Arjan Bhullar created history at ONE: ‘Dangal’ as he beat Brandon Vera to become only the second man to ever hold the promotion’s heavyweight title. The 43 year old won the belt back in 2014 and successfully defended it three times before coming unstuck here.
Nicknamed ‘Singh’ the Canadian-born Bhullar looked livelier on the feet in the opening round and landed some stiff jabs. Conversely, Vera looking static and found himself on the end of a strong overhand right which appeared to be a favourite shot for the challenger.
Bhullar used the jab to set up another overhand before securing the single leg takedown. Vera responded by grabbing his opponents’ arm and might have locked in a kimura but nothing came of it.
In the second stanza Vera landed a big leg kick but was left stunned by a crisp right cross from Bhullar. The champion’s best shot of the round was an outside leg kick, but he was soon hurt by a big body shot from Bhullar.
The former Commonwealth Games gold medalist then took Vera down and unleashed the ground and pound. The 43 year old absorbed countless punches to the side of the head.
He struggled to his feet but Bhullar dragged him back down before letting go with some uppercuts. With Vera unable to defend himself, the referee called a stop to the contest as the Canadian claimed the belt and extended his record to 11-1. Vera falls to 16-9-0-1.
Bi Nguyen pulled off what might be the most important victory of her MMA career by taking the split decision win over Ritu Phogat. The Indian was due to fight Meng Bo in the ONE Women’s Atomweight World Grand Prix in two weeks’ time but the loss cost her a spot in that tournament.
Nguyen has a win in the ONE Super Series competing in Muay Thai and she showed off her striking early in the fight with a neat left cross and step-through knee. Phogat came into the fight with an undefeated 4-0 record and has previously been able to grind her opponents down by leaning on her wrestling background.
She dragged Nguyen to the canvas twice in the first round but, outside of some sharp elbows and a good left hand from top position, the Indian star didn’t deliver as much damage as she might have liked.
The southpaw caught Phogat with a stiff left cross early in the second round but was soon taken down with a single leg. The Indian star controlled her Vietnamese/American counterpart for the bulk of the round though she probably didn’t have enough to show for it as Nguyen worked her way back to her feet to land a head kick and left cross.
The third round was Nguyen’s best, and having enjoyed the better part of the early exchanges. The 31-year-old defended the takedown against the fence and fired off some stout knees in the clinch as well as some powerful downward elbows with Phogat locked onto the single leg.
Nguyen showed greater urgency and landed more in the latter stages. Phogat was often caught with a knee or a left hand as she crouched to shoot in for another takedown.
Phogat, who slips to 4-1, certainly looked shocked when the split decision was announced, and she may well rue taking the fight. Nguyen on the other hand, snaps a two-fight losing streak at she brings her record to 5-5.
Best of the rest
Ayaka Miura climbed to 11-3-0-1 with as she submitted Brazil’s Rayane Bastos with a scarf-hold Americana in the first round. Elsewhere, Gary Mangat rose to 16-3 with a unanimous decision win over India’s Roshan Mainam (6-3) .