Two years ago, Rich Franklin launched his brainchild to find up-and-coming talent from around Asia – ONE Warrior Series (OWS). Unlike other similarly-minded shows that use a reality TV show format, an OWS event simply pits the invited athletes against each other, and if they win, they get a six-figure contract with ONE Championship.
It was simple to understand, relatively cheap to produce, gave athletes the chance to improve to get another shot, and could easily be slotted into the promotion’s fight calendar.
The program was as pure a proving ground as it can get. After ten events completed, we look back and judge the success of each card from those that just filled up our evenings, to those that produced genuinely exciting prospects.
ONE Warrior Series 8
This card has the distinction of being the first and only OWS event that didn’t take place in Singapore. The fights were held at the Bellesalle Shibuya Garden.
This is because the event was scheduled a week before the promotion’s highly-anticipated entrance into Japan – ONE: Century. Thankfully, the ceremony and glamour of the real event lived up to its hyped billing, because OWS 8 was quite underwhelming.
The card had 11 MMA fights, 3 Kickboxing matches and 1 Muay Thai bout. Nine of them ended in a decision and not a single fighter was given a contract.
Hopes were high for the American Middleweight De’von “Bam” Morris, who, up until that point, had gone undefeated in OWS 3, 4, and 6. All the pieces of a ‘gimme’ fight were in place. Undefeated prospect going up against a man he already knocked out and who hasn’t won since.
The promotion was so sure he would win his next fight, they even released a promo video of him a week before the event.
But all their plans were upset, as Morris was outpointed by Emanuel Onyedikachi, earning a Unanimous Decision victory. Up to this day, OWS 8 is suspiciously the only event that isn’t fully available on YouTube or the ONE App.
ONE Warrior Series 5
Although the event featured a sample of good fighters that are worth keeping an eye on, OWS 5 was a strangely neutral affair. There’s nothing really wrong with the card, but it doesn’t really rise up to the profile of the other events.
The card had 14 fights all of which were MMA. The matches include the debut of Carlos Prates, wins by Jerry Olsim, Shinechagtga Zoltsetseg, Kieran Joblin, Kristy Obst, Rick Alchin, and Ismael Bandiwan.
But none of them were good enough for Rich Franklin to award a contract.
Nobody can really call OWS 5 the apex for anyone’s career, nor are the performances necessarily the best we’ve seen from all those mentioned. Filler is probably the best word to describe this event.
Good to have, but not really essential in the grand scheme of things.
ONE Warrior Series 10
We covered OWS 10 and much of our thoughts on the card are already known. So we won’t go into much detail here. Instead, we’ll only be highlighting the most important points and takeaways.
The best bits of the card were really the co-main and main event, as they featured two big upsets that derailed the upward trajectory of the losing athletes. Alan Philpott in particular was fully expecting to get a ONE contract if he won that night.
Similar to De’von Morris, ONE also released a promo video for Philpott a couple of weeks before the event. Is anyone seeing a pattern yet?
The entry of Sasha Moisa was a pleasant highlight since a smaller stage will give him time to prove that he is better than what the knockout loss to Smokin’ Jo Nattawut portrays him to be.
A big reason why this card is so low, even with all the drama and finishes it has, is because of the refereeing. I already had a lengthy rant on the subject, but the performance of the officials on this card was infuriating.
Rest in Peace Koji Shikuwa’s hamstring.
ONE Warrior Series 9
This card had a lot of twists and turns, and some of them didn’t even end in the ring. We did a throwback coverage for this card, and all the details are better explained there.
What really makes this OWS event stand out from the rest is Ali Motamed finally putting in the performance everyone knew he had in him and was rewarded with a ONE contract.
His fight with Hikaru Yoshino was an easy fight of the night. Something was always happening and it was never clear which athlete would get the win. In fact, even a draw might have been acceptable in this rare case.
The card also features a clutch of great performances including Kritsy Obst’s upset over Uyen Ha, as well as the further development of Carlos Prates and Viet Anh Do. If all goes well, we’ll be seeing all three of these athletes one day on the big stage.
ONE Warrior Series 4
OWS 4 is particularly interesting for a couple of different reasons.
The first is, this is the event where Kimihiro Eto earned his ONE contract. The second is who he had to fight in order to get that contract – Trestle Tan.
Most people might not know who Trestle Tan is, considering that he was 4-7 in his professional career at that point. But he was a ONE Championship athlete prior to his appearance on this card.
