Grading The Call Outs of ONE Athletes

ONE Championship has made it a point to separate itself from the trash-talking hype-priority nature that usually comes with combat sports. ONE CEO Chatri Sityodtong will talk himself hoarse about how much their company culture and athletes focus on the honor and discipline side of martial arts.

Due to the global pandemic, however, the ONE media machine is struggling to create compelling content regarding their athletes. They’re even resorting to putting out strange fillers like Ten Best Beards in ONE and Brandon Vera’s Funko Pop collection.

In addition to these features though, ONE athletes are now doing something that they haven’t done a lot of before because of the company’s chosen image. Callouts.

To be fair, this brand of calling out is still a lot more respectful than the ones we might hear from experienced emcees like Chael Sonnen or Michael Bisping. But there’s no doubt that these are happening because ONE needs their athletes to stay relevant in the age of lockdowns.

So, we’ll be looking at each of these call outs and see if the matches make sense.

Nguyen Tran Duy Nhat on Rodtang Jitmuangnon

With two knockout wins with ONE, Nguyen feels like a title shot is right around the corner and that a fight with Rodtang next is ideal. He explains that he’ll be relying on speed and fighting smart to get around the iron body, powerful left hand, and diamond chin of Rodtang.

The two wins he’s talking about were against Che Wil Azwan and Yuta Watanabe. Two guys with some not so stellar records, effectively telling little about what Nguyen can do against established competition.

He is justified in being confident in his speed, however, he’ll need to pick up a lot of slack in the fighting smart department. Both of his wins so far are capitalizing on simple mistakes by his opponents. The kind of mistakes that Rodtang either won’t make or just shrug off.

We need to remember that fighting smart was Jonathan Haggerty’s primary weapon and Rodtang bum-rushed him on two fights. Nguyen’s knockout wins may bring him closer to Rodtang on paper, but he’s yet to show something that can seriously threaten the Iron Man.

A better fight for Nguyen would be against the man he was supposed to face in March – Sok Thy. This guy actually fought Rodtang at ONE: Warriors of Light and got knocked out in the second round.

How Nguyen does against this guy will determine the real distance between him and the Champion.

Chan Rothana on Yuya Wakamatsu

The most successful Cambodian fighter in ONE is ready to take his career to the next level. The opponent that he thinks is going to help him do it is Yuya Wakamatsu.

I personally like this fight for Rothana because he has a lot going for him to justify this call out. He’s definitely improved his game, putting together a three fight winning streak over Abro Fernandes, Rudy Agustian, and Gustavo Balart.

Rothana also doesn’t have any illusions about the present difference between him and Wakamatsu – especially on the ground. The only problem that will keep this fight from happening is that the Japanese likely won’t take it.

Wakamatsu knocked out former Champion Geje Eusatquio and one-time Bantamweight contender Dae Hwan Kim. He’s already on the outskirts of title contention. He’ll be looking to make his own case to fight the winner of Moraes/Johnson and a fight with Rothana doesn’t help him.

Bozhena Antoniyar on Jihin Radzuan

When asked which match excites her the most Bozhena is quick to answer Jihin Radzuan.

This fight is the most likely to become reality in this list. Bozehna is 3-2 with her most notable win being a Majority Decision against Bi Nguyen. Radzuan, on the other hand, is 5-2 with wins over Jomary Torres, Jenny Huang, and Priscilla Hertati Lumban Gaol.

On paper, Radzuan has the upper hand on Bozhena except for the fact that both women are coming off losses. They’ll each be looking for rebound fights and they’re near enough to each other in the pecking order to book the fight.

All in all, great call out by Bozhena as a win over Radzuan will significantly raise her profile in the Atomweight division.

Koyomi Matsushima on Gary Tonon or Thanh Le

Now we’re getting to the good stuff.

Koyomi Matsushima is taking the fastest route back to a title shot possible and his call outs are going to the two guys that are getting those shots right now.

We talked about the five guys that can challenge Martin Nguyen a while back. Taking either one of them out is punching his ticket to a second title fight. There’s little doubt that Matsushima deserves to be in the Circle with Tonon or Le. What makes this call out interesting though is how he plans to take them on.

Tonon has one game plan, take the fight to the ground and finish the opponent. Everybody and their cat knows it. Whether Matsushima can do anything about it is the real question.

Le, on the other hand, doesn’t seem to know that he can win an MMA fight other than a KO. Even Matsushima is shaky on this match-up as he admits that he doesn’t have the power to KO Le.

Matsushima is a great fighter, it’s just that he’s calling out two guys that hyper-specialize in the one thing they do well. Can he neutralize their game plans and assert his own? Can the Jack of All Trades beat the Masters of their Game?

