RISING INDIAN MMA STAR Ritu Phogat will face Itsuki Hirata in the semi-finals of the ONE Atomweight Grand Prix.
After the conclusion of the quarter final round at 'ONE:Empower', ONE Championship took a unique route to matchmaking when they left it to the MMA fans on the internet to vote on who will face who in the semis.
In the final result, 41.18% of the votes from the MMA community were in favour of Phogat (6-1) facing Hirata (5-0), while former ONE Atomweight Muay Thai and Kick Boxing world champion Stamp Fairtex (6-1 MMA, 63-17-5 Muay Thai/Kickboxing) will go up against South Korean veteran and former UFC fighter Seo Hee Ham (24-8).
The winner of the Grand Prix will challenge ONE Atomweight Champion Angela Lee (10-2) for the world championship.
The match-ups could not have been better. The two combat sports veterans will face each other while the budding fighters, Ritu and Itsuki, will collide in what would surely be the most important fight in both of their careers yet.
All the fights in the quarter final round proved to be competitive. While Fairtex and Seo Hee Ham won their bouts by close split decisions, Ritu and Hirata both got unanimous nods from the judges.
Ritu Phogat, who had suffered a split decision loss to Bi Nguyen before beating Heqin Lin in her return bout, showed how much she had grown as a fighter while training at Singapore's Evolve MMA gym. She faced a barrage of early strikes from the adept striker Meng Bo, but displayed great durability to weather the storm and impose her own game plan in the fight. By the third round her opponent was visibly tired, allowing Ritu to finish in a dominant fashion.
Meng Bo was a step-up in the quality of opponents for Ritu; a test she passed with flying colours. Now, in Itsuku Hirata, she is going to face a complete Mixed Martial Artist, an undefeated prospect bred in the K-Clann gym, with a background in judo who is devastating in the ground, and potentially can match Ritu's own pressure oriented grappling skills.
Both the semi-final bouts are expected to take place on 29th October. The event being close to the Diwali festival, Ritu Phogat has an opportunity to start the celebraions early by putting on some fireworks in the cage and securing the biggest victory yet in the history of women's MMA in India.
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