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Read the Lead ONE: King of the Jungle

ONE: King of the Jungle is already the promotion’s fourth event of the year and it’s only February. This breakneck pace is part of the ambitious target of hosting 50 events that will keep everyone busy for 2020.

Unfortunately, this one won’t be open to the public, as ONE decided to proceed behind closed doors due to the looming concern over COVID-19.

But even if we won’t be seeing them live, there’s still a lot of action to look forward to in this event, and the action starts with the Lead card.

The most striking thing about these prelims is that the fighters here could easily slide into the Main one. Fan-favorites, title-challengers, and even former champions are all on offer.

What happened to them; why are they here; and what happens when this card is done? Let’s dive right in.

Radeem Rahman vs Jeff Chan

Radeem Rahman weigh-in
Rahman via MMA Weekly.

Radeem Rahman should be an absolute legend in ONE Championship history. Not only was he one of the pioneers of ONE, fighting in its very first event ONE FC 1: Champion vs Champion. He was also the first Singaporean to get a win in the promotion.

The reason he isn’t is that he’s rather inactive in the MMA scene. He’s only fought five times in nine years – all of them with ONE – with a 3-2 record to show for it.

In an interview with Yahoo! News done last year, he explains that the hiatus was mostly self-imposed, but he has been keeping his body sharp while he was away. Whether whatever he’s done is enough to make up for lost time will be put to the test.

With that said, Canadian Jeff Chan is the perfect matchup. Like Rahman, Chan is also relatively inactive, with five fights in eight years and a 3-1 record.

There’s not much to go on with Chan however, since this will be his first fight outside his native Canada. Travel will always play a factor in the fight game, though there won’t be much jitters without the crowd.

Dejdamrong vs Rahardian

Dejdamrong sor Amnuaysirichoke versus Yoshitaka Naito.
Dejdamrong Sor Amnuaysirichoke versus Yoshitaka Naito via ONE Championship.

The fact that this match is not in the main card is mind-boggling to me personally. Dejdamrong Sor Amnuaysirichoke is the first-ever ONE Strawweight Champion, and at 41, he can still throw down with the elites of the division.

The man has already proven himself as a formidable striker with a more than proficient ground game. His name will always strike fear into the hearts of fighters who hear it, as well as commentators that have to say it.

A Dejdamrong fight is never boring and will almost always end in a finish. If he gets past Rahardian, a rubber match with Jeremy Miado would be welcome.

On the flip side, there was a time when Stefer Rahardian had the same intimidating aura. But since his four-fight skid from 2018-2019 against elite competition, his stock took quite a hit.

He’s done the first step of clawing his way back up the ranks, with a win over fellow Indonesian Adrian Mattheis. Whether he can sustain it is the question.

This fight will ultimately be the litmus test if he has what it takes to become a contender or become the division gate-keeper.

Ritu Phogat vs Chiao Chen Wu

Ritu Phogat wins at ONE: Age of Dragons
Ritu Phogat

After her compatriot, Asha Roka, fell for the second straight time at ONE: Fire and Fury, it’s up to Ritu Phogat to carry the flag in the Atomweight division. She was impressive with a 1st round KO win in her ONE debut, and fans were looking forward to seeing what she could do with a step up in competition.

They will get their wish in the mold of Chiao Chen Wu. Marginally more experienced than Phogat, Wu prefers the submission aspect of MMA. A wrench that might prove tricky for Phogat if she isn’t prepared.

The chink in Wu’s gameplan, however, is the ace in Phogat’s. Wu has been KO’d before and this match will be her first outside Taiwan.

Will the Indian Tigress devour another debutant?

Shannon Wiratchai versus Honorio Banario

(Left) Honorio Banario, (Right) Shannon Wiratchai via ABS-CBN Sports.

The more I look at this fight, the more I’m convinced that it’s come two years too late. 2018 was a year when Shannon Wiratchai barely knew what an “L” on his record meant, and Honorio Banario was rampaging through the Lightweight division after moving up in weight.

Now, both men are looking at three-fight losing streaks with little to fight for outside of relevance. This isn’t to doubt their capabilities in the cage. Both Wiratchai and Banario have proven that their skills and anybody who doesn’t respect them will be taught a lesson.

However, as the Lightweight division gets more and more crowded, there are some arguments of whether they can climb back up the ranks. Whoever loses this fight – depending on how it ends – will need to ask themselves some very serious questions.

Troy Worthen versus Mark Abelardo

Troy Worthen defeats Chen Rui at ONE: Masters of Destiny
Worthen defeats Chen Rui via ONE Championship.

Troy Worthen is one of the most exciting up-and-comers in the Bantamweight division. The undefeated prospect is a win away from breaking into the contender conversation and everyone is predicting a steep upward trajectory for his career.

Worthen is going into ONE: King of the Jungle with a 6-0 professional record that goes back to 2015. In all six fights, there is a definite progression in the quality of his opponents, and his latest assignment is definitely the toughest yet.

Standing in the path of the Worthen hype-train is ONE Warrior Series graduate Mark Fairtex Abelardo. The New Zealand-born fighter is on the complete opposite end of the spectrum when it comes to experience.

Sporting a 19-6 professional record, Abelardo explained in an interview with ONE that he will be leaning heavily on his experience and pressure to get the win. To him, it doesn’t matter what Worthen brings to the table, he’s seen it before and he can deal with it.

Mei Yamaguchi versus Denice Zamboanga

Mei Yamaguchi and Denice Zamboanga.
(Left) Mei Yamaguchi, (Right) Denice Zamboanga via ONE Championship.

Mei Yamaguchi is arguably the second or third best Atomweight in the promotion. But because she’s already faced and failed to beat Angela Lee twice, a third fight makes little sense.

She’s currently stuck in an MMA purgatory, where she can keep winning without any direction while the title is with Lee. The next best thing for her to do is keep active and build her case for a title shot if the belt ever changes hands.

This is where Denice Zamboanga steps in both literally and figuratively. Zamboanga is a substitute for Meng Bo, who has had to withdraw from a fight with Yamaguchi due to injury – for the third time.

Zamboanga is an undefeated prospect that derailed the hype-train of Jihin Radzuan in her ONE debut and comes from a fighting family stock. Her brother is the URCC Bantamweight Champion and she will definitely have the same golden aspirations.

The betting odds will definitely be on the Japanese fighter’s side. But if Zamboanga pulls an upset, she said that she will immediately call out Lee and there’s a good chance she’ll get a shot.

Even though Stamp Fairtex, Istela Nunes, Itsuki Hirata, and Priscilla Hertati Lumban Gaol all have their own strong cases, a win over Yamaguchi is just that big of a deal.

The lead card for ONE: King of the Jungle is unique with how much star-power it has on display. The way some of them got there is less than ideal. But, we still get a great cache of fights out of it. Watch out for any upsets, as those have the potential to completely shift the landscape of a division.

Follow me on Twitter at @BjornPossel and follow us @OT_Heroics for more great content!

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