Next to Japan, South Korea has the longest and most prestigious MMA history. Their fighters are also some of the earliest participants in the ONE FC experiment, culminating in Soo Chul Kim being the first Bantamweight Champion.
But where do the nation’s fighters stand in the biggest promotion in Asia? Today we’ll be looking at the Top South Korean fighters in ONE Championship.
Kim Jae Woong
The Fighting God just completed his first year with the promotion with mixed results. After establishing a successful 7-3 run with Top FC, Kim made a successful debut against Rafael Nunes but fell short against current #3 Koyomi Matsushima.
Fortunately, he bounced back in a big way with his latest outing at ONE: Big Bang II when he knocked out #4 Tetsuya Yamada. Kim’s fights with the top of the division means he’ currently flirting with the fringes of the ranking. In fact, taking the results of the last few months into account, there is an argument that he should already be the #5.
With just three fights under his belt in the promotion, Kim Jae Woong is already a top contender in the Featherweight division. A rematch with Matushima isn’t out of the question as the Japanese will seek to bounce back from his valiant loss to Garry Tonon.
The only thing keeping Kim from getting a number next to his name is the opportunity the management is willing to give.
Dae Hwan Kim
One of the most veteran names in ONE Championship, Dae Hwan Kim’s name has been on the roster since 2013. Though he hasn’t been in many title conversations in recent years, he’s still a major scalp for anyone in the Bantamweight division.
Kim has wins over Kevin Belingon and Masakazu Imanari but has consistently faltered against top competition. This puts the veteran South Korean solidly in the gatekeeper position.
Bibiano Fernandes, Daichi Takenaka, Shuya Kamikubo, and Yusup Saadulaev all had to go through Dae Hwan Kim, and they were all considered elite soon after. With more talented fighters flooding into the promotion, Kim’s chances of getting gold are dim. But he is still good enough to demand the respect of the roster.
Dae Sung Park
The only top South Korean fighter in ONE that’s undefeated, Park is a master at winning decisions and the only way to beat him is to end it inside the distance. So far, none have been able to manage it. If a former title contender and prolific knockout artist like Khan couldn’t do it, the chances for the rest of the division are slim.
With wins now over Khan and Banario, Park should be getting much more recognition and even bigger fights in the future. Only time will tell how far his skills and strategy will take him.
Kwon Won Il
With the number of fights he’s had Pretty Boy could have been a Champion by now if it wasn’t for his consistent inconsistency. Kwon Won Il has traded wins and losses since his arrival at ONE Championship a year ago. But even with that situation he still undoubtedly one of the top South Korean fighters in ONE.
His activity is something to be commended, but one couldn’t help thinking that it plays a part in his current predicament. Il either wins big or he loses big, there’s no in between.
Not many coaches will advise him to continue his current course if he wants to fight for a title. But when it comes to the fighters Kwon Won Il is a man to be approached with extreme caution.
It’s hard to quantify how much good some time off in between competition will be to Pretty Boy, but a fully-rested and motivated Kwon Won Il should ring even more alarm bells in the division.
Yoon Chang Min
Picking Yoon Chang Min at our top spot might not seem smart considering what happened in his latest fight. But losing to a former Shooto Champion could hardly be considered a failure.
Even after his loss, Min still has the most impressive performance record out of all the top South Korean fighters in ONE. Out of all the top South Korean fighters in ONE, Big Heart has the best chance of not just breaking into the Top 5 but win a belt as well.
His lack of caution was his undoing in his last fight and if his coaches are smart, it won’t happen again.
These are our picks for the Top South Korean fighters in ONE. With more talent expected to come from the region in the next few years, look forward to drastic changes to this list in the future.
Featured Images Credits to ONE Championship
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