“This is a dream come true!” Said Filipino-American Brandon Vera after his triumphant Philippine debut at ONE FC’s Warrior’s Way fight card on Saturday at the Mall of Asia Arena. Forcing the referee to stop the fight in the very first round with vicious soccer kicks, his victory salvaged pride for the Filipino fighters, who finished the night with four wins and three losses in an evening featuring 10 outstanding fights – six of which were decided by either knockout or submission.
Vera utilized his famed world class Muay Thai to pick apart URCC heavyweight champion Igor Subora, effectively landing punches, kicks, and elbows that had the Ukrainian rattled early on. Subora showed resiliency, though, weathering the early barrage and eventually mounting attacks of his own. But as he opened up late in the round, Vera dropped him with a perfectly timed left straight, and finished the contest with a few kicks to the downed Subora’s head.
“Igor hits hard man, but I got him with that straight. And when he went down, I thought, ‘Oh soccer kicks are legal!’ I kept kicking until the referee stopped the fight,” said a beaming Vera in the post-match interview.
In the main event of the evening, Bibiano Fernandes endured a difficult first round, but successfully defended his bantamweight title with a second round finish of challenger Dae Hwan Kim.
Kim looked like he could legitimately dethrone Fernandes after a strong first round where he successfully defended the Brazilian’s takedowns, landed significant punches, and even enjoyed a spell pounding the champion from top position.
But he exposed his back early in the second round, and the Brazilian jiu-jitsu standout latched on instantly, sinking in his hooks and finishing with the rear naked choke to remain the ONE FC 135-lb. division champion.
Although the fans at the Mall of Asia Arena were happy with the overall performance of the local warriors, it was another night of mixed fortunes for famed mixed martial arts camp Team Lakay. Kevin Belingon’s flawless three-round dominance of former bantamweight title contender, Koetsu Okazaki, was one of the most impressive performances on the evening, earning him a legitimate claim for a shot at Fernandes’ belt. Belingon’s array of leg kicks, spinning back kicks, strong punches, and scrappiness on the ground proved too much for his opponent, who simply looked dumbfounded throughout the bout.
Teammates Eduard Folayang and Honorio Banario, however, fell short in their bouts. Banario suffered a fourth straight defeat after being submitted in the first round by Herbert Burns via rear naked choke, while Eduard Folayang missed out on an opportunity to get within reach of the lightweight title, suffering a devastating knockout against Russian hotshot Timofey Natsyukhin. Improving his record to 8-1, Natsyukhin landed a beautful flying knee that sent Folayang to the canvas, where he was finished with a few hammer fists and a couple of brutal soccer kicks.
Filipinas Jujeath Nagaowa and Ana Julaton triumphed in their respective bouts, but Wushu world champion Rene Catalan succumbed to devastating knees in a TKO defeat to Dejdamrong Sor Amnuaysirichoke. In the night’s other fights, Jake Butler scored a unanimous decision victory, while jiu-jitsu star Roger Gracie pulled off an unexpected standup clinic against James McSweeney, winning via TKO after hurting the Englishman with a front kick to the body.
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