So near yet so far for Amir

Singaporean Amir Khan aiming a kick at Costa Rican Ariel Sexton in One's lightweight Grand Prix quarter-finals last night. Sexton won the match by submission.
Singaporean Amir Khan aiming a kick at Costa Rican Ariel Sexton in One's lightweight Grand Prix quarter-finals last night. Sexton won the match by submission.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

He has upperhand for most of his One C'ship lightweight bout but suffers late sucker blow

With a packed Singapore Indoor Stadium behind him, local mixed martial arts fighter Amir Khan was in the driver's seat heading into the final round of his lightweight Grand Prix bout with Ariel Sexton at One Championship's Call To Greatness event last night.

But his Costa Rican rival turned the tables with just one sweep. Finally able to control the Singaporean on the mat, Sexton, a Brazilian jiu-jitsu specialist, slowly and methodically gained Amir's back.

A hush fell over the home crowd as they could sense the end was near. Sexton made his final move, wrapping his arms around the Singaporean's neck and applying a rear naked choke, giving him no choice but to submit 1min 13sec into the round.

The impressive showing by Amir, 24, in the previous two rounds proved academic. Amir, who has a muay thai background, had got the better of his opponent, defending takedowns well and finding his range with punches and kicks.

Twice in the second round, Amir looked close to finishing the fight, but was unable to find the stoppage he so desperately sought.

Amir, who copped his fifth loss in 16 fights, said: "I almost finished him and I felt I could have done that in the third round too, but I let my focus slip.

"I should not have let him take me down (with the sweep). I defended well in the first two rounds, but it was a mental thing in the third."

Sexton, 37, heaped praise on the home fighter, who was despondent as he trudged back to the locker room.

"I am a slow starter (but I) came back and was persistent. But much respect, that kid is a beast. He is a beast, man," said Sexton, who improved his MMA record to 13 wins and four losses.

In the main event, Thailand's Stamp Fairtex beat American Janet Todd via unanimous decision for the atomweight muay thai championship.

Last night was One Championship's first show since the Clash of Legends on Feb 16 in Bangkok that chairman Chatri Sityodtong called "without a doubt" the organisation's most boring event in their eight-year history.

But it was a different story last night as the fighters responded to his clarion call and put on many entertaining fights.

Thai kickboxer Petchdam Kaiyanghadao bounced to the ring in a shark costume - to the tune of Baby Shark, no less - and showed his killer instinct with a stunning second-round knockout of Japan's Masahide Kudo.

And Turkish fighter Saygid Guseyn Arslanaliev made short work of Ev Ting in their own lightweight Grand Prix quarter-final, finishing the Malaysian off in just 25 seconds after the first bell rung.

Arslanaliev will face Sexton in the semi-finals of the Grand Prix.

The other semi-final will see American Lowen Tynanes take on the winner of the March 31 bout between Timofey Nastyukhin and former Ultimate Fighting Championship star Eddie Alvarez.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 23, 2019, with the headline 'So near yet so far for Amir'. Print Edition | Subscribe