The legend of Aung La N Sang has grown ever since he captured the ONE Middleweight World Title in 2017, but his stunning knockout victory over Ken Hasegawa at ONE: SPIRIT OF A WARRIOR has truly launched “The Burmese Python's” name to a stratospheric level.
The two-weight World Champion stood toe-to-toe with the teak-tough Japanese challenger for five rounds in a breathless, barnstorming clash that had the sold-out crowd at the Thuwunna Indoor Stadium in Yangon, Myanmar on their feet from start to finish.
Hasegawa, making his ONE Championship debut, stepped into the lion’s den looking remarkably relaxed and loose.
The DEEP Megaton World Champion took the action straight to Aung La N Sang from the opening bell. He stood in the pocket and traded punches with Myanmar’s World Champion in a thrilling start to the contest.
Even after such a fast start, there was no sign of the action slowing down, as Aung La N Sang and Hasegawa proceeded to throw everything they had at each other in one of the most exciting, crowd-pleasing contests in ONE history.
After a closely-contested opening round, Hasegawa turned up the pace and intensity in the second, throwing multi-strike combinations. It seemed to pay off, as the challenger forced the champion onto the back foot for long spells during the second stanza.
However, that hard-charging performance came back to bite Hasegawa in the third, as he emerged from his corner looking noticeably fatigued.
Across the cage, “The Burmese Python” – a veteran of back-to-back five-round encounters with former World Champion Vitaly Bigdash – was just getting his second wind, and the momentum of the bout started to swing in the champion’s favour.
Barely a backward step was taken by either man in the third round, but it was Aung La N Sang whose shots were the more impactful as he started to chip away at the remarkable resilience of the 31-year-old challenger.
To the shock of the crowd, Hasegawa briefly managed to take “The Burmese Python” to the mat, but the champion swiftly worked his way free. The Yangon crowd roared their approval in response.
With both men feeling the effects of the damage they had absorbed, they competed on sheer instinct, but it was the champion’s martial arts IQ and conditioning that saw him take control of the contest as they headed into the championship rounds.
The defending champion switched his attack from the head to the body in the fourth as he saw his opponent starting to struggle. Then, with Hasegawa seemingly exhausted and ready to drop, Aung La N Sang dragged the challenger to the mat in an attempt to finish the bout by submission.
“The Burmese Python” attempted a face crank, and then an arm-triangle choke, but with both men bloodied and drenched in sweat, Hasegawa managed to escape both holds and work his way free.
Later in the round, Aung La N Sang scored a superbly-timed trip takedown to throw the Japanese challenger to the mat once again. But despite mounting the exhausted Hasegawa’s back, the Myanmar megastar still could not find a finish.
Hasegawa had never been knocked out in a 19-bout career that had seen him take on much bigger, stronger men in DEEP’s openweight bouts. Despite the extreme fatigue exhibited by both men, it was clear it would take something special to finally finish the bout.
Deep into the final round, it was Aung La N Sang who summoned up the power to throw a perfectly-placed uppercut that sent Hasegawa crashing to the canvas.
This time, however, the challenger could not bounce back up, as referee Olivier Coste jumped in to wave off the contest amid wild scenes in the arena. It was a truly spectacular conclusion to a spectacular bout.
The bout was one that will live long in the memory of those who witnessed it, and it further cements the legacy of Aung La N Sang as Myanmar’s greatest sporting superstar, and one of ONE Championship’s greatest World Champions.
Post-match, Aung La N Sang explained that he expects to be even better when he returns.
“I promise you guys, I’m going to work hard. I’m not happy with this performance. I go back to training next week,“ he said.
“I want to be the best of the best middleweights in the world. Let’s go!”