Brandon "The Truth" Vera has run roughshod over the ONE Championship heavyweight division since his arrival. With knockouts in each of his performances in the division, Vera has taken the mantle and led the charge as the ONE Heavyweight World Champion.
On Saturday, May 15, at ONE: Dangal, a new challenger arises in "Singh" Arjan Bhullar.
Bhullar made a statement in his ONE debut against Mauro Cerilli, and now he'll get an opportunity at the gold in the main event of ONE's latest entry of their exciting 2021 campaign.
The American Kickboxing Academy athlete is a talented grappler. He is a 2010 Commonwealth Games gold medalist and has enjoyed success since transitioning into mixed martial arts. However, a World Championship has eluded him thus far, and it keeps pushing him each day in the gym.
But Vera will not go quietly.
"The Truth" believes this is his division, and he is the best heavyweight in the world. As the ONE Heavyweight World Champion, it is up to the challenger to prove him wrong. He'll get that chance on Saturday, May 15.
Journey back to see all of the successes both men have had under the bright lights of ONE. Tasting defeat is not something either man is used to as elite heavyweight athletes.
Watch how both men have enjoyed success inside the ONE Circle and how it put them on a collision course for ONE: Dangal in this special Road to ONE: Dangal video courtesy of ONE.
Brandon Vera vs. Arjan Bhullar | Road To ONE: DANGAL
ONE: Dangal airs on May 15 at 6 a.m. EST/3 a.m. PST on B/R Live!
ONE: Dangal airs on May 15 at 6 a.m. EST/3 a.m. PST on B/R Live!
Thursday night's Professional Fighters League show from Atlantic City was a mixed bag of results as Olympic champion and defending PFL titleholder Kayla Harrison made quick work of her opponent while former UFC heavyweight champion Fabricio Werdum suffered a controversial loss in his PFL debut. The two-time judo gold medalist did what she does in her women's lightweight bout getting a quick takedown against Mariana Morais, moving into mount and unleashing punches until the referee stopped the fight a minute and a half in.
Werdum looked on a similar trajectory against heavyweight foe Renan Ferreira gaining the early takedown and slowly advancing position. But as he attempted to pass from half-guard into mount, Ferreira reversed him, though Werdum was able to slip into a triangle choke from the bottom appearing to make Ferreira tap. Referee Keith Peterson failed to see it, however.
Werdum later claimed he stopped because he felt the tap but he didn't release his hold (interview below) and with no signal from the referee, Ferreira continued punching and hammerfisting the former UFC titlist. As Werdum seemed to go limp from the blows, Peterson finally stopped the bout awarding it to Ferreira.
Fabricio Werdum Post Fight Interview | PFL 3, 2021
Fabricio Werdum checks in with Sean O'Connell following the PFL 3 controversial no-call on the tap!
Dr. Craig's Martial Arts Movie Lounge
For knowledgeable aficionados, who understand the nuances of MMA combat and can go beyond emotional subjectivity, the three most anticipated MMA rematches in history might be Conor McGregor vs. Nate Diaz 2, Randy Couture vs. Chuck Liddell 2, and Liddell vs. Tito Ortiz 2. In 2002, I interviewed Liddell, Couture and Ortiz on the set of Cradle 2 the Grave (2003) when the three were at peace with each other (picture below). Yet little did each fighter know that one of the biggest MMA fights in history had occurred in 1962, at an early-unsanctioned pre-Shooto event in Japan, KK vs. GZ 1.
Though a draw, the humiliated GZ skulked away and angrily resurfaced in 1969 as a warning to KK as he scored the quickest victory in MMA history against KK's distant relative with a squash-out that none of the above fighters could survive. I am referring to Godzilla's animosity driven revenge against mammals, created by Kong at the Wicked Wham in Japan. It was a soul disturbing, millisecond long, crushing defeat of Bambi. Now 52 years later, they're b-a-a-a-ck and this time it's personal, the rematch, KK vs. GZ 2, welcome to the insanity and inhumanity of Godzilla vs. Kong (2021) and they are BIG.
Though Godzilla has had more bouts than Kong, taking on crazy, gigantic monstrous animals like spiders, reptilian birds, moths, a pincer-wielding lobster and three colossus praying mantises, Kong has a superior martial arts ancestral pedigree and heritage.
