Eric “The Natural” Kelly, along with two other Filipinos, will be in action inside a ONE Championship cage on Saturday, June 15, during ONE: Legendary Quest at Baoshan Arena, Shanghai.
Also seeing action are Angelie Sabanal and the now Malaysia based Trestle Tan.
Kelly, 37, will face the youthful Niu Kang Kang, only 23, from China in a featherweight bout while trying to halt a long, bad losing streak.
Kelly got off to a rousing start in his MMA career, winning his first nine bouts and 12 of his first 13, before suddenly seeming to hit a brick wall. He couldn’t keep the wins coming and dropped six bouts since, his last was a 19-second knockout to Won Il Kwon.
Kelly sports a 12-7 record, nine coming by submission and one by knockout.
Niu is a MMA prospect from Shanghai who sports a 4-1 MMA record, three of his wins coming by stoppage. He was victorious in his ONE debut last January, knocking out Indonesian veteran Sunoto with a head kick in just 31 seconds
Niu grew up in Henan, a Chinese province whose people are renowned for their love of martial arts, and his father was no exception. Niu’s father urged the disobedient young boy to start training in sanda to learn focus and discipline, setting his son on a righteous path towards becoming a professional martial artist. After years of training in his native province, Niu moved far from home to the metropolitan city of Shanghai in search of better training in 2015.
Niu now trains at Dragon Warrior Gym under famed veteran Alex Niu and has excellent striking.
Sabanal, on the other hand, takes on Itsuki “Strong Heart Fighter” Hirata from Japan in a women’s atomweight bout.
Sabanal currently sports a 1-1 MMA career fight record after splitting her matches against two elite women fighters in ONE.
She hacked out a unanimous decision victory against Rika Ishige in her debut match last March 2018 but was at the losing end of the same type of ending against Priscilla Hertati Lumban Gaol last November 2018.
Hirata is making her ONE debut in this bout. According to ONE, the 19-year-old is the latest athlete from “The Land of the Rising Sun” to appear in ONE and only made her professional debut last year. The K-Clann representative, however, has already had an impressive showing at the Japanese mixed martial arts web show Kakuto Dairi Sensou, where she won all three of her bouts by submission.
Meanwhile, Tan will be squaring off against Yoon Chang Min of South Korea in a lightweight bout.
According to ONE, Tan is originally from the Philippines but is now plying his professional mixed martial arts career in his adopted home of Malaysia. He won numerous times in Malaysian promotion Ultimate Beatdown.
Tan is extremely charismatic and is renowned for his showmanship in and out of the cage. After a successful run around Asia in various promotions in 2014, he scored a highlight-reel one-punch knockout of ONE Championship veteran Jeff Huang in Pro FC.
On the back of that hugely impressive performance, Tan was signed by ONE Championship and booked to face Huang in a rematch. He ultimately lost that bout but bounced back to score a first-round submission win over previously-undefeated Indonesian welterweight Djatmiko Waluyo.
Tan is sporting a 4-7 MMA career record. All of his wins, though are of the stoppage variety. He secured two wins by knockout and two be submission.
Yoon will be just in his second MMA fight. He lost his debut via a 9-second first round kayoe.
By: ARMANDO M. BOLISLIS
Photo by ONR Championship