Last week saw a former World MMA Awards winner bounce back into the win column in spectacular fashion as he told the watching world, “I’m afraid of nobody… bring it on!”
Former two-division ONE champion and 2018 International Fighter of the Year Aung La N Sang was looking to right the ship after losing both of his world titles to Dutch grappling ace Reinier De Ridder in back-to-back fights.
Prior to his dual defeats, the man known as “The Burmese Python” was the biggest star in ONE Championship. A national hero in his native Myanmar, N Sang’s crowd-pleasing fighting style and penchant for knockout finishes made him the perfect poster boy for the promotion.
But, after losing his middleweight title to De Ridder via first-round rear-naked choke submission at ONE: Inside the Matrix in October 2020, the heat was on when the pair faced off again at ONE on TNT 4 the following April.
While N Sang managed to avoid being submitted again, he ended up on the losing end of a unanimous decision after five gruelling rounds as he surrendered his light heavyweight title to “The Dutch Knight.”
It meant that his next appearance inside the ONE Championship circle would represent a must-win matchup and, matched with longtime contender and explosive finisher, Brazil’s Leandro Ataides, the pressure couldn’t have been much higher when they faced off at ONE: Battleground last week.
But, despite that pressure, and despite facing an opponent who possessed fight-ending knockout power on the feet, coupled with world championship calibre jiu-jitsu on the mat, N Sang rose to the occasion and delivered the goods.
In a 95.8kg (211-pound) catchweight bout, N Sang came out all guns blazing against Ataides and was only halted when the Brazilian executed a superbly-timed takedown.
However, while “The Burmese Python” had previously struggled on the mat against De Ridder, he was able to nullify Ataides – a former BJJ world champion – on the mat and eventually scrambled back to his feet.
Then, with the fight back in the stand-up realm, N Sang loaded up his hands and, after a head kick helped him force the Brazilian back against the cage.
The Florida-based fighter then let fly with a blistering combination ending with a right hand that dropped Ataides for a huge knockout.
It was an emphatic return to form for N Sang, who delivered a huge statement to the rest of the middleweight division.
“In one of his interviews, (Ataides) said I was afraid to fight him. I wanted to show I was afraid of nobody,” N Sang told ONE co-commentator Mitch Chilson after his victory.
“I’m afraid of nobody, the middleweight division, anybody, bring it on, let’s go!”
[Photo credit: ONE Championship]