Kong's earliest martial monkey ancestor is Hanuman from the ancient Hindu epic Ramayana, which is uniquely intertwined with Thai martial arts. Based on 24,000 verses of Sanskrit and orally passed down for 5,000 years, it's a tale of love where hero Ram asks Monkey King Hanuman to help him rescue his wife from King Ravan. In 200 AD, the poet Valkimi put it into a written version.
Born in 1930, Muay Thai is a watered-down version of the lethal muay boran, which has its foundation in an even older art named ling lom (air monkey). Traditional muay boran fights were dances to honor Ramayana and the various deities battling each other, which included Hanuman, who could fly, change heights and fight. This is curiously similar to Swuin Wu-kung, the Monkey King in the Chinese novel Journey to the West, written by Wu Cheng, 1300 years after Valkimi's version.
Another Kong heritage art is monkey kung fu. Although kung fu related monkey moves can be traced back to the Han dynasty (206 B.C.-220 A.D.) the official monkey style is associated with a man serving a 10-year prison sentence. In the late 1800s, Kou Sze's prison cell faced a monkey colony living in nearby trees. Based on observing how each monkey fought, Kou categorized them into five personality types: tall; wooden; drunken; lost; and stone. Lee Shao Hau added angry to the list later on. Kong exhibits them all.
Sammo Hung told me if kung fu films have great action, stories don't matter. Godzilla vs. Kong is one of those kung fu films. Regardless of plot, acting, conspiracy theorist roles, evil scientists, idiots, actors simulating care or scorn toward 70-foot creatures represented by tennis balls and laser pointers, the whack'em smack'em monster bouts ruled the film.
Kong has a laundry list of quality yet will it be enough to take Godzilla to the cleaners? Or will Godzilla hang Kong and his laundry out to dry. It's appropriate that the first of their three rounds is an ocean fight that begins like the underwater duel in Wolf Warrior 2 (2017) that then switches to Chinese ching gong skills where heroes can run across water. Using head butts and kicking Godzilla backwards, which propels him a safe distance away from the resentful reptile, shows Kong's use of momentum and the pneumatics of Bernoulli's equation. Gasping for air, Kong surfaces, runs across the ocean with human help and when he grabs an item and throws it like a knife, it's flamboyantly appealing. The money shot is a mesmerizing wide angle, side shot of a right cross to die for.
As the mayhem proceeds, Godzilla counters with a body-twisting claw across Kong's jaw who moves with the strike and rolls backwards. Kong uses a taiji-like shoulder-to-body snap, pushing Godzilla into the water for more underwater grappling. When Godzilla rides Kong's back BJJ-style, Kong drops, escape rolls and with a two-footed drop kick against Godzilla's body, propels himself back to the surface a second time. Godzilla fights with instinct and a tail, Kong with intellect and physics.
I semi-detailed the first round to provide a flavor of things to come. Like one of those aforementioned kung fu films, each of the next two rounds are longer and better than the previous, with more intricate fight choreography and due to the special effects, you can see five of the six monkey personality traits. The drunk trait appeared in KK vs. GZ 1.
In 1969, Jane Goodall observed chimpanzees using branches as weapons. When I met Ms. Goodall in 2004, we discussed my undergrad thesis at Cornell about how I identified stereotypical fighting strategies of praying mantises. When she asked me if I knew any monkey fighting behaviors and I flashed some skills, she excitingly blurted, "I saw those in the wild!" Kong uses these movements in the film, especially during the intense finale.
Good humans help Kong find his ancestral home, where he reconnects with his ancestral tribe's sacred weapon, a fire-shape bladed battle ax, the unobtainium missing element Godzilla lacks, which will play out crazier than if the first responders welcoming the Apollo 11 astronauts home to Earth were dressed in Planet of the Apes (1968) costumes.
As one might expect with the ax, Kong becomes an ape vegematic and uses increasingly creative MMA skills like the violent pound and ground system, merciless hammer fists to the head, powerful descending elbow strikes, headlocks, double-fisted strikes and an elevating-up Godzilla's body ending skill with a flying dropkick to Godzilla's skull.
Yet Godzilla's blue atomic breath may be Kong's undoing. To paraphrase Blue Oyster Cult's 1977 Godzilla song, "Oh no it's wrong, there goes Hong Kong, there goes Godzilla." It's far out man!
Once upon a time, there was a Zen master who--er, stop me if you've heard this one before.
