Jackie Buntan was a breakthrough sensation on the global stage in 2021.
The American striker racked up a trio of victories against elite opposition, and that impressive run earned her a golden opportunity at "ONE: Eersel vs. Sadikovic" on Friday, April 22.
Buntan will battle teen phenom Smilla Sundell for the inaugural ONE women's strawweight muay Thai world title in the co-main event, and she's thankful that her hard work led to this chance of a lifetime at the Singapore Indoor Stadium.
"It was a flood of emotions (when I got the call about the world title fight)," said the 24-year-old. "Not just the goal of actually being able to have the opportunity to compete for it. But it just puts everything in perspective.
"I was super active all of last year, and I was able to put things into realization, like, 'Wow, within just one year, I was able to do it. I'm the one who made this opportunity for myself.' So it just put a lot of things in perspective, and I had a lot of gratitude when I was offered that bout."
Buntan feels her world title shot is warranted after high-profile wins over Nat "Wondergirl" Jaroonsak, Ekaterina Vandaryeva, and Daniela Lopez in the circle.
However, she's not sure that Sundell can say the same. The 17-year-old Swede debuted with a TKO in February, but that’s her only appearance in ONE Super Series so far.
With that in mind, the Boxing Works athlete has reservations about whether "Thunderstorm" is the most deserving opponent for this prestigious contest in a burgeoning division.
"I have definitely been asked (about whether Sundell deserves to fight for the world title)," said Buntan. "And I thought about this myself. And yes, one fight in the division or in the promotion and getting a title shot, I think it is a bit premature. But at the same time, our division is so new and staggered in terms of when these girls have competed.
"There are definitely a couple of other girls that I would assume would be able to have the title (shot) given they were able to fight more for ONE Championship, versus just having one single fight."
Buntan confident she can dismantle aggressive Sundell
Whatever Buntan thinks of Sundell's status in the division, she knows the Fairtex representative is the next test in front of her – and a tough one at that.
Sundell’s debut win over Diandra Martin was a spectacular three-round demolition that ended with an emphatic finish in the final round.
The American watched with intrigue as her weight class gained a new rising star, but she expects her style to hold up well against the aggressive upstart.
"Yeah, sure, I watched her debut," said Buntan. "The first thing I noticed is just the forward pressure she gave – the relentless push-through, push-forward style. And we’re more than certain that’s what she’s going to come in with on April 22. Just kind of bum-rush me. I think she has that Fairtex style, that Thai style, but the only difference being is she’s coming at you with intent. She’s putting the pressure on you.
"I'll just say, with that come-forward, aggression type of style, it’s a careless type of style. There’s going to be holes, and I’m going to find those holes, basically. I'm more than ready for that pressure. I know she's going to come in with it, so she can come run at me."
The top competitors from Boxing Works – including ONE women’s atomweight kickboxing world champion Janet Todd – are known for their fight IQs and their abilities to navigate different types of opponents.
Buntan sees this as her key to victory, and she believes she’ll find a way to disarm Sundell when they face off with the world championship on the line.
"I'll say she's good enough to be fighting in ONE Championship, but I really believe I'm levels ahead of her in technicality, intelligence, speed, power, and all that." she added. "I'm really confident she hasn't dealt with anyone like me before.
"I think I’m going to run her into heavy and very damaging shots. Find the holes in that reckless, careless style of hers, coming in aggressively. I really do believe I'm able to find the holes and run her into things that'll hurt her, and hopefully put the brakes on her."
This story first published at ONEFC.com.