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ONE Championship has Active Start Planned for 2022

The Weekly Takedown: Expect six fight cards through the first three months of the new year, and an appearance from Khabib Nurmagomedov

ONE Championship has an ambitious start planned for the new year.

The first six ONE fight cards will run between January and March, Sports Illustrated has learned.

ONE’s first-quarter events include Heavy Hitters on January 14 and Only The Brave on January 28, as well as yet-to-be-named cards on February 11, February 25, and March 11. There will also be a tentpole event on March 26.

Heavy Hitters takes place at the Singapore Indoor Stadium, and the main event is Xiong Jing Nan defending her ONE strawweight championship against Ayaka Miura. Jing Nan (16-2, 10 KOs) won the inaugural strawweight title in 2018 against Tiffany Teo, becoming the first Chinese champion of a major MMA promotion. She has since held the title for more than 1,400 days, with this fight marking her sixth defense. Miura (11-3, seven submissions) is a dangerous wrestler, making this a showdown between a top striker and an elite grappler.

Xiong Jing Nan

Xiong Jing Nan

Another featured bout on the Heavy Hitters card is Saygid Izagakhmaev against James Nakashima. The fight will be contested at 170, which is classified in ONE as a lightweight bout.

Making his ONE debut, Izagakhmaev (19-2) is ready to explode on the international fight scene. He has 11 submission victories and two KOs, and the 27-year-old is a direct training partner of the great Khabib Nurmagomedov.

“I grew up with Saygid the last like 15 years,” Nurmagomedov said. “He began training with my father when he was very young. I know him very, very well, and we have a little bit similar fighting style after training together for so long.

“Grappling, wrestling, clinching, how we move and use our body, and our hips on the ground, we do a lot that is similar. He’s a little bit taller than me and has very good boxing, with real good technique. His elbow and knee, they’re very good, too. So we have a similar base, but he is different from me, too.”

Nurmagomedov confirmed he will be cornering Izagakhmaev for the fight.

“I’m going to be with him in Singapore, and it’s going to be my first time there,” Nurmagomedov said. “I’ve been almost everywhere around the world, and Singapore is one of the countries where I want to go.”

As he continues to build his Eagle Fight Club, Nurmagomedov is particularly excited to bring one of his fighters to ONE and build a base in a new territory.

“I know [ONE Championship owner] Chatri [Sityodtong] and we have a good relationship,” said Nurmagomedov. “My manager Ali [Abdelaziz] and I talked for a long time, and I was thinking about ONE Championship. From my school, we didn’t have a fighter there, but we have a good opportunity now. That’s why we signed with ONE, and we’re very happy.” 

After a 12-fight win streak, Nakashima (12-2) has dropped his past two bouts. This is a fight he needs to win, but that will likely be an incredibly tough task against Izagakhmaev.

“Nakashima is a good fighter, and I’ve watched a couple of his fights,” said Nurmagomedov. “He has good wrestling but I don’t think Nakashima can control Saygid.

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“We have a good plan. We’re going to defend his wrestling and we’re going to give him some damage, and I really believe Saygid can finish him.”


Julianna Peña shocks the fight world with victory against Amanda Nunes 

Julianna Peña shocks the fight world with victory against Amanda Nunes

In a remarkable finish, Julianna Peña forced Amanda Nunes to tap out this past Saturday at UFC 269.

Along with Matt Serra defeating Georges St-Pierre at UFC 69 in 2007, Peña’s shocking win against Nunes will live on as one of the great upsets in the history of MMA.

Peña did not exactly come into this bout on fire. She had split her prior four fights, and then spent the first five minutes at 269 on the receiving end of punishment on the mat from Nunes. But in the second round, Peña’s offense exploded. She drilled Nunes with a flurry of strikes, wearing down a seemingly unbeatable opponent and completely altering the fight. All that led to Nunes’ first defeat in seven years, ending a 12-fight winning streak, when Peña applied a rear-naked choke and Nunes tapped.

The immediate plan is to run this back. Nunes will remain the favorite, but that rematch will be Peña’s chance to forever prove her victory was no fluke.

But Nunes was not the only one who suffered from the loss. Peña’s win was also gut-wrenching for Kayla Harrison, who was in attendance sitting cageside at 269. A two-time Olympic gold medalist, Harrison is a free agent following her dominating PFL run. A matchup pitting the undefeated Harrison (12-0) against an unbeatable Nunes would have been massive, and perhaps that would have even been teased had Nunes, as was expected, defeated Peña. Yet that is the beauty of what occurs in the cage. All of that timing was perfect until Peña changed the narrative.

A fight pitting Nunes against Harrison is still a main-event caliber bout, but amazingly, it now takes a back seat to Nunes’ rematch against Peña.


The Pick ‘Em Section

Here are my picks for this weekend’s card, UFC’s final event of 2021:

UFC heavyweight bout: Derrick Lewis vs. Chris Daukaus

Pick: Derrick Lewis

UFC welterweight bout: Stephen Thompson vs. Belal Muhammad

Pick: Belal Muhammad

UFC women’s strawweight bout: Amanda Lemos vs. Angela Hill

Pick: Angela Hill

UFC bantamweight bout: Raphael Assunção vs. Ricky Simón

Pick: Raphael Assunção

UFC lightweight bout: Carlos Diego Ferreira vs. Mateusz Gamrot

Pick: Carlos Diego Ferreira

UFC featherweight bout: Cub Swanson vs. Darren Elkins

Pick: Cub Swanson

Last week: 2-3

Current record: 55-37

Justin Barrasso can be reached at JBarrasso@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.