MMA: Singapore fighters add gloss as main acts disappoint

Born in Canada and raised in Hawaii, strawweight Angela Lee (in black) won her third straight fight by submission. She beat Australian Natalie Hills and then said the support she received from the crowd reminded her why it's so special to fight for S
Born in Canada and raised in Hawaii, strawweight Angela Lee (in black) won her third straight fight by submission. She beat Australian Natalie Hills and then said the support she received from the crowd reminded her why it's so special to fight for Singapore.ST PHOTO: CHEW SENG KIM

It took three of Singapore's brightest mixed martial arts prospects to lift the gloom off One Championship last night.

Benedict Ang, Amir Khan and Angela Lee each won their respective bouts in style, thrilling a crowd of more than 8,000 at the Singapore Indoor Stadium.

Earlier, the co-main event had to be cancelled after Brazilian Luis Santos refused to make weight for the second time in as many days - forfeiting a much-hyped rematch with One's welterweight champion Ben Askren. The promotion's chief executive Victor Cui called it "single-handedly the most unprofessional incident I've witnessed in the sport".

Santos was two pounds (0.91kg) over the 170-pound limit at Thursday's weigh-in. Yesterday, he turned down an offer from Askren - a former American Olympic wrestler - to fight at 190 pounds.

An irate Cui said: "Luis won't get paid a single cent. But since fans have been begging for this fight, I will discuss with my staff if he gets to return to our ring."

Askren added: "I would like to apologise to fans for Luis' unprofessionalism. He's scared to face me because I'd whoop his a**."

There was no title on the line in the other headline clash between strawweight champion Dejdamrong Sor Amnuaysirichoke and Yago Bryan after the latter also failed to make weight.

Fighting at catchweight, Thai Dejdamrong defeated the Brazilian by unanimous decision to close off the eight-bout card.

"Luis should be banned from One Championship for cheating fans who paid good money," said lawyer Vinod Anand, who purchased a pair of $749 ringside tickets.

It was left to the hometown talents to cheer up the crowd.

Ang, 19, showcased Bruce Lee-esque kicks and punches to force a corner stoppage from Indonesian featherweight Yohan Legowo after two rounds.

His 34-year-old opponent taunted him after each attack, but the teenager stuck to his game plan.

"My corner told me to stay patient, keep hitting, and eventually he'd give up - which he did," a beaming Ang said of his second straight win in One Championship.

Fellow featherweight Amir, who entered the event with a 3-2 record, was next to deliver a telling blow.

Facing Filipino kickboxer Jimmy Yabo, the 21-year-old relied on a ground-and-pound game to spark a tap-out late in the first round.

Amir said: "Once I had him in position on the mat, I knew I'd finish him with my fists."

Strawweight Lee, 19, sealed the hat-trick for the locals with her third straight win by submission.

Amid raucous chants of "Angela, Angela", she locked Australian Natalie Hills in a "twister" neck crank for an opening-round triumph.

Born in Canada and raised in Hawaii, she was in tears after the bout when discussing her recent move to Singapore to turn professional.

She said: "I was homesick at first, but the support I got tonight reminded me why it's so special to fight for Singapore, my new home."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 14, 2015, with the headline 'Local fighters add gloss as main acts disappoint'. Print Edition | Subscribe