ONE: Empower Preview
ONE Championship is back in action on Friday night with ONE: Empower, the landmark all-female event featuring the opening round of the much-anticipated Atomweight Grand Prix.
Empower will air live on September 3rd (Singapore time), from the promotion’s home arena, the Singapore Indoor Stadium. The event was originally scheduled to take place on May 28th, but like many sporting events, was scuppered by COVID-19 issues.
The event will be headlined by a women’s strawweight world title bout, as Chinese superstar and long-time champion Xiong Jing Nan (15-2) defends her belt against Brazilian contender, Michelle Nicolini (6-2).
Xiong has held the ONE Strawweight MMA Title since 2018, defending the belt four times since. The 33-year-old successfully defended her belt back in October in a slugfest with long-time contender Tiffany Teo.
Nicolini however, a decorated grappler, will present a different challenge. The 39-year-old won her way to a title opportunity with a unanimous decision over former champion Angela Lee. This one promises to be a classic striker vs. grappler clash.
The principal attraction of the event will of course be the grand prix quarter finals. The bracket features an interesting mix of experienced and up-and-coming talent.
The most experienced fighter in the field is UFC veteran and former Rizin FF Atomweight Champion Seo Hee Ham (23-8). ‘Hamderlei Silva’ has gone 6-0 since her UFC release back in 2016, and makes her ONE debut against 24-year-old Filipino, Denice Zamboanga (8-0). ‘The Menace’ is seen as a dark horse in the field, and brings an undefeated record, with three of her wins coming under the ONE banner.
Much intrigue surrounds the rematch between Ukraine’s Alyona Rassohyna (13-4) and Thai superstar Stamp Fairtex (5-1). While it was Stamp who appeared to be on her way to a decision win in their first meeting back in February, it was Rassohyna who emerged victorious with a dramatic submission in the dying seconds of the contest.
Stamp continues to protest the stoppage, claiming that she did not in fact tap out. The 23-year-old will get her shot at redemption on Friday night against the 31-year-old armbar specialist Rassohyna.
Another highly-fancied entrant is China’s Meng Bo (17-5). The 25-year-old is riding a six-fight winning streak, three of which have been in the ONE circle.
Meng takes on Indian wrestling star Ritu Phogat (5-1), who suffered the first blemish of her young career against Bi Nguyen earlier this year, a loss which saw her bounced from the grand prix bracket. However, the 27-year-old returned to her winning ways in July with a dominant unanimous decision over China’s Heqin Lin, and was ultimately placed back into the grand prix.
The first quarter final bout of the evening pits two up-and-coming talents in an intriguing matchup. 22-year-old Japanese fighter Itsuki Hirata (4-0) has fought all of her professional bouts in ONE Championship and has drawn American former Invicta FC veteran, 26-year-old Alyse Anderson (5-1). Anderson will be making her ONE debut, and given the relative inexperience in this matchup, the winner could well be a surprise package as the grand prix unfolds.
The card is rounded out by an atomweight kickboxing bout between Anissa Meksen and Cristina Morales, while the prelims will feature a women’s strawweight Muay Thai bout between rising star Jackie Buntan and Argentina’s Daniela Lopez. ONE will also cover any unforeseen circumstances, with a grand prix alternate bout between Mei Yamaguchi and Julie Mezabarba.
Filipino atomweight Jenelyn Olsim fought her way into the second alternate bout at ONE: Battlefield III, defeating Vietnam’s Bi Nguyen. However, opponent Grace Cleveland has withdrawn from the bout with illness, and at the time of writing it is unclear whether a new opponent is being sought.
ONE: Empower Full Fight Card:
ONE women’s strawweight MMA world title:
Xiong Jing Nan (China) (C) vs. Michelle Nicolini (Brazil)
ONE women’s atomweight MMA grand prix quarterfinals:
Seo Hee Ham (Korea) vs. Denice Zamboanga (Philippines)
Alyona Rassohyna (Ukraine) vs. Stamp Fairtex (Thailand)
Meng Bo (China) vs. Ritu Phogat (India)
Itsuki Hirata (Japan) vs. Alyse Anderson (United States)
Womens’s atomwight kickboxing bout:
Cristina Morales (Spain) vs. Anissa Meksen (France)
Women’s strawweight Muay Thai bout:
Jackie Buntan (United States) vs Daniela Lopez (Argentina)
Atomweight grand prix alternate bout:
Mei Yamaguchi (Japan) vs. Julie Mezabarba (Brazil)