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Monday, Feb 13, 2017


Five Asian MMA Stars Who Are Potential World Champions

Mixed Martial Arts | Monday, Feb 13, 2017
Five Asian MMA Stars Who Are Potential World Champions

Mixed martial arts (MMA) has certainly come a long way in Asia. From being a niche sport enjoyed by a select few to becoming an increasingly mainstream activity, MMA is captivating the region with athletes who continue to captivate with every performance.

The excitement, the drama, and the way the sport is presented has also evolved into a growing spectacle, with blockbuster fight nights in iconic stadiums across the region’s largest cities.

As such, the talent level has also undoubtedly risen, with a long list of inspirational mixed martial artists bearing the proverbial torch for the future of a sport which appears incredibly bright.

While every athlete aspires to leave their mark on the world stage, there are those who stand out among the crowd. Here are five potential MMA world champions from Asia.

Aung La “Burmese Python” N Sang of Yangon, Myanmar

Of the mixed martial artists on this list, Aung La N Sang is the oldest of the bunch. The 31-year-old has been wreaking havoc at middleweight for the greater part of the last 10 years. Age, it appears, plays a very small factor in the overall package of an elite fighter.

Based in Elkridge, Maryland, Aung La has plied his trade in various MMA promotions in the Western hemisphere. In 2014, he returned to Asia and signed with ONE Championship, with the aim of coming back to the land of his birth, Myanmar, in order to propagate the sport of MMA in his home country.

In 2016, Aung La attained his longtime goal, making a triumphant and emotional return to Yangon after more than a decade. Today, Aung La enjoys superstar status in Myanmar, where throngs of rabid fans follow his every move, and MMA gyms have propagated across Yangon.

To truly understand the “Burmese Python’s” impact on Myanmar’s martial arts scene, you have to be there live to witness his walk to the cage. The arena pulsates with energy, as fans chant in unison, cheering their beloved hero on with fervor. It’s a unique experience unlike any other.

To top it all off, Aung La also just happens to be one of the top middleweights in ONE Championship, featuring a solid combination of world-class wrestling skill and high-level striking.

Aung La has already competed for the ONE Middleweight World Championship, but fell to defending champion Vitaly Bigdash in early January as a late replacement on just two weeks’ fight notice. But the fight was competitive throughout, and Aung La stayed right in front of the champion while taking his best shots.

Despite the loss, Aung La remains one of the top contenders for the middleweight title, and needs just a couple of solid wins to earn another shot at hardware.

Christian “The Warrior” Lee of Singapore

One of the most promising young prospects in Asia today is Christian Lee, who shuffles training between Evolve MMA in Singapore and United MMA back home in Hawaii.

Lee, 18, is one of the youngest fighters on the ONE Championship roster and comes from a family of fighters. Both his mother and father are highly-decorated martial artists with expertise in Taekwondo and Pankration, while his older sister is ONE Women’s Atomweight World Champion Angela “Unstoppable” Lee.

After a solid amateur stint, Lee began his professional MMA career on a high note, winning his first five fights in spectacular fashion. Each of his bouts have ended in exciting first-round finishes, and Lee quickly saw his star rise in Asia.

In his last bout, however, Lee was put to sleep courtesy of a guillotine choke at the hands of top featherweight contender Martin Nguyen. It was undoubtedly a learning experience for the youngster, one that he will have certainly gained from, despite the devastating loss.

At his best, Lee is a lightning quick and enigmatic striker, with a robust grappling game which features unorthodox transitioning and modified submissions.

Yet perhaps his most significant asset is his desire to become one of the greatest martial artists to ever do it. Speaking to the young man, you get the sense that he is blazing a path for himself with a clear goal — winning a world title and attaining pound-for-pound dominance.

The ceiling is certainly extremely high for Lee. His potential is boundless, and it is exciting to watch his career unfold.

Agilan “Alligator” Thani of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Undefeated and just barely 21-years old, Agilan Thani was born to be a fighter. Thani struggled with his weight as a teenager, but when he discovered mixed martial arts, the Malaysian quickly fell in love with the sport and decided to make a drastic life change.

Since then, Thani has lost over 50 kilograms of weight and has significantly reduced in size. After conquering Malaysia’s amateur MMA scene, he has also realized his dream of becoming a professional MMA fighter, signing with ONE Championship in 2015 and going unbeaten with seven wins to kickstart his career. Now, he is considered one of the top prospects in all of Asian MMA.

The “Alligator” embodies the essence of MMA, combining world-class wrestling and grappling, skills he has honed while training in the United States with the aim of learning from some of the best instructors in the world.

Apart from being one of the most talented mixed martial artists in Asia, Thani is also an amazing human being with plans to help the less fortunate with the success he has earned from being a pro MMA fighter.

“Away from the cage, I would like to help the less fortunate, maybe open a restaurant and feed the people who need food,” said Thani. “If we’re in the position of giving, and we can give to our heart’s content, it’s a privilege for me, and I will take it to heart do the best that I can.”

Li Kai Wen of Tianjin, China

21-year-old Li Kai Wen from China relies heavily on aggression and his ability to land devastating blows, with sufficient knowledge of the ground game to play to his strengths. However, the main thing going for this talented young man is his fearless approach to competition.

Li is happy to take a few shots to the chin if it means he is able to reach you with his hands, which are latent with thudding knockout power. The Chinese stalwart owns six solid victories so far in his professional MMA career, and is 5-1 so far since first stepping inside the ONE Championship cage back in 2014.

His only loss came at the hands of the top-ranked Martin Nguyen, who stopped him last April. Yet despite the loss, Li remains one of the best featherweights in contention for a world title. After the Nguyen fight, Li bounced right back into the mix with a thorough unanimous decision victory over the highly-regarded Keanu Subba of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Li’s skills have brought him far from his roots in Tianjin to various corners of Asia, where he has showcased his talents to fans from all over the world. Despite his heavy reliance on striking, however, the door for an improved grappling game is wide open for the young man, and in just a few more years Li could end up developing into the next ONE Featherweight World Champion.

Danny “The King” Kingad of Baguio City, Philippines

The Philippines has produced some of Asia’s best fighters, particularly Team Lakay, which has already seen senior members such as Honorio “The Rock” Banario and Eduard “Landslide” Folayang capture ONE World Championships. The future is also showing quite a bit of promise, with young fighters the likes of Joshua Pacio and April Osenio leading the charge.

One of those promising young fighters is Danny Kingad, who in just a short period of time has quickly carved out an unblemished 4-0 professional MMA record.

Kingad burst onto the ONE Championship scene with a first-round technical knockout of Malaysia’s Muhamad Haidar. He then followed that victory up with his most impressive yet, a quick armbar submission of highly-regarded compatriot Eugene Toquero.

At his best, Kingad combines the swift and agile fluidity of wushu, which is inherent in Baguio City’s top MMA team, as well a great understanding of submission grappling and defensive wrestling, brought about by Team Lakay’s stark improvement over the years in this perceived problem area.

Perhaps the most endearing of all qualities Kingad possesses is his willingness to put in the hard work, day in and day out, in perfecting his craft. He is already incredibly talented to say the least, but with the work ethic required to one day become a world champion, Kingad is sure to be a bonafide star.

Despite being relatively new to the promotion, Kingad is in a great position to really make some waves at flyweight. His win over Toquero certainly proved he has enough talent right now to make an immediate impact. And if Kingad can continue obliterating opponents inside the ONE Championship cage, fans may not have to wait too long until they get the chance to witness the rise of “The King”.

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