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Who Can Challenge Martin Nguyen?

Martin Nguyen cemented his MMA legacy by becoming the first two-division champion in ONE Championship history. He’s defended the Featherweight crown three times against a former champion, a current champion and a re-surging contender.

He’s more than proven his place at the top of the hill. However, contenders are always waiting on the sidelines. Let’s look at the five fighters who we think can challenge Martin Nguyen for his Featherweight belt.

Kai Tang

Kai Tang
Kai Tang via Tapology.

Though the Chinese fighter has only two wins in ONE Championship, his latest victory came at the expense of Featherweight gatekeeper Edward Kelly.

Tang hasn’t lost a fight since 2017 and is showing promise in leapfrogging most of the division to make a blazing fast title-run. The challenge for Tang and his team for 2020 is in choosing his next few opponents.

He is yet to complete his all-around game and there are some weaknesses in his style that some of the veterans can exploit. He needs to get more big names on his resume that won’t spoil the party he’s planning with Nguyen.

An impressive win over Kazuki Tokudume or Adrian Pang should give everyone a better idea of what Tang can do and where he is on the Featherweight ladder.

Chang Min Yoon

Chang Min Yoon
Chang Min Yoon via Top Sports Asia.

This surprising South Korean came out of nowhere, when he choked out Myanmar darling Phoe Thaw in the first round of ONE Century.

The fight was built as Thaw’s introduction to the main stage and to seal his contender status. Those dreams evaporated in just over three minutes, placing the spotlight on Chang and making Thaw look like a derailed hype train.

Chang has yet to taste defeat or go the distance in his professional career. That is very impressive in this division, but he needs a big step up in competition before he can challenge Martin Nguyen.

Former champion Narantungalag Jadamba recently fell victim to a sensational flying knee from the current champ. He’ll be looking for a way to bounce back for a possible fourth title run.

A Chang-Jadamba fight will be just what the doctor ordered for both men. Needless to say, a win over the Mongolian would catapult Chang to super stardom and he would find himself in a title fight soon after.

Thanh Le

Thanh Le
Thanh Le via ONE Championship.

Thanh Le is a beast, and ONE needs to do a better job in promoting him. His MMA record and resume is arguably better than anyone on this list.

Le’s only handicap in comparison to the others is that he only began fighting for the promotion last year.

His wins are over Yusup Saadulaev, Kotestsu Boku, and Ryogo Takahashi, and none of them went the distance. Looking at Le’s record, only one of his 11 wins are by submission, the rest are knockouts. The man likes to stand and bang.

Le can challenge Martin Nguyen today, and I’m not sure who I’d put my money on.

Just one thing’s for sure, when (not if) Le and Martin meet, it’s going to be absolute fireworks. It might not last for long, but it’s going to be a ride while it lasts.

Garry Tonon

Garry Tonon
Garry Tonon via Attack the Back.

The biggest threat to Martin Nguyen’s dominance is, without a doubt, Garry Tonon. He only has victories in his MMA career, all via submission, and is looking unstoppable in the division.

Nguyen has only faced one person with a grappling pedigree similar to Tonon – Bibiano Fernandes.

In the lead up to his title defense against Christian Lee, Nguyen reportedly said that if Bibiano couldn’t keep him down, how could Lee?

Such a sentiment would obviously not apply to Tonon when they finally meet. Expect the champ to keep the action off the ground, and try to use his right hand to end it as soon as possible.

Style-wise, Tonon has the best chance to finally de-throne Nguyen. Both men know what the other’s game plan is going to be. It’s only a question of who can execute on the big night.

Xie Bin

Xie Bin via Fight News Asia

With a 7-0 run starting from 2016, Xie Bin has the best case on paper to challenge Martin Nguyen. The 22-year-old Chinese fighter has proven his place among the top tier in the division.

He’s a shoo-in to be the next one to fight the champion, although there are some comparisons to current Lightweight Champion Christian Lee.

Lee went on a similar run from 2017-2018 in order to challenge Nguyen upon the latter’s return from Bantamweight. Xie might do well to take notes on what Lee did wrong in that fight as it was the closest Nguyen got to losing his title so far.

A Xie victory will undoubtedly be an upset, and will prove a turning point in the division.

Who do you think should challenge Martin Nguyen for his belt next? Did we miss out on a promising prospect? Let us know and lay out your case on why they should get a shot at gold.


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