This grey-haired-yet-never-grouchy man offered wise words to those who came seeking him, regardless of who they were. One day, a scholar came to him for counsel, however it became painfully obvious that the visiting scholar wasn't truly ready to receive advice. He would interrupt the master with his own stories and failed to properly listen when he did give a chance to speak.
Rather than losing his temper, the master suggested they sit down and have tea.
The master gave his guest a teacup and began to pour. And pour. And pour even still. He kept pouring the hot tea until it completely filled the scholar's cup and, even then, continued to pour into the overflowing cup.
Aghast at the spilling hot tea, the scholar leapt up and cried "Stop! The cup is full!"
"Yes," The master said calmly with a knowing smile. "You are like this cup--so full of ideas that nothing more will fit in. Come back when your cup is empty."
Mic drop. There is a powerful lesson to be found in that story and it is about much more than customer service.
In Zen Buddhism, there is the belief--one that is often adopted by Japanese martial arts--that the beginner has one of the most powerful mentalities.
The White Belt Mentality
The poetic view of a martial artist whose black belt has been worn down white once more represents an important idea; we start as white belt novices and then begin to stain our minds with opinions and ideas before finally resolving to accept new knowledge again. Essentially, the true master works himself to become a white belt once more, ready to again learn from any source.
It is unfortunately easy to close your mind off to new ideas after reaching any level of expertise. When we learn one way of doing something, we can easily become married to the method we were first taught.
It is better to be an accepting beginner than a closed-minded expert however. Whoever holds an open minded perspective is going to be able to grow much, much further. After we have started to become proficient in our art, we must actively work to dissolve our ego and expand our mind again.
Even martial art legends like Guro Dan Inosanto continue to study and have conversations with martial artists of varying backgrounds.
The first step to learning something new is admitting that you didn't know it before. When we release the tight reins of ego and accept new information from seemingly "lesser" sources, we can better appreciate interactions with our students and even begin to learn from them. The sensei who believes lessons are a one-way street is a fool indeed.
As martial artists, we ought to view ourselves as scientists; experimenting and exploring the boundaries of what we currently understand. True failure doesn't exist in science, only consequences with unexpected lessons. With every loss, you gain insight. If we begin to fear the act of making a mistake, we will be frozen in trepidation impeding our progress.
The Beauty of Curiosity
Close your eyes and viscerally imagine this. The warm colors from the setting sun melt into the horizon as darkness comfortably settles in. Stars begin to peek into the darkening sky and the moon glows knowingly on the earth. As the nocturnal life awakens, you feel your body heat get cooled by the dropping temperature in the air. With every inhalation, you feel the night air flow deeply down to your lungs.
Sounds like a beautifully idyllic moment, right?
This isn't a unique moment pulled exclusively from someone's memory though. This is the type of beauty that can be found in every sunset and, more importantly, every second of life.
I'm going to blow your mind; by the time we are twenty years old, we have already lived over seven thousand days!
Heck, I would start to zone out if I were to watch even my favorite episode of Friends that many times!
By the time we become young adults, we are often on auto-pilot each day. We wake up, we eat, we go to work, we train, then we go to bed. Rinse and repeat. Though many people--especially those working a 9-5 job--long for adventure, there is something extremely important to keep in mind before booking a voyage to the Galápagos Islands.
Every day is an adventure.
Yes, it sounds uber cheesy, however it's true.
When you stay present and remove the daily fog of habit and routine, you'll see the beautiful nuances of each moment. This is a great reminder to better enjoy each day, however it is also essential for martial artists seeking a high level of skill.
To advance our art, we have to be able to critically analyze it in an unbiased manner. We have to be ready to look at new skills with new eyes. To hastily jump to assumptions--be they positive or negative--is to quickly curb our understanding.
Here's a challenge: strive to listen more than you speak. At least for one day. There are certainly very powerful reasons for teaching and speaking, however beware. It is easy to devolve into only regurgitating knowledge exactly as it was passed to you, leading to stagnate progress for your art.
When you listen, you learn. The key is being willing to listen and willing to learn from anybody. From a rich man, you can glean how to build wealth. From a poor man, you can study how to avoid losing it. An open mind will provide many opportunities to grow.
Martial arts training is often designed to temper out the weaknesses of its practitioners--we strive to become stronger and skilled as well as more confident and disciplined.
As we grow in these attributes, let us not forget the positive traits we may have begun with--for example, our acceptance of new knowledge and lack of ego.
At the end of the day, we can glean lessons from the expert and the novice. To become a black belt master, we mustn't lose our white belt mentality.
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