Seven Filipinos and 13 foreigners will battle it out at this Friday’s ONE Fighting Championship (ONE FC) event, titled ONE FC: Moment of Truth, starting at 7 p.m. at the Mall of Asia (MOA) Arena in Pasay City.
Filipino Team Lakay striker Honorio “The Rock” Banario will attempt to get back his ONE FC Featherweight World Championship as he squares off against Japanese tormentor Koji Oishi in the main event of an evening that features 10 gripping bouts.
“This is the moment I have been waiting for. After my defeat in May by Oishi, nothing has occupied my mind except to reclaim my belt,” Banario said.
Oishi is a tough veteran that will pose a stern test for Banario He had been vanquished only once in his previous 14 fights, including the win over Banario in May, which shocked many MMA fans.
The featured co-main event will be the fight between Kevin “The Silencer” Belingon, another Team Lakay fighter, and undefeated Spaniard David Aranda Santacana in the bantamweight division.
Belingon, who was also trounced last May in the ONE FC event, is expected to have his hands full as Santacana is no ordinary adversary.
Besides being undefeated in nine fights, Santacana, who has competed primarily in Europe, has impressive grappling skills, having won eight of his fights by submission.
But what is going in favor of Belingon, with a 11-3 record with seven finishes, is his overwhelming self-confidence, not to mention his back-to-back technical knockout (TKO) victories over Thank Vu and Yusup Saadulaev before that unfortunate May outing.
Team Lakay member and former Southeast Asia wushu gold medallist Eduard Folayang will also skirmish with Dutch-Indonesian shooto veteran Vincent Latoel.
Folayang has to prove he still has it after suffering two successive defeats and will require all his skills, especially since Latoel is no easy rival having fought in six different countries in three continents with a record of 14 wins. He has a kickboxing background and trains out of the famed Golden Glory Gym in the Netherlands.
The fourth bout is in the bantamweight division and pits former Japanese Shooto Featherweight Champion Koetsu Okazaki and jiu jitsu expert Joshua Alvarez, who was born in Guam but whose parents are both Filipinos.
Okazaki has showed he has defensive prowess, although he was beaten by unanimous decision by the dreaded Brazilian Bibiano Fernandes in his ONE FC debut for the interim bantamweight championship in May this year.
Although a late replacement, the Guam-based Alvarez said he has never skipped the gym and trains almost everyday and does strength and conditioning drills. He has five straight wins and nine of his 12 victories were by way of submission.
The fifth bout is between former American Marines Caros Fodor and South African muay Thai practitioner Vuyisile Collosa, whose matchup will be closely watched as both are contenders for MMA legend Shinya Aoki’s ONE FC lightweight belt.
Fodor and Colossa separately won in thrilling matches during ONE FC 10 “Kings and Champions” event in Jakarta, Indonesia, in September this year.
Fodor, a veteran of the Ultimate Fighting Championship and Strikeforce before joining the ONE FC fold, thrashed the previously undefeated Seung Ho Yang of Korea for three rounds in his debut match, while Colossa put up an impressive unanimous victory against veteran Japanese Kotetsu Boku, the former One FC lightweight champion, in the main event.
The sixth bout pits Kamma Bantamweight Champion Dae Hwan Kim of South Korea and cage fighting specialist Thanh Vu of Australia. Vu will try to bounce back from a loss at the hands of Belingon while Kim will be looking to extend his eight fight undefeated streak and prove that he is in fact the real deal.
The seventh matchup is between two Filipinos, Team Lakay striker Geje Eustaquio and tough Eugene Toquero of Submission Sports Philippines.
Eustaquio has won four of his last six fights, with three of those wins coming by stoppage. Although he was trounced last May in ONE FC: Rise to Power by decision, his confidence is at all-time high because of the rigid training program, including coaching from an Iranian wrestling coach, at Team Lakay gym.
But Toquero, who has a kickboxing and muay Thai background and is very effective with knee strikes and kicks, is someone who should not be taken for granted being undefeated in his professional career with four straight wins by TKO.
The eighth contest will see Filipino World Wushu Champion Ruel Catalan, who will try to avenge his brother’s defeat in the hands of the fighter he is facing now, Kun Khmer Champion Cambodian Khim Dima.
Catalan felt bitter that Dima dealt his brother Rene illegal and dangerous strikes in their last outing in October which resulted in his (Dima’s) being stripped of his win after the bout because of the illegal blows to the back of Rene’s head.
Dima is also motivated to get back the win, but this time he said he will do it cleanly against Ruel.
The ninth bout will be a thrilling battle between two heavyweights, Canadian top-ranked Heavyweight Champion Paul Cheng and Cameroonian muay Thai and Kickboxing Champion Alain Ngalani.
Ngalani is out to duplicate his first round knockout victory at ONE FC: Champions and Warriors in September against Mahmoud Hassan.
Although Cheng came from football, he has already proven he can make it in the world of MMA. His record included knocking out Ryan Hunter last November at AFC 12: Domination in Calgary and stopping Eric Barrak in May 2012 at Ringside MMA 13: The St. Patrick’s Day Beatdown in Montreal.
The 10th bout will see top Filipino prospect Edward Kelly, who has an impressive record of five wins without a loss, and Brazilian jiu jitsu purple belt holder Major Overall, an American of Japanese descent.
Kelly, the brother of popular Eric Kelly, is an aggressive striker, while Overall, with a record of 4-1, has finished all his opponents by submission, including recent ONE FC Malaysian national featherweight champion AJ Lias Mansor.