• Natalie Gonzales Hills drive her knee into Angela Lee

Natalie Gonzales Hills drive her knee into Angela Lee (Photo : ONE Championship)

ONE Championship returns to the state-of-the-art Mall of Asia Arena, deep in the heart of Manila, with ONE: GLOBAL RIVALS.

The promotion's Manila shows are some of the best fight cards ever put together, and this one is no exception. Filipino fight fans are in for a treat on April 15, as the best local and international mixed martial arts superstars battle it out inside the ONE Cage.

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Here are seven fighters to look out for when ONE Championship fever hits the Philippine capital.


Natalie Gonzales Hills

Part-British, part-Filipino female atomweight Natalie "The Kilapino" Gonzales Hills debuted for ONE Championship on the wrong end of a rare Twister submission courtesy of Singapore's Angela Lee. But the 28-year-old former Brace MMA fighter has no plans of giving up.

She has also dreamt of getting the chance to reconnect with her Filipino heritage, and earlier this year Hills was delighted to receive news that she would finally be getting her wish. She faces Team Lakay warrior April Osenio in a three-round bout in Manila.

Hills was born to an English father and a Filipino mother. She traces her roots to Cavite city where she says most of her relatives still live. She's now deep in training in Manila, having flown to the nation's capital a month before the fight, to get acclimated with the surroundings. Hills says she visits family on the weekends when she takes a break from training.

Despite the loss to Lee, Hills more than held her own in the striking department, and it will be interesting for Filipino fight fans to get a taste of what she's really capable of. Expect Hills to come away with a spectacular performance, one that will showcase her full range of abilities.


Reece McLaren

One of the most highly-anticipated matchups at ONE: GLOBAL RIVALS is a bantamweight showdown between Australian Reece "Lightning" McLaren and Tajikistan prodigy Muin "Tajik" Gafurov.

McLaren is a 24-year-old former Brace MMA standout from Australia who burst onto the scene with a spectacular come-from-behind victory over Filipino favorite, Mark "Mugen" Striegl. McLaren overcame a tremendous performance by Striegl to win via rear naked choke deep in the final round.

It was an impressive victory, especially since McLaren's first assignment in ONE Championship was against one of the top fighters in the division in his home country. To make matters more interesting, McLaren says he has Filipino blood in him too, with his father whom he has never met being Filipino.

The tough assignments for McLaren didn't stop with Striegl however, as he is set to take on one of the bantamweight division's most dangerous fighters in Muin Gafurov.


Muin Gafurov

Muin "Tajik" Gafurov of Dushanbe, Tajikistan, proved in his ONE Championship debut that he is a relentless, aggressive fighter with solid all-around mixed martial arts skills. He is unbeaten at 10 wins and no losses and is a force to be reckoned with.

In his last bout, Gafurov defeated highly-regarded Finnish MMA sensation Toni "Dynamite" Tauru via technical knockout and turned a lot of heads with his performance.

McLaren-Gafurov is one of those fights that is really tough to call on paper. It should make for an interesting clash of prospects, each with their own strengths and weaknesses.

One thing is certain though, wins and losses don't matter in this type of fight. Both men are talented enough for the result not to matter. It's what you show inside the cage that counts, and a great performance will only do good for either fighter's career, regardless of the outcome.


Lowen Tynanes

Lowen Tynanes of Ewa Beach, Hawaii, is a 25-year-old unbeaten lightweight competitor and one of the most talented fighters in his division.

Tynanes uses his aggressive striking approach and no-frills wrestling techniques to subdue his opponents. He has defeated some of the biggest names in Asia impressively and emphatically, and each time he steps inside the cage, it's like a switch is flipped that just sets him off.

Undefeated at 8-0, Tynanes has four wins in ONE Championship, including remarkable victories over Vuyisile Colossa and Felipe Enomoto. Only 2 of his 8 victories have seen a decision, the rest have come within the distance.

Tynanes is an absolute beast, and is considered one of the front-runners in a very deep division to land a title shot soon. A performance here worthy of praise should bring him one step closer to a date with ONE Lightweight World Champion Shinya Aoki.


Geje Eustaquio

Team Lakay flyweight Geje "Gravity" Eustaquio is one of the most proficient Wushu practitioners in the Philippines.

Eustaquio's accurate striking and cool composure has led him to a few big wins over his career in ONE Championship. While he isn't the biggest puncher in Team Lakay-that honor belongs to teammate Kevin Belingon-Eustaquio uses his skill and great timing to land combinations.

What sets Eustaquio apart from other stand-up fighters is his ability to remain collected under constant pressure.

Eustaquio once challenged for the ONE Flyweight World Championship, against then-champion Adriano Moraes. Although he lost by submission, he more than held his own and was dominating striking exchanges before Moraes went to his jiujitsu.

In his last bout, Eustaquio scored a scintillating one-punch knockout of Malaysian prospect Saiful Merican, needing just over a minute to get the job done. He'll have a tougher time in his next fight however, against Malaysia's best flyweight in Gianni Subba.


Gianni Subba

Gianni Subba is one of the most promising prospects at flyweight, and is already a seasoned athlete with a stellar 7-1 clip in his young career. Since losing to Filipino Eugene Toquero, Subba has won his last four bouts, performing impressively each time out despite increasing levels of opposition.

At just 23 years of age, Subba has a lot going for him and will enter his prime years as a fighter soon. He's being brought up the ranks nicely, which allows his skills to develop at the ideal pace.

Against Eustaquio however, he'll be taking on one of the best in his division again, and in front of Eustaquio's home crowd in Manila at that.


Ben Askren

Former NCAA Division I All-American and Olympian, Ben "Funky" Askren is a collegiate wrestling legend and one of the finest mixed martial artists in the world today.

In just a few fights in ONE, Askren was able to seize the ONE Welterweight World Championship with a resounding technical knockout victory over Nobutatsu Suzuki.

The highly-skilled Askren is widely considered to be one of the absolute best in his division and in the world, pound-for-pound.

Askren feels he owes fans in Manila. He says fans were robbed of a great main event battle between himself and Luis Santos the last time he fought in the Philippines, and sticks to his claim that Santos faked that eye injury to escape the fight.

There is no doubting Askren's tremendous talent. Undefeated at 14 wins and no losses, Askren is a fighter the whole world is watching, and his next fight against Russian challenger Nikolay Aleksakhin, promises all-out action and excitement.

Askren's last time in the cage was exactly one year ago, and he hasn't fought since, so it will be interesting to see what kind of performance he can come up with given the long lay off.