Add in the fact that both guys know that they deserve nothing less than a title shot right now. Whether they’d be willing to risk that against someone like Matsushima is another wrinkle.

Shoko Sato on Bibiano Fernandes, Kevin Belingon, or John Lineker

It’s not hyperbole to say that Shoko Sato can send call outs to whoever he wants and deserves to get it.

He’s the only man in the division that can justify getting a title shot. Sato is currently riding a five-fight winning streak ending all of them in the distance. His most recent outings include knocking out Rafael Silva and choking Kwon Won Il.

Belingon and Lineker should be happy for being called out by Sato. Whoever wins gets a straight shot at Bibiano. Heck, Bibiano would also be happy since it gives him something to look forward to in the Bantamweight division.

Very good call out, any of the fights are a must-watch if they become reality.

Rahul Raju, Pieter Buist, and Amarsanaa Tsogookhu on Amir Khan

Flipping the script on this one, here are three guys calling out Amir Khan.

There are two distinct messages sent when a fighter calls someone out. The first is “I think you’re a good fighter” and the second is “But I’ll probably end you”. The second part’s not very flattering, especially coming from three guys.

First, Raju. He’s not the best Indian fighter in ONE, but he is the most persistent. His 2018 was the most merciless row of matchmaking you can put together for a promotional debut. Losing in every possible way can take the heart out of a guy.

Fortunately, he managed to turn it around and put together a respectable 2019, choking Richard Corminal and Furqan Cheema. But, he’s got a lot of ground to cover if he wants to face Khan.

Sure the guy isn’t a title contender anymore but that doesn’t mean he forgot how to finish people.

Amarsanaa Tsogookhu is in a slightly better position with a win over established vet Shannon Wiratchai. The only problem is that’s all we really know about the guy’s abilities.

He lost to Eduard Folayang via Technical Decision after an accidental clash of heads, so that fight doesn’t tell us anything. He might surprise everyone by upsetting Khan, making his the most compelling of the three call outs.

Pieter Buist honestly doesn’t have to bother himself with anyone other than the title. He can take his time and wait for the winner of Lapicus/Lee and step in as the next challenger. (If Lowen Tynanes doesn’t come out of hibernation).

Calling out Khan may be a way to boost his resume, but it seems a risky move at this point.

Itsuki Hirata on Stamp Fairtex, Mei Yamaguchi, or Bi Nguyen

The hype-train for Itsuki Hirata is going full steam ahead with her third professional victory. The Strong Heart Fighter is steadily making her way up the ranks beating better and better opponents.

While people are sure that she’s going to be one of the promotions biggest stars, it’s not clear where she’s at skill-wise. Let’s face it beating Angelie Sabanal, Rika Ishige, and Nyrene Crowley isn’t exactly a strong case.

Hirata needs a fight that can showcase her skills and raise her profile simultaneously, and the people she called out can definitely do that.

Stamp Fairtex is the hottest non-champion asset ONE has in its MMA Atomweight division. She’s got the flair of Rika Ishige with the striking to back it up. A victory over Stamp translates into immediate rewards. The only woman that’s beaten her so far got a belt out of it.

I’ve said this a lot in past articles, and I’m going to say it again here. A victory over Mei Yamaguchi is a sure-fire way to a title shot. Denice Zamboanga proves this and Hirata has taken notes.

A Yamaguchi/Hirata is intriguing as they’re both grappling masters. Hirata is often compared to Yamaguchi and might eventually even become her successor in the promotion.

There’s a very real possibility that Hirata might beat Yamaguchi, but that would only cement her current status as a wrestler in MMA rather than an MMA fighter. This is where the final call out comes in.

Hirata and Bi Nguyen was the original fight planned for ONE: King of the Jungle. The fight was a striker versus grappler event and would allow the Japanese to showcase what she can do on her feet.

The Nguyen fight is the one to make. Hirata needs to know where she’s at in the striking game and elevate her star even further.

Phoe Thaw on Keanu Subba and Chang Min Yoon

Bushido was an undefeated prospect being set-up by ONE as the Myanmar hero. Those plans were left by the way-side when he was choked into submission by Keanu Subba and Chang Min Yoon.

He’s yet to return after his last defeat, but already plans on avenging both his losses. Call outs for rematches is hardly uncommon and there’s no problem skill-wise in making them happen. But they’re probably not going to happen.

Keanu is currently in the injury corner without a timeline or date for his return. Chang already picked up another win since defeating Thaw and likely won’t give the Burmese the time of day.

Chang’s management is probably looking at Koyomi Matsushima, Xie Bin, or Li Kai Wen to get more eyeballs on the Korean. Thaw isn’t anywhere near their radar unless he goes back to his winning ways.

Did these call outs make sense? What call outs did you wish happened? Which fight was your favorite? Play match maker and see what shakes out in the future.

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

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