Undefeated ONE Welterweight World Champion Ben “Funky” Askren will be defending his crown against hard-charging Russian Nikolay Aleksakhin in ONE: Global Rivals on April 15 at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.
“We have an absolutely stacked card planned for fight fans in Manila,” said ONE Championship CEO Victor Cui.
Askren, a four-time NCAA Division 1 All-American wrestler and Olympian, kept his hold of the welterweight crown since April 2015 after a no-contest fight against Luis Santos. Askren accidentally gouged Santos in the right eye with his left thumb.
Askren seized the ONE Welterweight World Championship with a resounding technical knockout victory over Nobutatsu Suzuki in 2014.
“Ben is one of the most amazing fighters in the world. He got a perfect record. He has been calling everybody around the world in different organizations. I am coming to the Philippines and I’m going to see you out there. I will watch Ben make history,” said Filipino-American Brandon “The Truth” Vera in a short video posted on Cui’s Facebook account.
Aleksakhin, on the other hand, is a veteran welterweight fighter who will make his return to the ONE Championship cage.
He had an impressive debut when he submitted Burenzorig Batmunkh with a rear naked choke within three rounds on November 21, 2015 during the One Championship 33 – Dynasty of Champions.
Askren holds a 14-0 win-loss card while Aleksakhin has 17 wins and three losses.
In the under card bouts, Team Lakay’s bantamweight Geje “Gravity” Eustaquio aims to replicate his success against Gianni Subba of Malaysia.
One of the most formidable wushu fighters in the Philippines, Eustaquio’s accurate striking and cool composure has led him to a few big wins.
Subba, on the other hand, is a 23-year old seasoned fighter with a 7-1 card.
He has won his last four bouts including his last outing where he defeated the favored Anatpong Bunrad of Thailand.
In other bouts, Lowen Tynanes of Ewa Beach, Hawaii will take on Japanese veteran Koji Ando.
Tynanes will try to use his aggressive striking and no-frills wrestling techniques to subdue Ando. The Japanese fighter, on the other hand, is expected to use his diverse striking skills coupled with solid submission grappling prowess.
Featherweight standout Eric “The Natural” Kelly from Baguio City will go head-to-head against Timofey Nastyukhin of Russia.
Kelly is regarded as one of the best homegrown mixed martial arts fighters in the country. He boasts of solid striking techniques with high level grappling game that resulted in nine submissions out of 12 victories.
Nastyukhin, though, has notched a series of aggressive finishes since joining ONE Championship, including technical knockouts of top fighters Eduard Folayang and Yusuke Kawanago.
Filipino-Australian bantamweight standout Reece “Lightning” McLaren will try to reconnect with his Filipino roots when he takes on Muin Gafurov of Dushanbe, Tajikistan.
McLaren had his biggest win after a submission victory via rear-naked-choke over Filipino Mark “Mugen” Striegl in the One Championship 35 on December 11, 2015.
Team Lakay’s Honorio “The Rock” Banario will showcase his lightning quick strikes against fellow Filipino fighter Vaughn Donayre.
Banario is a former ONE Featherweight World Champion while Donayre is a lightweight standout Filipino fighter based in Dubai.
Another Team Lakay bet April Osenio will try to clinch her first victory when she faces fellow Filipino Natalie Gonzales Hills.
Hills, is a half-Australian atomweight contender with a record of two wins coming from both submissions.
The other featured bouts include Bernard “Hitman” Soriano of the Philippines versus Indonesian Sunoto in a three round bantamweight contest and Team Lakay’s flyweight Danny Kingad against Muhamad Haidar of Malaysia.