In a monumental ONE Championship fight that will live long in the memory, Myanmar’s double-weight class champion Aung La N Sang successfully defended his middleweight belt while displaying all the hallmarks of a truly legendary fighter.
A classic bout with all the drama of a Hollywood epic, ONE Championship’s social media channels were quick to herald “the best bout in ONE history,” while MMAJunkie blog hailed the fight “the greatest we have ever seen.”
The first round was a heated yet cagey affair, with both men testing each other from the bell. The two powerful boxers looked equally matched as Aung La controlled the tempo with jabs, several big rights, and a few swinging kicks to the midriff of the southpaw Hasegawa, while trying to connect with an occasional roundhouse.
At the end of the round, the most striking observation was the similarity of their fighting styles—and that Hasegawa, the composed veteran of the Japanese martial arts circuit, meant business here in Yangon.
In the second, Hasegawa launched into a more aggressive strategy, exploiting the Burmese Python’s relaxed stance. Dancing around the centre of the cage, the energized Japanese began using his right lead to find the angles and land a select combo of hits, demonstrating his fantastic posture and powerful hands.
However, the Myanmar hero retorted with concrete straight rights and rib kicks to Hasegawa, a cut and dark swelling developing around the face of the challenger. Going toe-to-toe in the center of the ring, the two exchanged a barrage of jab-cross combos and straight punches, with neither fighter looking shaken, but Hasegawa emerged confidently, throwing extremely clean shots. Thuwanna was witnessing the beginnings of a classic stand-up fight.
An explosive start to the third saw Aung La land a strong head kick to Hasegawa—reminiscent of his winner against Machedo—with the dazed Japanese being quickly subjected to a firm right uppercut. One slip, and, to the concern of onlookers, Hasegawa took Aung La into a grip on the floor. Showing great resilience, the champion was quick to evade him, springing back to his feet to resume the stand-up fight and sending the crowd into raptures.
Despite refusing to step down the tempo, both fighters were now visibly gassed and swollen. With precarious loose stances they began slugging wildly in the centre of the ring; the thrilling drama and poor choreography of a Rocky Balboa fight.
The wild drama continued into the fourth: bruised yet fearless, Aung La and Hasegawa clashed endlessly, refusing to step down, the chins of both men remarkably withstanding punch after rangy punch. This was now a bout for the doubters, for all of those that had yet to witness the remarkable resilience and inner strength of the man from Myitkyina, now driven forward by the chants of thousands of Burmese fans packed into Thuwanna Indoor Stadium. The ONE Championship: Spirit of a Warrior event was proving aptly named.
Landing a firm right on Hasegawa, the champion dragged the contender to the ground, locking his arms around the neck of the Japanese martial artist. However, the exhausted Hasegawa escaped Aung La’s grip and returned to his feet, pushing forward with a flailing counter of punches. Never knocked out in his career, the Japanese veteran pressed on, only to be taken to the floor once again, with Aung La trying to take the back of Hasegawa yet lacking the energy to get both arms round his bulky frame.
At the start of the fifth, both men stood like gargoyles: swollen, battered, and exhausted. The unflagging Aung La started composed, with a high defence and accurate landing blows. Then, out of nowhere, a spinning back elbow winded Hasegawa who fought on, but was now loose and lost. Another take-down was miraculously defended by the challenger.
Then, one of the finest moments ever witnessed in ONE Championship history—a thrilling denouement to a galling spectacle. Aung La slammed a flying knee to the sternum, then slapped at the face of Hasegawa. Lost, and dead on his feet, the Japanese floundered to the cage yet was caught again by Aung La’s fist.
Falling to the corner, Aung La stalked the challenger and landed a sickening left uppercut to the already sleeping Hasegawa. His legs folded, uneven and messy, and his face planted into the mat—a total knockout in the closing moments of round five. An incredible shot from the Myanmar champion, and a thrilling end that left Thuwanna in shock and awe as they watched Hasegawa stretchered out of the arena and their magnificently unbreakable champion Aung La N Sang raise the belt once again.