The archipelago’s local heroes rose to the occasion and defended their homeland during the recently concluded ONE Championship: Reign of Kings at the Mall of Asia Arena, in Pasay.
Hard-hitting Kevin “The Silencer” Belingon of Team Lakay captured the ONE Championship bantamweight title to become the promotion’s third Filipino titleholder.
After out-striking Martin Nguyen to a convincing unanimous decision victory, Belingon finally ended Team Lakay’s losing streak against the two-division champ. He also played spoiler to “The Situ-Asian’s” triple-crown dreams as retaliation to Nguyen’s knockout of Eduard Folayang in 2017.
The 30-year-old Filipino exhibited crisp and effective striking even if he is at a disadvantage with respect to length. Belingon mixed-up his strikes with spinning back kicks and even busted out a flashy flying knee strike in round four.
The Australian-Vietnamese banked on his kicks as his main offensive weapon but wasn’t able to find his range and rhythm throughout the bout. Nguyen tried to force his opponent down but Belingon was able to stuff every takedown attempt.
According to Belingon, what Nguyen did was exactly what they expected.
“We knew that is their gameplan. They are going to take me down and we knew it so we prepared for that, we trained for that, that’s why they can’t take me down inside the cage,” revealed the newly-minted interim champ.
Belingon’s title win elevated the Philippines as the promotion’s most successful country, as it currently houses three champions – Belingon, flyweight champion Geje Eustaquio, and heavyweight king Brandon Vera.
Home soil defended
Every Filipino in the card was successful but no one had a more stellar performance than Team Lakay up-and-comer Joshua “The Passion” Pacio.
The 22-year-old stole the show with his second consecutive submission victory. Pacio tapped-out Thai opponent Pongsiri Mitsatit with an unorthodox armlock which he later dubbed “the Passion Lock” (modified kimura).
“The game plan is to get the rear-naked choke but that submission I did awhile ago was – I tried it once in training and I showcased it in the international stage. That’s taken from BJJ—Baguio Jiu-Jitsu,” the youngster quipped.
Also triumphant was former lightweight champion Folayang who once again downed a previously-undefeated Russian. After his win, Folayang reflected on his devastating loss to Nguyen.
“I think, in some cases, I was overconfident and forgot that it’s an MMA and you just don’t give away your opponent to hit you,” Folayang said, “On the fight of Kevin, I really learned a lot.”
Rene Catalan, meanwhile, served the Manila crowd an appetizer in the form of a unanimous decision win over Indonesian Stefer Rahardian.