With the UFC taking the week off to recover from its latest pay-per-view event, the attention this week shifts to ONE FC 15: Rise of Heroes. The event will take place Friday, May 2, from the SM Mall of Asia Arena in Manila, Philippines, and airs via online pay-per-view.

In the night’s main event, one of the world’s most talented bantamweights, Bibiano Fernandes, puts his 135-pound title on the line against Japan’s Masakatsu Ueda.

Fernandes has long been a staple of the top-10 rankings, currently sitting at No. 3, and he briefly flirted with signing with the UFC in 2012. However, the Brazilian opted to continue plying his trade in the Asian market, where he previously held the Dream featherweight and bantamweight titles. The 34-year-old unified his ONE FC belt in October with a decision win over Korea’s Soo Chul Kim.

Ueda, meanwhile, has often been overlooked in the discussions of the world’s elite bantamweights, and it’s a shame. The 36-year-old Japanese fighter has tasted defeat only twice in his lengthy career that spans nearly a decade. Since his last loss to Travis Marx under the Bellator banner, he’s reeled off three straight wins inside the ONE FC cage. The veteran holds victories over current Bellator champ Eduardo Dantas, current UFC fighter Kyoji Horiguchi and former UFC champion Jens Pulver.

Let’s take a deeper look at the match-up. And as a reminder, this is a side-by-side comparison of how the fighters’ skills matchup against one another using similar scoring to the unified rules.

Striking: Fernandes – 10, Ueda – 9

If you’ve ever watched Fernandes fight, it’s easy to see why his moniker is “The Flash.” The Brazilian has spent years working under the tutelage of Matt Hume, and he has mastered the art of putting together fluid combinations on the feet with his speed and footwork. Like many fighters in this weight class, he lacks one-punch knockout power, but his ability to get in and out with his speed allows him to dictate the pace of fights. On paper, his record—just one finish via strikes—is misleading. A vast majority of his wins on the scorecards have come after picking apart his opponent on the feet.

The best word to describe the striking of Ueda might be “adequate.” Unlike Fernandes, he’s not very fluid with his hands. In most cases, Ueda’s attack involves feints to set up a level change and takedown attempt. Although it has been remarkably effective through the years, the difference in speed between these two fighters may negate that strategy from Ueda’s game plan. Where Ueda has found surprising success is in his kicking game. With most of his foes expecting him to shoot, he’s been able to land teeps and body kicks at opportune times (ask Rumina Sato). His best chance to counter Fernandes’ speed and movement will be to mix in kicks at unexpected times and then try to close the distance as quickly as possible.

Ground Game: Fernandes – 10, Ueda – 9

With Fernandes’ propensity to stand and trade with his opponents, it’s easy to forget that he is a high-level Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt with multiple World championships on his resume. His speed again comes into play on the mat, where all five of his submission finishes have come inside of two minutes. Furthermore, he has never been submitted in competition. If Ueda ignores the submission prowess of Fernandes, he might find himself put to sleep.

For all of the accolades that Fernandes holds on the mat, it doesn’t mean that Ueda is a walkover in the submission grappling department. Ueda’s style lends itself more to grinding out fights from the top position and delivering ground-and-pound, but he has one of the most effective brabo chokes in all of MMA. It’s unlikely that he’s going to surprise Fernandes with it, but if he gets on top, don’t be surprised if he looks for it. Where he’ll need to be careful in this fight is in finding himself on his back. If he overcommits to the brabo, or any other submission for that matter, and allows Fernandes on top, it could be a short night for the Japanese fighter.

Wrestling: Fernandes – 9, Ueda – 10

If there’s a weakness in Fernandes’ attack, it’s his wrestling game. Like many BJJ practitioners, he lacks strong takedowns. Yet, he does have excellent takedown defense. Training at AMC Pankration with UFC flyweight kingpin Demetrious Johnson, his game has improved with each fight. He showed this in his unification bout with Kim in the fall. With his success on the feet, his wrestling game is more of a defense mechanism than an offensive tool.

When Ueda’s name is mentioned, the first word that comes to mind is “grinder.” While collegiate wrestling in Japan is not on the same level as it is in the United States, Ueda’s time on the mat is very evident in his fighting style. He has good control of his hips and isn’t afraid of an ugly fight. Ueda changes levels well, and once he latches onto an opponent, he’s relentless in his pursuit of the takedown. That strategy has served him well through the years as he has secured 12 of his 18 wins on the scorecards.


As clichéd as it sounds, this fight is going to boil down to who imposes their will on their opponent. If Fernandes controls the range on the feet and uses his speed and footwork to keep Ueda on the outside, the Brazilian will have no problem picking Ueda apart with his striking. But if Ueda is able to close the distance and bring this fight to the ground with regularity, the Japanese fighter’s style may wear down Fernandes and give Ueda a chance to score the upset.

Total: Fernandes – 29, Ueda – 28

Verdict: Ueda represents the toughest test that Fernandes has faced since his drop to bantamweight in 2011. Ueda has more experience and has found more success than any opponent Fernandes has met in the ONE FC cage thus far. However, Ueda’s style does not lend itself well to countering Fernandes’ strengths. This one is going the distance, but Fernandes will retain his title with a unanimous decision victory.