One uniquely Singapore shock for US audiences

One Championship's flyweight world champion Adriano Moraes retained his title after knocking out Demetrious Johnson with a brutal grounded knee at the One on TNT 1 event at the Singapore Indoor Stadium yesterday. It was the American's first knockout
One Championship's flyweight world champion Adriano Moraes retained his title after knocking out Demetrious Johnson with a brutal grounded knee at the One on TNT 1 event at the Singapore Indoor Stadium yesterday. It was the American's first knockout loss in 35 fights.PHOTO: ONE CHAMPIONSHIP

One Championship's Chatri Sityodtong had promised American viewers something "unique" in its One on TNT 1 event yesterday morning at the Singapore Indoor Stadium, the organisation's big foray into the North American market.

And the founder and chief executive officer of the Singapore-based mixed martial arts (MMA) organisation was right.

The event, which aired in the United States on prime time 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 after a brutal grounded knee in the second round of his title bout with One flyweight (up to 61kg) world champion Adriano Moraes.

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

He 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 his 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 Iuri Lapicus.

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

The 25-year-old Moldovan had to be 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 on the broadcast.

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

At the post-event press conference some two hours later, Alvarez remained concerned for Lapicus, but also called the referee's decision "very rash" and said he hoped One would reverse the disqualification decision.

"It was a clean fight," he said. "I just want them to make it right."

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.

Yesterday's show kicked off a series of weekly events by One that will be broadcast on US prime-time.

Over the next three weeks, One's other top athletes like Christian Lee, Martin Nguyen and Aung La N Sang are set to feature in subsequent events, as the organisation looks to expand its footprint and build a fan base in North America.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 09, 2021, with the headline 'One uniquely Singapore shock for US audiences'. Subscribe