Facing one of the toughest tests of his career, Bibiano Fernandes came out of it in the same fashion as he has so many others - with his hand raised in the air.
In the main event of ONE Championship: Iron Will on Saturday at the Impact Arena in Bangkok, Thailand, “The Flash” emerged victorious with a split decision nod over two-division champion Martin Nguyen to successfully defend his ONE bantamweight title for a seventh consecutive time.
The outcome was in doubt for the majority of the five-round contest as both Fernandes and Nguyen had their moments. Fernandes repeatedly used leg kicks and a lunging overhand right to set up takedowns, while Nguyen countered with leg kicks and his own stiff right hand. “The Situ-Asian” was able to hold his own against Fernandes’s vaunted grappling for the most part, scrambling out of dangerous situations even when Fernandes was able to put him on the mat.
In Round 3, Fernandes managed to secure back control and he searched for a rear-naked choke only to have Nguyen slip out of his grasp.
Nguyen’s jab was giving Fernandes problems throughout the fight. He opened up a cut on Fernandes’s forehead and opened it up even more in Round 4 when he caught Fernandes with a kick as he ducked in for a takedown attempt.
The judges likely were waiting for a decisive final frame to help them render their decision (ONE bouts are scored in their entirety, not round by round) and it was Fernandes who would land the most telling blow, knocking Nguyen down with about a minute remaining in the fight:
In the end, two of the three judges deemed Fernandes the winner. In addition to increasing his championship streak, he has now won 14-consecutive bouts and his pro record stands at 22-3.
“I said I would win the fight. I really needed the challenge for my life right now,” Fernandes said post-fight. “I’m here to stay. I’m the champion. I’m the best in the world. I’m the best bantamweight in the world. I proved it many times. By this moment in my life right now I want to only put my stamp here and say I’m the man.”
Nguyen (10-2) was vying to become a three-division MMA champion, having previously captured ONE’s lightweight and featherweight belts with wins over Eduard Folayang and Marat Gafurov, respectively. Instead, he tastes defeat for the first time since September 2015.
Saturday’s ONE event also marked the MMA debut of Brazilian jiu-jitsu star Garry Tonon. The New Jersey native opened up the main card with a win over a game Richard Corminal.
Tonon surprisingly spent much of the fight on his feet and he scored a knockdown near the end of round one that nearly led to a finish. However, it was his grappling that eventually got him the win as he took the fight to the mat in round two and finished with ground-and-pound from full mount.
Garry Tonon wasn’t just out to win, he wanted to make a dominant statement. That he did with an impressive debut victory over Richard Corminal via TKO. #IronWill #Bangkok #MartialArts pic.twitter.com/TVOIoQP9XA— ONE Championship (@ONEChampionship) March 24, 2018
In other main card highlights, strawweight Jeremy Miado and lightweight Shannon Wiratchai authored a pair of fast first-round knockouts, and lightweight Saygid Guseyn Arslanaliev capped off a back-and-forth battle against Tetsuya Yamada with a third-round armbar:
Pakistan’s Waqar Umar weathered an early storm from Zhikang Zhao and came back to secure a first-round rear-naked choke in their featherweight clash:
And newcomer Angela Sabanal pulled off an upset by out-striking Rika Ishige en route to a unanimous decision win.
See the full results below:
Bibiano Fernandes def. Martin Nguyen via split decision
Jeremy Miado def. Dejdamrong Sor Amnuaysirichoke via KO (punches) at 1:29 of Round 1
Shannon Wiratchai def. Rahul Raju via KO (punch) at :21 of Round 1
Angelie Sabanal def. Rika Ishige via unanimous decision
Saygid Guseyn Arslanaliev def. Tetsuya Yamada via submission (armbar) at 2:51 of Round 3
Waqar Umar def. Zhikang Zhao via submission (rear-naked choke) at 4:21 of Round 1
Garry Tonon def. Richard Corminal via TKO (ground and pound) at 3:40 of Round 2
Kritsada Kongsrichai def. Robin Catalan via TKO (suplex slam, ground and pound) at 1:40 of Round 1
Alain Ngalani def. Ariunbold Tur-Ochir via split decision
Sunoto Peringkat def. Hisyam Samsudin via unanimous decision