On Friday, 30 October, 8.30 p.m., ONE Championship makes a return to Singapore in an explosive mixed martial arts (MMA) event. Dubbed Inside the Matrix, the event featured an unprecedented four title bouts, and concluded with a night of stunning triumphs and unexpected upsets.
The main card featured six bouts, with four title bouts. In the headliner fight, two-division (middleweight and light heavyweight) ONE titleist Aung La “The Burmese Python” N Sang defended his middleweight title against undefeated challenger Reinier “The Dutch Knight” De Ridder. Meanwhile, the co-main event saw Singapore’s very own Christian “The Warrior” Lee take on Luri Lapicus, from Moldova, to defend his lightweight belt.
The third title fight was in the featherweight division, where Martin Nguyen attempted to defend his belt against challenger Thanh Le. The last title fight, for the strawweight gold, was between “The Panda” Xiong Jingnan, from China, and Tiffany “No Chill” Teo in a thrilling rematch since Teo first lost to Xiong in their first match three years ago.
Two final two bouts involved Antonio Caruso taking on Eduard Folayang in the lightweight division, and Indian hero Ritu Phogat taking on Nou Srey Pov in the atomweight division.
Devastating loss for a national hero
The headliner fight of two-division champion Aung La “The Burmese Python” N Sang versus Reinier “The Dutch Knight” De Ridder was undoubtedly the most anticipated fight of the night. In the most unexpected upset of the night, De Ridder shocked the world with a stunning win by submission at the 3:26 mark in the first round.
Since obtaining his middleweight title in 2017, Aung La N Sang has remained undefeated. He was Myanmar’s first world champion in any mainstream sport, and was highly adored by the nation’s fans. This bout is Aung La N Sang’s fourth defence of his middleweight title. Carrying the weight of his nation’s hopes on his shoulders, Aung La entered this bout with quiet confidence, claiming that he will “smash [De Ritter’s] head in on the canvas”.
In the other corner, De Ritter came in seeking redemption after his 100% finishing rate was disrupted in his last fight, where he won by the judges’ unanimous decision. With an unbeaten record of 12 wins and 0 losses, De Ritter was determined to finish this fight by “taking [Aung La N Sang] down, and choking him out”.
Ultimately, it was the Dutchman that managed to execute his game plan, taking down the two-division ONE World Champion, catching him in a body triangle early in the match. Despite putting up a valiant defence against De Ridder’s rear-naked choke attempt, Aung La N Sang was forced to tap out when “The Dutch Knight” managed to slide his right arm under “The Burmese Python’s” chin.
A new champion in the middleweight division was thus crowned as De Ridder extends his perfect record to 13-0, with an impressive 92% finishing rate.
Singaporean Lightweight Champion defends his belt
Christian “The Warrior” Lee took on number one challenger Iuri Lapicus in his first defence of the lightweight belt since he was crowned champion in 2019. The former MMA fighter came in with a 13-3 record and 92% finishing rate, whereas the latter had an undefeated record of 14-0 and a 100% finish rate, with 13 first-round finishes.
Despite a rocky start from Lee when Lapicus went in for a quick takedown, the Singaporean fighter quickly regained control of the situation. After a few tense seconds of grappling on the canvas, the lightweight champion secured his position on Lapicus’ back and pummeled him repeatedly. This marked the end of the match for Lapicus as the referee stopped the match after 2 minutes and 19 seconds in the first round.
Lee’s determination and confidence paid off in his first defence of the title. He said of his quick victory, “I had a rough start early, but I stuck to the game plan. I was prepared to take this fight wherever it went, so I was able to reverse the position and get the first round technical knockout (TKO) finish that I called for.”
With this win, Lee cements his position as the lightweight champion, and looks forward to the opportunity to defend his belt again against other challengers.
Thanh Le takes a stunning win against defending Featherweight Champion, Martin Nguyen
The #3-ranked contender, Thanh Le, took on world champion Martin “The Situ-Asian” Nguyen in a heated match that saw the former crowned champion in a third-round knockout (KO).
Le made full use of his Taekwondo background in the first two rounds as he danced around the inside perimeter of the Circle, executing brisk kicks in the process. Nguyen stayed in firm control of the center, defending against Le while trying to connect one of his knockout punches.
With the defending champion getting a slight edge in the first two rounds, Nguyen went on the offensive in the third round and came in swinging. Yet, the tides quickly turned for Nguyen as Le managed to land a crisp right hand that dropped Nguyen to one knee. Pressing his advantage, Le begun an onslaught of punches. Despite an impressive defence by Nguyen, Le’s relentless barrage left Nguyen on the canvas, with the referee intervening at the 2:29 mark of round three to declare Le the new featherweight victor by KO.
Xiong Jingnan defends her Strawweight belt in a stunning rematch against #1 contender, Tiffany Teo
Defending champion “The Panda” Xiong Jingnan, of China, took on Singapore’s very own Tiffany “No Chill” Teo in a heated rematch for the strawweight title. The number-one challenger first fought Xiong for the strawweight title three years ago, and lost by TKO in the fourth round.
In the three years since, Teo has spent her time honing her skills and building up her stamina and resistance. Her efforts showed in last night’s match as the two fighters fought the full five rounds. Unfortunately, Teo didn’t quite meet the mark as Xiong won by unanimous decision of the judges.
Xiong’s strength in striking ultimately afforded her the victory over Teo, as the former landed blow after blow throughout the five rounds. Teo put up a valiant defence until the end, going in for a takedown in the final round in an attempt to finish the match. Yet, “The Panda” remained unfazed and managed to get back on her feet, once again defending her strawweight belt.
Despite taking on her second loss against Xiong, Teo remained steadfast, asserting that she was proud of her performance in this rematch and that it helped her gain confidence that she had a place fighting in this championship level. Likewise, the humble Chinese fighter clarified her intentions to remain in Singapore and train with her team at Evolve MMA to become a better athlete.
“The Spartan” and “The Indian Tigress” climbs the ranks
In the lightweight division, Antonio “The Spartan” Caruso took home one of the most monumental wins in his career thus far as he defeated Eduard “Landslide” Folyang, a former lightweight division champion.
After three intense rounds in which Caruso dominated, the latter took home the victory by unanimous decision from the judges. This win is another step up the ranks for Caruso as he adds to his winning streak. The buoyant victor has his eyes on the Top 5, and is particularly gunning to fight the #3 contender in the lightweight division, Pieter Buist.
Meanwhile in the atomweight division, Ritu “The Indian Tigress” Phogat fought Cambodian Nou Sray Pov to take home yet another victory, bringing her one step closer to her goal of becoming India’s first MMA champion.
Wrestling icon “The Indian Tigress” came in strong from the onset, forcing Srey Pov toward the Circle wall. She then executed her ground and pound strategy with takedowns and an onslaught of strikes. She remained dominant in the second round, and won by TKO at the 2:02 mark of the second round.
Night of triumphs and upsets
At the end of the night, fans were left reeling with several underdogs taking the belt from long-seating champions, and amazing triumphs from others. For those who missed the action, the full stream is still up on ONE Championship’s Youtube channel for viewing.
ONE Championship will return with Inside the Matrix II on Friday, 6 November, featuring Kiamrian Abbasov defending his Welterweight title for the first time against James Nakashima.