ONE Championship: Valor of Champions - Promising welterweight title fight ruled no-contest after Luis "Sapo" Santos fails to recover from accidental eye-poke by the champion Ben Askren
Many fans would've expected "Funky" Ben Askren to dominate and retain his welterweight title belt with ease despite the uncommon 61-win record of the underdog Luis Santos (61-9-1) from Brazil, but the title challenger proved to be a worthy opponent when he stuffed all of the champion's takedown attempts and effortless reverse two of them into his own takedowns using his blackbelt Judo skills. Askren kept shooting for takedowns but only ended up on the ground by himself grabbing Santos' ankle. I've never ever seen Askren struggle on offence like this. Santos had at least two opportunities to attempt soccerkicks that could've potentially ended the fight and made himself the new champ, but he preferred to play it safe.
On standup, Santos threw some good leg kicks and one of them landed so hard that it tripped Askren. This was turning into a very promising fight that had a chance to become the greatest upset in ONE Championship history, and then came Askren's accidental thumb into Santos' eye. The eye poke managed to help Askren get on top of the supposed underdog, but referee Olivier Coste stepped in and paused the fight in response to Santos' cry for foul. Here's the strange part, Coste then decided that the eye poke wasn't convincing and told Santos to go back to the ground position. The fight was then vaguely waved off when Santos kept refusing to continue, but due to the protest from Santos and someone outside of the cage, the referee asked for a "review" via slow motion replay of the incident on the big screen, which I had never seen done before in this sport.
After confirming that the eye poke was indeed true, Coste reversed his call and allowed the doctor to have a look at Santos' eye. Santos was then given 5 minutes to recover but after much ding-dong-ding-dong of what seemed to be a language barrier between Santos and the ONE officials, they finally concluded that Santos' eye was still impaired and he couldn't continue. And so in the end, the bout was declared a no-contest. Askren was frustrated even though he was the one who poked his opponent in the eye after failing to land any offence. He claimed that Santos refused to continue only because he was getting tired.
Those who paid to watch this fight would definitely be disappointed, but well, accidents are nobody's fault and they did try to get Santos to go on, longer than they should, actually. Let this be a case study to ONE Championship and all other MMA promotions. Hopefully they will learn how to improve the handling of such situations, and how to reduce possibilities of eye pokes. With open-hand MMA gloves, it would certainly continue to happen if nothing is to be done about it. Not accusing Askren or Santos but some fighters might even use it to get a no-contest ruling when they're losing or getting tired in a fight.
This card was pretty much a Filipino affair, which is fair considering that this event took place in the Philippines. Filipino-American Mark Striegl (14-1) had a successful ONE debut after giving Casey Suire (5-1) his first loss via rear naked choke in the very first round of the co-main event. The other victorious locals were Eugene Toquero (7-1) and Edward Kelly (6-2). Geje Eustaquio (6-4) lost by split decision in a relatively close fight against Anatpong Bunrad (5-1) from Thailand. Singaporean Amir Khan (3-1) landed a damaging elbow on the eye of his Pakistanis opponent Bashir Ahmad, which eventually resulted to a doctor's stoppage win to Khan. In the preliminary card, both Chinese fighters Liu Xiao Yang (2-2) and Wang Ya Wei (2-1) were victorious just as many would've predicted. Liu landed an impressive flat-footed right overhead punch that knocked 19-year-old Singaporean Nicholas Lee (3-3) out cold.
Next up, it's ONE FC: Warrior's Quest in Singapore on May 22nd featuring Shinya Aoki's lightweight title defence against fellow Japanese Koji Ando. Our very own Malaysian fighter Ev Ting will be up againt the unbeaten Russian, Marat Gafuro. If Ev wins this one, it may put him in serious featherweight title contention. Can't wait!
ONE FC 26: Valor of Champions - Results
ONE Warrior Bonus: (not awarded again)
Welterweight Title: Ben Askren vs Luis Santos | No Contest | R1 2:41
Bantamweight: Mark Striegl def. Casey Suire | Submission (RNC) | R1 3:48
Catchweight (57.1kg): Anatpong Bunrad def. Geje Eustaquio | Decision (split) | 3 rounds
Flyweight: Eugene Toquero def. Brianata Rosadhi | TKO (Strikes) | R1 3:41
Featherweight: Edward Kelly def. Jimmy Yabo | Submission (RNC) | R1 4:05
Catchweight (68kg): Amir Khan def. Bashir Ahmad | TKO (Doctor Stoppage) | R2 3:20
Flyweight: Liu Xiao Yang def. Nicholas Lee | Knockout (punch) | R1 1:59
Featherweight: Wang Ya Wei def. Sunoto by TKO (Strikes) | R3 1:21
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