Arjan Bhullar becomes first Indian-origin MMA world champion, Phogat loses

  • Arjan Bhullar dethroned longtime champion Brandon Vera to capture the ONE Heavyweight world title and become the first Indian-origin MMA world champion in history on Saturday.
Arjan Bhullar is a former Commonwealth Games gold medallist.
Arjan Bhullar is a former Commonwealth Games gold medallist.
Published on May 15, 2021 09:47 PM IST
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ByHT Correspondent, New Delhi

Arjan Bhullar dethroned longtime champion Brandon Vera to capture the ONE Heavyweight world title and become the first Indian-origin MMA world champion in history on Saturday.

However, Ritu Phogat suffered her maiden defeat since shifting from wrestling to Mixed Martial Arts (MMA). After close three rounds at the One Championship, Phogat lost via split decision against Unites States’ Bi Nguyen.

In the main event of the day, Canadian Bhullar was initially cautious against Vera, who has been the reigning world champion since 2016, in the first round. He looked to string together combinations to set up a takedown. The Indian star stifled Vera with feints and strikes, freezing the Filipino-American on his feet and making him hesitant to engage. Bhullar took Vera down toward the end of the opening frame and controlled him on the mat.

In the second round, Bhullar capitalised on his feints by catching Vera with an overhand right that sent him reeling toward the Circle Wall. A few more right hands compounded the damage, and a debilitating body shot had Vera gasping for air. Once Bhullar was able to close the distance and latch onto the defending world champion with a body lock, it signalled the beginning of the end. Bhullar brought Vera to the mat and pounded him out for the technical knockout victory.

Bhullar is a former Commonwealth Games gold medallist (at the 2010 edition in New Delhi). At the 2012 Olympics in London, he became the first Indian-origin freestyle wrestler to represent Canada. Before coming to the ONE Championship, Bhullar also competed in the UFC.

“I wanted to put the pressure on him till he broke. Box him, pressure him, wrestle him. I did just that,” Bhullar said after the fight. “I knew I was going to hurt him. I came into the fight the lightest I weighed in. I was ready to go 5 rounds.”

After losing the crown, Vera said: “It’s the first time in my entire career that I felt gassed in the first round. I’m in shape, we’ve been training, we’ve been working with the best people in the world. This is new for me.”

Official Results for ONE: DANGAL

Mixed Martial Arts – Heavyweight: Arjan Bhullar defeats Brandon Vera via Technical Knockout (TKO) at 4:27 of Round 2

Mixed Martial Arts – Atomweight: Bi Nguyen defeats Ritu Phogat via Split Decision

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Friday, December 03, 2021