On Friday, 27 July, some of ONE Championship’s finest warriors put on some incredible performances.
At the promotion’s latest spectacle ONE: REIGN OF KINGS, the world’s best martial artists captivated fans inside the Mall Of Asia Arena with explosive striking, dynamic grappling, and tremendous displays of courage.
Between the crowning of a new World Champion and the resurgence of a legend, a multitude of timeless moments took place in front of a sold-out crowd at the Mall Of Asia Arena.
Here are five of the best highlights from an unforgettable night in Manila, Philippines.
Kevin Belingon Claims Bantamweight Gold
Kevin Belingon has finally struck gold.
In the main event, “The Silencer” defeated two-division ONE World Champion Martin “The Situ-Asian” Nguyen via unanimous decision to claim the ONE Interim Bantamweight World Title.
Both competitors engaged in a strategic, high-level battle for 25 solid minutes, but it was the Filipino who was the busier, more effective striker.
Belingon shrugged off all of Nguyen’s takedown attempts, and he landed the cleaner, harder punches. He also connected with some of his flashier weapons, like his side-kick, spinning back-kick, and even a jumping roundhouse kick late in the contest.
The Vietnamese-Australian got his licks in, too. He threatened with takedowns, and scored with his signature left hook and overhand right hand.
Ultimately, nothing he did could slow his opponent down. “The Silencer” always found opportunities to attack, and he capitalized on them.
Nguyen’s efforts were valiant, but his bid to capture a third World Championship seemed destined to fall short. Roared on by passionate Filipino support from the opening bell, Belingon was the better man on the night.
Shinya Aoki’s Ferocious Ground And Pound
Japanese martial arts star Shinya Aoki has used his judo and BJJ expertise to force his opponents into submission 25 times.
On Friday night, “Tobikan Judan” took his bout to the mat, but flipped the script on his usual winning ways.
In his tilt with Shannon “OneShin” Wiratchai, he used his impeccable grappling to put the Thai on the canvas. From there, he advanced to full mount, but instead of going for a submission, he showcased his ferocious – and highly improved – ground and pound stylings.
With Wiratchai trapped against the cage, Aoki methodically rained down punches, and even temporarily trapped his rival’s left arm to unload heavy artillery.
With the Thai’s defenses compromised, the Japanese star unloaded a series of powerful elbows, followed by a relentless melee of follow-up strikes. The bout was stopped halfway into the opening frame to give Aoki his second first-round victory in two months.
The only thing that may have been more memorable than the former ONE Lightweight World Champion’s finish was his dash into the crowd to celebrate his victory with the fans.
Renzo Gracie Adds To His Legendary Status
Renzo Gracie is 51 years old, and had not competed in mixed martial arts for eight years, but that did not stop him from claiming victory at ONE: REIGN OF KINGS.
The Brazilian made his ONE debut against three-division King Of Pancrase Yuki Kondo in a legend versus legend welterweight showdown, and he left Manila with his first promotional win after a thrilling conclusion to the clash.
After a slow first round, Gracie turned up the heat, and masterfully showcased the martial art his family made famous.
Just a minute into the second stanza, he shot for a single-leg takedown. Kondo tried to maintain his balance and shake him off, but Gracie latched onto his back.
The sixth-degree BJJ black belt hooked his opponent’s right leg to trip him, and then secured his second hook as he fell backward with his Japanese rival.
From there, the Brazilian locked in a tight rear-naked choke, which forced a helpless Kondo to submit.
Joshua Pacio’s Sensational Submission
He may not have the BJJ black belt credentials of a legend like Gracie, but Joshua “The Passion” Pacio left his mark at ONE: REIGN OF KINGS with an innovative submission hold.
The 22-year-old Filipino ended the “hunk’s showdown” early, as he handed Thailand’s Pongsiri “The Smiling Assassin” Mitsatit the first defeat of his career with a move he dubbed “The Passion Lock.”
Pacio had the Thai’s back, sunk in his hooks, and tried to secure a rear-naked choke three minutes into the first round. However, when that failed, he flashed some of that “Baguio jiu-jitsu” his teammate, Eustaquio, has warned opponents about to attack with a more unorthodox move.
While in that position, the Team Lakay strawweight attacked Mitsatit’s left arm, got a firm grasp, and torqued high behind “The Smiling Assassin’s” back. The Thai was forced to tap out immediately from the pain.
The Evolution Of Rene Catalan
Pacio was not the only Filipino who defeated an unbeaten rival.
Multiple-time Wushu World Champion Rene “The Challenger” Catalan delivered a marquee performance in Manila, as he earned a unanimous decision victory over Stefer “The Lion” Rahardian, and ruined the Indonesian hero’s spotless record.
The 39-year-old out-struck his rival, battering him with leg kicks and even wobbling him with a thunderous left hook in the second round. It was the first time the Bali MMA product had appeared visibly shaken by strikes inside the ONE cage.
Perhaps the most surprising aspect of this bout was Catalan’s willingness to go to the ground with “The Lion.”
The Filipino conceded his opponent’s grappling skills were on another level before their bout, but that did not stop “The Challenger” from taking Rahardian down. He went for submissions, defended when the Indonesian was on top, and escaped bad positions to swing the match back in his favor.
It was a dynamic showing from Catalan, who can now be viewed as one of the strawweight division’s top contenders after improving his winning streak to five bouts.