Eric “the Natural” Kelly and “Ruthless” Rob Lisita both made weight yesterday ahead of their featured featherweight mixed martial arts (MMA) bout at the ONE FC: War of Dragons event in Taipei tonight, the first of its kind to be held in the nation.
Kelly weighed in at 144.8 pounds (65.7kg) and Lisita at 145 pounds at yesterday’s weigh-in.
Kelly and Lisita are to contest for the right to challenge ONE FC featherweight champion Koji Oishi as they headline a stacked card of 10 fights that features three Taiwanese fighters.
This evening, Taipei-born Taiwanese-Canadian Paul “The Typhoon” Cheng is to continue his quest to become the world’s first Asian heavyweight champion before a home crowd when he takes on former Egyptian national boxing champion Mahmoud “Hellboy” Hassan, while Taiwanese MMA pioneer Sung Ming-yen and financial consultant-turned-cage fighter Jeff Huang will be seeking to impress in their ONE FC debuts.
Not joining his compatriots tonight is Former Republic of China Marine Zhang Zheng-jie, who failed his pre-fight medical and will be replaced by Tough MMA teammate Eliot Corley (1-2-0) of the US. Corley is to face Malaysia’s Rayner Kinsiong (2-0-0), a third-degree karate blackbelt and Southeast Asian Games karate gold medalist. Kinsiong, who has previously fought as a welterweight, failed to make the 155-pound lightweight limit and the bout will be fought at a catchweight of 157 pounds.
In the co-main event, former Legend FC lightweight champion Koji Ando of Japan (9-3-2) takes on undefeated Brazilian Rafael Nunes (10-0-0), who is making his ONE FC and international debut. Ando weighed in at 154.5 pounds, while Nunes weighed 154.3 pounds.
The event will be the first in Taiwan staged by ONE FC, Asia’s biggest mixed martial arts promoter which has previously sold out events in Singapore, Manila and Kuala Lumpur, and in the midst of an aggressive expansion across Asia and the Middle East.
ONE FC owner and chief executive Victor Cui was happy that all but one of his fighters made weight and promises Taiwanese fans a night of excitement.
“The fighters made weight and that’s always a really good start. Fighters have two jobs: They’ve got to make weight and they’ve got to put on an entertaining fight, and we’re halfway through that now,” Cui told the Taipei Times at the weigh-in.
“I think Taiwanese fans are going to be shocked at how exciting tomorrow night is going to be,” he said. “We’ve got a fantastic card, with some great local heroes and a couple of heavyweight guys on the card, and everyone loves to watch the big boys bang.”
Cui on Wednesday announced on Twitter and Facebook that he will award a US$50,000 bonus to standout fighters that thrill the fans and “show incredible warrior spirit.”
Philippine fan favorite Kelly (10-1-0), a rising star who has posted wins over former UFC lightweight champion Jens Pulver and Mitch “The Dragon” Chilson, is making his return to ONE FC after suffering his first loss in February last year against Honorio Banario, when they vied for ONE FC’s inaugural featherweight championship. Kelly suffered a shock eye injury in the fourth round and was unable to continue. Banario was awarded a technical knockout, and the title, which he later lost to Oishi.
Kelly has since recovered and after scoring a confidence-building comeback victory outside ONE FC, is ready to return for another shot at a title fight.