The not so Heavy Hitter Controversy.

Written by on January 17, 2022

The first event of 2022 was meant to be a celebration of Martial Arts but did not go according to plan for the ONE Championship Organisation – ultimately ending in controversy!

The celebration would start with the return to action following the end-of-year break and would also include the fact that the ONE Organisation would be awarding US$50,000 performance bonuses at every event for the first time.

The first hiccup in the celebration came when the originally proposed card of 12-fights was slashed to 8-fights, losing the co-main event – the Light Heavyweight Kickboxing Title fight between Kryklia and Aygun – along with three other bouts as well as a late replacement for Senzo Ikeda.

And then there were 8!

The loss of the Light Heavyweight co-main event and the fact that the main event’s Xiong Jing Nan had not been at her heavy-hitter best in her last bout (a UD win over Michelle Nicolini) almost put paid to the HEAVY HITTER billing of the first event of 2022. This was made more than apparent when ONE CEO Chatri Sityodtong told a virtual post-event presser “But I have to say, I’ve been disappointed with her lack of desire to finish, her lack of gameness and killer instinct in her last couple of fights”.

At least ONE Championship had the likes of Giannis Stoforidis, Senzo Ikeda, Ekaterina Vandaryeva and Tawanchai to save their HEAVY HITTER blushes!  Stofiridis’ double knockdown KO will surely be something spoken about for some time to come while those incredible body shots from Ikeda in the final round saw his ‘drunken boxing’ prevail as well as earn him one of the US$50,000 performance bonuses. The Tawanchai KO of Saemapetch was a fantastic display of brutal muaythai, it was a pity it only lasted one round. Another potential blush was the “Khabib” hype around Saygid Izagakhmaev was thankfully not derailed and this writer hopes that the commentators and fans will see him for what he actually is – a scary prospect for Lightweight division and an amazing athlete in his own right!

The Hype was Real.

The controversy started following the judges announcement of the split decision win for Supergirl over Ekaterina Vandaryeva. Considering that the bout was scored using the 10-point Must system, a close first round could be awarded to Supergirl. The second round belonged to Vandaryeva, who it could easily be argued won the round 10-8, it all comes down to how the final round was scored. Add to mix the fact that referee Olivier Coste almost stepped in on at least 3/4 occasions in the second round and his “chat” with her between rounds when she looked visibly shaken with the growing haematoma around her left eye. The third round was another close one with many agreeing that Vandaryeva did enough to secure the win despite being visibly gassed.

What is also interesting to note is that referee Coste spent most of the rest of the fight – following the near 30-punch combination thrown by Vadaryeva midway through the second round – watching Supergirl with the occasional glance towards Vandaryeva.

Consider then the following:

  • ONE Championship made a decision to disband their competition committee as part of its new policy for 2022, effectively meaning that they will no longer review controversial fight results. (as reported by South China Morning Post)
  • In reviewing the rules and regulation on the ONE Championship official website, they only breakdown the Global Martial Arts Rule Set with states the ONE Judging Criteria as follows and this clearly applies to all disciplines:
    • Near KO or Submission
    • Damage (Internal, Accumulated, Superficial)
    • Striking combinations and cage generalship (Ground control, Superior positioning)
    • Earned takedowns or takedown defense
    • Aggression

Based on the above breakdown and analysis – ticking at least 3 boxes in the above Judging Criteria – and the statement by ONE CEO Sityodtong that “Ekaterina easily won that fight, it was not even close”, it makes total sense that an immediate rematch has been ordered with both athletes reportedly accepting the rematch.

But this does not resolve the problem!

Unlike in the UFC and many other Fight Promotions around the world, the officials are named and known along with the specific athletic commission that they represent. This is not the case for ONE events!

Why do we never see the scorecards at ONE? It just adds to this and any other controversy when shocking decisions like this are made by supposedly trained officials.

Shocking officiating both inside and outside of the cage, negatively impacts on the records and earnings of prize fighters, and with the growing concern around CTE and the long-term effects of Combat Sports, bad officiating could (is) putting the long-term health of these athletes on the line.

The upside here is:

  • We get to see these ladies throw down again in the near future.
  • Considering that Supergirl is only 18yrs old, she is one hell of a talent for the future.
  • The uproar created – yet again, by yet another high profile officiating failure – will hopefully force the ONE Organisation to tighten things up.

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