdown to hand previously unbeaten Rocky Batolbatol (5-1) the first loss of his young MMA career. Batolbatol dropped Nguyen with a cracking left uppercut midway through the second round, but Nguyen regained his wits quick enough to secure his third takedown of the match, then worked to Batolbatol's back and locked in the comeback rear-naked choke finish at 2:10 of the second frame to cement his successful ONE FC debut.
One curious fact that's impressive to note: over the course of ONE FC's last three events -- a span which stretches 29 bouts -- only two fights have gone to decision, good for an astounding 92-percent finishing rate. 20 of those fights have ended inside the first round.