ONE FC 73: Unstoppable Dreams (image from tapology.com)
Beyond the big screen TV at the lobby of Onyx, the classes were ongoing like any other Friday night. The Onyx members who weren't somewhere getting themselves drunk or having some intimate moments with their loved ones were as usual, at Onyx, sculpting a better version of themselves either in Boxing class, or MAX (our strength & conditioning class) with Iskandar and Zim.
But this Friday night was not like any other, it was also the night of ONE Fighting Championship 73: Unstoppable Dreams. Perhaps aptly chosen because the headliner was the rematch of Angela "Unstoppable" Lee versus Mei Yamaguchi. Before meeting Mei, Angela has been dominant and has almost bulldozed her way through her weight class, but in their first bang, Mei proved to be a force to be reckoned with, and truly gave Angela several ohshitohshitohshit moments.
ONE FC 73 Fight Card (image from toggle.sg)
Luckily for us in Singapore, and I think several parts of the world, ONE FC is screened live (and free!) on Toggle, so it only made perfect sense for us to use the huge ass television that we have in the lobby to screen the whole event.
The prelims went by uneventfully, we saw familiar faces; Huang Shi Hao, who was the high disciple of our previous BJJ coach made his debut in ONE, put up a great fight, but was mercilessly kneed in the face several times, broke his nose, before the towel was thrown in. But the boy looked as though he would have carried on even if his face was smashed in. Huge heart, and a true fighter.
In another prelim, there was a feisty Italian who came in head strong against a Thai legend, oh, and in Muay Thai rules! They have kickboxing and Muay Thai in ONE FC events now apparently. The Italian looked lost in the first and took quite a rabak beating. When the second round came, he looked awake, and was seriously threatening a comeback, but alas, the irritating referee decided that aesthetics were more important because there was some bleeding from a cut, and stopped the fight prematurely. Ok sure, safety first.
There was also a prelim where a Cambodian went against a Chinese national, Meas Meul vs Xie Chao. Meas had a mane of thick hair, and he honestly looked like a long hair version of Yodsaenklai. There's nothing to rave about the fight, Meas lost via TKO in round 3, after a sparkling fight. But the whole time we thought he was really a fun loving dude, and I actually commented to Choco that he seemed to encapsulate the words, "I come here for good time, not for long time". He looked like he had fun.
Then came the main card, Amir Khan went up against a weird Korean, which half the time we don't really know wtf the Korean was doing. He seem to be going for leg locks, but he didn't look like he was here to fight. Needless to say, he was finished rather easily. I don't think his attempts at locks truly threatened his opponent. Some other bouts later, it was finally time for the main highlight of the evening, and the event: Yodsaenklai Fairtex.
Yodsaenklai Fairtex showing his trademark southpaw kick that rained all night (image from onefc.com)
In hindsight, the kickboxing fight was typical Yod. Nothing spectacular, just consistently well timed left kicks that his opponent failed largely to block nor avoid. In our lobby, Pi Keng watches the fight intently for about 1 minute, and quickly commented to the crowd gathered at the Onyx lobby, 'hunlet persen die' (100% die). Yodsaenklai won by decision after 3 rounds, much to the semi delight of everyone, and much to the expectations of everyone.
The two co-main event was kinda 'meh'. Christian Lee took a beaten despite running for 5 rounds. It was quite obvious that Martin Nyugen was visibly irritated by the running, and commented post-fight that he was apologetic for the shit show that he put up, and that he really wanted to finish. Sam-A fought too, but that fight felt more like Sam-A versus Human Punching Bag.
Then came the main event. By this time, only half the original crowd had remain, it was probably 1130pm, and classes were already over two hours ago.
Mei Yamaguchi walked out, then followed by Angela Lee, with a weird facial expression, don't know why. Angela was walked out by Joseph Schooling, and carried a Singapore flag on her back. Some of us in the audience couldn't agree with her representation and made several snark remarks. Angela then got really teary before entering the cage, presumably from her emotions erupting in front of the sold out crowd in Singapore Indoor Stadium, and in front of her family. Christian Lee was also spotted cornering for her, but his swollen face told the tale of the repercussion of fighting Martin Nyugen.
With the two ladies in the cage, and the gates locked, the referee then started with the usual proceedings. The usual briefing to both fighters before the start of the fight, and it was at this time, it looked like lower primary school kid fighting upper secondary. Mei Yamaguchi looked seriously seriously small compared to Angela, and the bunch of us remaining cast doubts of whether they are truly the same weight class. Well, there's a weigh-in, so they probably are.... who knows.
When the fight began, it honestly looked like it was gonna be another Angela showcase. She was dominant and at several occasion, I thought she proved to be too much of a challenge for Mei. There were several submission attempts that looked like confirm-guarantee-chop finish, but every single time, Mei survived, and then more. Up until this point, it didn't seem like Mei had the right answers for Angela's onslaught.
It was really until round 3 or so, Mei started to find and then tilt the balance of the fight. She started clipping Angela, but as the round progresses, Mei was able to go really handsy on Angela. Mei dished several punches to Angela that rocked her head backwards, and knocked her down a few times. At the end of the fourth round, the fight was proving to be a real thriller, and I'm pretty sure Faruq who's probably having break-fast supper at a pasar malam is shitting his pants (Faruq's a real Angela supporter). The fight looked even, and was down to the last round.
Mei Yamaguchi connecting her hands on Angela Lee's face (image from conandaily.com)
Last round, Mei came out blazing and was giving Angela a real beating like we've never seen before. Other than strikes, Mei also had some takedowns that looked pretty solid and spurred the crowd on. The last round of this championship fight went on with Mei pretty much on top of Angela the whole time, and pounding onto her. The final bell rang and after the usual hurrahs left and right, it was time to go to the decision.
The two ladies stood side by side, separated by the referee. We saw the look on Angela's face, and we thought similar as well. Most of us who are still at the gym (it was around 1230am at that point), thought that Mei did enough, and it will be a change of an era. The results were announced and Angela was given the UFC styled "and STILL!" announcement. Mei's face looked really surprised at the result.
After the fight, social media went wild, with several news agencies and media outlets reporting on Angela's victorious outing. The majority of the internet populus however, wasn't too kind on their words and commented fiercely that Mei should have won the fight.
Regardless, it was a great event, and the bunch of us had fun watching it live on our Onyx lobby big screen. I mean, any event with Yodsaenklai is always worth watching right?