ONE Championship has been on a roll in 2021 and this weekend’s ONE: Dangal event is set to keep the momentum going. A mix of the world’s best Muay Thai and MMA practitioners will take center stage on Saturday night with ONE’s most dominant Heavyweight champion Brandon Vera defending his title for a third consecutive time against former UFC Heavyweight Arjan Bhullar.
Slotted in the co-main event position will be Tawanchai PK. Saenchai Muaythaigym vs Sean Clancy, two decorated strikers and former Muay Thai male fighter of the year award winners. Before that, a high-stakes MMA match will take place between two top atomweights as undefeated Ritu Phogat will face Bi Nguyen in her first of two matches scheduled within 13 days apart. Opening up the card will be two catchweight bouts between Gurdarshan Mangat and Roshan Mainam followed by Ayaka Muira and Rayane Bastos.
Second Time is a Charm
In January of 2020, Brandon Vera announced that he would be returning to defend his ONE heavyweight championship in his native home of the Philippines, during the ONE: Infinity 2 event, May 29th of the same year. Arjan Bhullar was the opponent originally scheduled to challenge for the belt but was ultimately canceled because of the pandemic.
Almost one full calendar year later, the matchup is rebooked and both men will be eager to make the walk.
Brandon Vera 16-8-1
Before joining ONE Championship back in 2014, Brandon “The Truth” Vera spent 12 years of his professional fighting career in North America with 11 of those spent in the UFC. Among those years the Virginia native amassed a record of 7-7 fighting the likes of Frank Mir, Fabricio Werdum, Randy Couture and Jon Jones. After dropping two straight bouts to Shogun Rua and Ben Rothwell respectively, Vera decided it was time to bring his talents to the opposite side of the globe.
After quickly dismantling Igor Subora in the first round of his ONE promotional debut, the UFC veteran would go on and fight for the vacant ONE heavyweight championship belt against Canadian-born Paul Cheng. Vera would need no longer than 30 seconds to finish Cheng and win his first championship title with a major promotion.
The ONE: Dangal event will be the current heavyweight champion Brandon Vera’s first appearance back in the cage in almost two years. Back in 2019, Vera moved down to light heavyweight challenging former double champ Aung La Nsang for his own chance at holding multiple belts simultaneously. Unfortunately, it did not go his way.
Now with a return to heavyweight, a division he has almost exclusively been competing in since getting finished by Mauricio Rua back in 2012, Vera should feel back where he belongs. Vera has spent this training camp at Sanford MMA with the likes of Anthony Johnson, Kamaru Usman, Michael Chandler, and many other former UFC champions or current contenders working with coaches like Henri Hooft and Greg Jones.
Arjan Bhullar 10-1
Bhullar has his eyes set on history Saturday night. Born and raised in British Columbia, Canada, Arjan Bhullar’s routes run deep in Indian culture. If he were to get the upset victory over the current ONE heavyweight champion Brandon Vera, he would become the nation’s first-ever Mixed Martial Arts World Champion.
Bhullar grew up wrestling in the traditional Indian Pelwani/Kushti style from his father. His achievements, however, come in freestyle wrestling, where Bhullar became a gold medalist at the commonwealth games and represented Canada at the 2012 London olympics.
His MMA journey began in 2014 and quickly led to successfully capturing the heavyweight title in Canadian Promotion Battlefield League less than a year later. With a record of 6-0, the UFC signed the then 32-year-old Indo-Canadian, winning 3 of his 4 fights before his contract ran out. In October of 2019, Bhullar made his ONE Championship debut defeating Mauro Cirilli via unanimous decision.
ONE Dangal Main Event Preview and Prediction
Everything Arjan Bhullar does eventually leads to his inevitable take-down attempt. Bhullar has a very extensive resume in wrestling which always plays in the back of the minds of his opponents. He uses his feints and jabs to back up his opponents until he can get in the clinch positions up against the fence where he can tire his opponent out more efficiently.
Vera however showed his takedown defense should be up to par. In his title defense against Hideki Sekine, he portrayed his composure and patience not to rush into any unnecessary clinch positions.
The champ will look to take the center of the octagon early and dictate the pace. The last situation Brandon Vera wants is to be on the back foot pressured up against the fence, that’s exactly where Bhullar needs to take the fight early in order to avoid Vera’s heavy shots while he’s still fresh. If the Vancouver native takes advantage of those types of positions, he can control the fight or land take-downs. If so, we may see our first Indian MMA world champion at ONE Dangal.
Brandon Vera vs Arjan Bhullar Prediction: Brandon Vera Third round TKO
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Featured Image Credits to ONE Championship