Like many of its Asian neighbors, India has a centuries-long martial culture. After all, people can’t dominate an area as large as the sub-continent without knowing how to fight. However many fans are quick to point out the seeming lack of Indian representation in the international combat scene. Even Myanmar fighters are getting more attention in comparison.
It’s true that the higher ranks of Asian combat sports tilt towards the Eastern side of the continent. But Indians still have a persevering group blazing a trail for their countrymen in the sport.
These are the Top 5 Indian fighters in ONE Championship.
Roshan Mainam – Promising Prospect
Most ONE fans will not know much about Roshan other than he has a Dota 2 name, and I don’t really blame them.
His entire ONE career has consisted of just 3:22 so far, when he submitted Khon Sichan in the first fight of ONE: Masters of Fate.
He might be more recognizable for fans of Super Fight League (SFL) – the regional MMA promotion in India. He’s 2-2 in that promotion, all wins within the distance.
Fans of ONE Warrior Series will know that Indian fighters in general are very good wrestlers. However, they frustratingly lack in the finishing department.
Roshan doesn’t have this problem. His ground skills are definitely good enough to take him at least to the middle of the pack in the Bantamweight division.
His only real obstacle is getting more attention for his fights.
Asha Roka – Queen in a Rough Patch
This is possibly the most controversial pick for this list considering Roka is winless in the promotion. Wouldn’t Ritu Phogat be a better fit as one of the top Indian fighters in ONE?
Normally yes, but I included a couple of considerations that ended in Roka’s favor. These are Roka’s run in SFL, and the quality of competition that shut her out in ONE.
Roka had an active clip in 2017, fighting four times in that year going undefeated. All of those fights ending in the first round.
So, what happened?
Roka made her ONE debut in 2019 and went up against Stamp Fairtex. A year after that, she went up against Gina Iniong. Not the easiest assignments for her first two fights.
As time goes on, Ritu may prove to be better than Roka. But as things stand now, Roka’s early record gives her an advantage.
Rahul Raju – Krusher Comeback
The Kerala Krusher didn’t get the best of starts in ONE.
He made his debut at ONE: Iron Will in early 2018 and got knocked out by Shannon Wiratchai in less than 30 seconds. The fight is No. 6 in the fastest knockouts in ONE history.
This was followed by fights with Garry Tonon and Honorio Banario. Raju didn’t get much luck in those fights as well.
But he’s managed to re-calibrate his game and went on a two-fight win streak in 2019. He defeated Richard Corminal and Furqan Cheema. Not much in terms of name recognition, but it’s a start.
Hopefully, he can continue his upward trajectory against better competition and become a top name in the division.
Arjan Bhullar – Here Comes a New Challenger
Now we’re stepping into contender territory.
Arjan Bhullar is now part of a growing line of former UFC fighters heading to ONE Championship for supposedly greener pastures.
All of these signings have a lot of hype coming in because of where they come from. Their results, however, have been mixed.
Would the Indian heavyweight be the next Demetrious Johnson or Sage Northcutt?
Arjan began his MMA career in 2014 in Battlefield League and in the next six years has fought for three promotions and only tasted a loss once.
Though this usually means a fighter is an unstoppable monster, Arjan has gained little notoriety even during his time in the UFC.
This is because the man is not a finisher.
The last time Arjan Bhullar didn’t see the judge’s scorecard was in his one and only loss at UFC on Fox 29. He did more of the same in ONE: Century Part 2.
Arjan managed to get through his first assignment in Mauro Cerilli and was well on his way to challenging Brandon Vera for his Heavyweight belt. A Champion that has finished all his assignments since coming to ONE.
But, because of COVID-19, those plans are on hold.
There’s a very good chance that we might only see that fight next year at the earliest. When we do there will be serious questions to be asked of both men.
Gurdarshan Mangat – The Best Indian Fighter
Saint Lion might not have come from the UFC, but he is undoubtedly the best Indian fighter in ONE.
Not only does he have the best record at 15-3, but he’s also the only one that’s fought for a title.
In 2017, Gurdarshan faced Team Lakay’s Stephen Loman at Brave CF 9 for the vacant Bantamweight Championship. Unfortunately, that fight didn’t last long as he got knocked out in the 1st round.
He bounced back with a three-fight winning streak at SFL before heading to ONE where he did more of the same.
He beat Toni Tauru and Abro Fernandes before running into Reece McLaren at ONE: Mark of Greatness.
The fact that he’s not cracked the Top 5 in the Flyweight division speaks volumes about the competition there. Fortunately, he’s just a couple of fights away from getting his name in title conversations.
These are our picks for the top Indian fighters in ONE. Who do you think has the best chance of making it up the ladder? Which of them will be the first Indian ONE Champion? Let us know!
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