MMA: Shock losses for One Championship's American stars in first prime-time US broadcast

One Championship's flyweight world champion Adriano Moraes handed Demetrious Johnson a brutal grounded knee knockout on April 8.
One Championship's flyweight world champion Adriano Moraes handed Demetrious Johnson a brutal grounded knee knockout on April 8.PHOTO: ONE CHAMPIONSHIP
One Championship's flyweight world champion Adriano Moraes successfully defended his title against Demetrious Johnson on April 8.
One Championship's flyweight world champion Adriano Moraes successfully defended his title against Demetrious Johnson on April 8.PHOTO: ONE CHAMPIONSHIP
The event produced shock moments involving former Ultimate Fighting Championship champions Demetrious Johnson and Eddie Alvarez.
The event produced shock moments involving former Ultimate Fighting Championship champions Demetrious Johnson and Eddie Alvarez.PHOTOS: ONECHAMPIONSHIP/TWITTER

SINGAPORE - Chatri Sityodtong had promised American viewers something "unique" in One Championship's One on TNT 1 event on Thursday (April 8) morning at the Indoor Stadium, the organisation's big foray into the North American market.

And the founder and chief executive officer of One Championship was right.

The event, which aired in the United States on primetime on Wednesday night, produced shock moments involving two of One's most well-known names, former Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) champions Demetrious Johnson and Eddie Alvarez.

Johnson, whose 13-win streak from 2012 to 2017 is still a record in the UFC, was finished for the first time in his career when he lost via knockout in the second round of his title bout with One flyweight (up to 61kg) world champion Adriano Moraes.

The 34-year-old American had only lost three times in 34 fights prior, all by decision.

Johnson remained magnanimous in defeat, and gamely congratulated his rival after he got back on his feet. He said later: "It happens. If you're in this game long enough, it's bound to happen."

Brazilian Moraes, 31, called his win over the highly-decorated rival a "dream come true".

"I grew up watching DJ fighting," said the Brazilian. "He's a legend. I knew exactly what his game is (and) my team and I (came up with) a perfect strategy to fight against him."

Alvarez, meanwhile, was disqualified for the first time in his career, in his lightweight (up to 77kg) bout with Moldovan fighter Iuri Lapicus.

The 37-year-old, who suffered his eighth loss in 39 fights, was shown the red card after the referee had determined he had intentionally struck Lapicus on the back of the head. Lapicus, 25, was stretchered out of the cage which left Alvarez devastated.

While the American was adamant he had thrown punches to his opponent's ears which did not warrant a disqualification, he said the health and well-being of Lapicus was the main thing on his mind.

"I keep thinking about Iuri on the stretcher, because I've been on that side before and it's kind of messing me up," he said.

"I just want to know that Iuri is fine, then we can all go home."

American viewers were also treated to an absorbing muay thai fight between one of One's most exciting practitioners, Thai starlet Rodtang Jitmuangnon, and Australian fighter Danial Williams. Rodtang, 23, won via unanimous decision after their three-round battle.

Analysis

It wasn’t One Championship’s plan to have Johnson knocked out and Alvarez disqualified in its first show broadcast on primetime in the United States.

But every cloud has a silver lining and for One, this shock start to its One on TNT series - it has another three events scheduled over the next three Thursdays - has gotten American viewers talking.

In the Twittersphere, MMA aficionados have been debating whether Moraes’ knockout of Johnson with a knee while he was on the ground - it is within One’s ruleset but illegal with the UFC’s - should stand. The consensus has been split, with even some UFC fighters saying they agree with One.

There has also been a staunch defence of Alvarez and what was perceived by many as a harsh disqualification call when the referee could have taken a different tack - a warning or yellow card, or perhaps standing the fight up.

Either way, the intrigue over a different MMA product than what they have been used to with the UFC or even No. 2 organisation Bellator, could tempt American viewers to tune in for subsequent weeks.

Already, the previously unheralded Moraes has made some sit up and take notice with his statement win over Johnson, and with the likes of Christian Lee, Martin Nguyen and Aung La N Sang set to feature over the next events, One could steadily grow its North American fan base.