He previously recorded losses to Jeff Huang, Agilan Thani, and OWS 1 alumnus Dae Sung Park.
This is the first time that an athlete on the main stage was relegated to the OWS ring presumably for his poor performances. Something that would only be repeated once more with Sasha Moisa in OWS 10.
Eto has had a mixed bag of performances since coming to ONE. He failed to avenge his loss to Dae Sung Park, but choked out Amir Khan in the first round of their match at ONE: King of the Jungle.
ONE Warrior Series 3
Two athletes were given contracts at OWS 3 – Mark Abelardo and Ryuto Sawada. There isn’t much hype behind each man, but both are solid fighters with impressive resumes that, with a little luck, could break into title contention.
Sawada submitted up-and-coming prospect Ismael Bandiwan in the first round of their fight to earn his contract. Since then, he’s gone 1-1, submitting Aziz Calim, but falling short against the undefeated South African Bokang Masunyane.
Abelardo on the other hand, impressed everyone with victories over eventual OWS contract-winners and fan-favorites Ali Motamed and Shinechagtga Zoltsegtseg. But he’s had a rocky start in trying to translate that onto the main arena.
While he got wins over current #5 Bantamweight Daichi Takenaka and Ayideng Jumayi, he fell well short against Shoko Sato and Troy Worthen.
Both guys have the talent to make it far in the promotion, they just need that secret ingredient to push them over the top.
ONE Warrior Series 7
The big thing about this card is that this is the one where Lito Adiwang was granted his six-figure ONE contract. His performance in the main event of the card ultimately convinced Rich Franklin that what he saw within the Lakay standout was real and pull the trigger.
But Adiwang wasn’t the only one to make himself known in this card. This is the card where Alan Philpott generated the most hype prior to his upset loss at OWS 10.
This was also the event where Ali Motamed began to turn his career around to get back into the win column. The same positive performances were also on full display for the aforementioned Uyen Ha, Ismael Bandiwan, and Toreq.
For many of these fighters, OWS 7 can be considered a starting point for something greater in their careers.
ONE Warrior Series 6
OWS 6 has a lot going for it. It had Jerry Olsim, De’von Morris, Alan Philpott and the debuts of Viet Anh Do, Irfan Ahmed and Manthan Rane.
But its biggest draw was the showdown between Shinechagtga Zoltsegtseg and the then-undefeated Hyun Jin Lee. Whoever won this fight was sure to get a ONE contract just because of the caliber of their opponent.
But, as we now know, the Mongolian didn’t leave anything to chance and knocked out Lee in spectacular fashion less than two minutes in the first round. The victory marks his third straight win in the the program and there was a definite feeling that the everyone was excited to give him a contract.
Hands down one of the best cards that the promotion has put on.
ONE Warrior Series 1
In terms of action and drama, 6 and 7 are better than this card. But, OWS 1 will always rank somewhat highly on lists like this purely because of its nostalgia value.
People who look back on these events will be a lot more forgiving of the card’s obvious shortcomings just because it’s the first one.
A good example of one of these is that they weren’t as critical of the talent they were letting through. A grand total of three fighters got ONE contracts at the end of the night – Dae Sung Park, Woon Gyeom Kim, and Akihiro Fujisawa.
This is the most contracts OWS has given out for any single event. Only one of them turned out well.
Park is currently undefeated in ONE with a 3-0 record. On the other hand, Kim and Fujisawa are on losing streaks with the main promotion, having 0-1 and 2-3 records respectively.
Again, this was their first ever event and weren’t sure how to do it or if it would work out. The important thing is that they learned from it and make better quality shows down the line.
ONE Warrior Series 2
There is only one reason why OWS 2 stands at the top of the heap – Stamp Fairtex.
Never mind that the card also had Mark Abelardo, Zoltsegtseg, Kimihiro Eto, and Ryuto Sawada. This card will always be known as the Stamp Fairtex show and nothing else.
To this day, OWS 2 is the only event that has produced a Champion. Not just any regular Champion either, ONE’s first two-sport Champion who’s still undefeated in MMA.
This card really showed Rich Franklin’s eye for talent. He didn’t even hesitate to pull the trigger on Stamp, and it has paid dividends for the promotion ever since.
That’s our ranking for the first ten OWS events. See you two years from now, when we’ll probably do this again for OWS 11-20.
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