As a former ONE Featherweight World Champion, Honorio “The Rock” Banario has reached the top of mixed martial arts, but he says the best performance of his career was not for the gold.
The native of Baguio City, Philippines believes the best performance of his professional life came this year when he went toe-to-toe with the teak-tough Adrian “The Hunter” Pang.
The 29-year-old Banario faced the Australian in April and had to be on point in all aspects of his game to outpoint his rival.
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Posted by ONE Championship on Friday, 21 December 2018
“Adrian Pang is one of the most dangerous fighters in my division,” says Banario.
“He is extremely strong and durable, and he can knock you out or submit you at any given moment. When they told me I was going to fight him, I was excited.
“I knew I had found the perfect opponent to test my skills and prove that I belong in the top of my class.”
The two warriors met on the main card of ONE: HEROES OF HONOR at the Mall of Asia Arena in front of Banario’s hometown crowd in Manila. “The Rock” was prepared to give the performance of a lifetime to cap a career comeback that had taken him from his lowest ebb to a position of pride.
Banario had lost five bouts in a row after his World Title reign and had considered retirement. However, support from his coaches and training partners at Team Lakay convinced him to soldier on.
He reemerged as a lightweight in April 2016 and authored a complete 180-degree turn on his career. Four victories in a row proved that perseverance really does pay off.
However, it wasn’t until the bout with Pang that Banario was finally able to prove that his resurgence was no fluke.
“I knew I had to be at my prime physical condition,” he explains.
“He was the bigger, stronger guy. I had to use my speed and cunning. I had to be able to utilize my size disadvantage in my favor.
“Luckily, I have the best team in the world in my corner, and we came up with a great strategy to counter his strengths.”
Pang had all the physical advantages. The Australian was incredibly strong and powerful and built like a truck.
As one of the biggest lightweights in the organization, “The Hunter” hits like a ton of bricks, is as durable as any athlete on the roster, and is capable of dominating opponents on the mat with his black-belt Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu skills.
As expected, Pang walked Banario down and absorbed every strike that was thrown his way, but Banario stuck to the game plan. He stayed on the outside and peppered “The Hunter” with well-placed strikes from range. When he had to step in to engage, he was in and out to avoid a potentially-devastating counter blow.
Though Pang would land a couple of hard shots here and there, “The Rock” always answered back with a sharp combination. Midway through the bout, the momentum began to shift in Pang’s favor as he connected at a higher rate.
However, in the final moments of the match, Banario again went on the offensive and tagged Pang with a plethora of thunderous kicks and punches.
That made for a nail-biting few moments as the judges rendered their verdicts, but the late flurries had done the job. Banario walked away with a split decision verdict – and he was delighted.
“It certainly wasn’t easy for me. In fact, it was probably the toughest fight of my career,” Banario adds.
“Thankfully, I was able to rise to the occasion and execute what we had practiced in training camp.
“I was really happy with my performance, and it proved that I belong among the top guys at lightweight. I just want to continue fighting the best.
“There are plenty top lightweight contenders I can face in ONE Championship. Lightweight is one of the deepest and most exciting divisions. I’m looking forward to facing all the big names in 2019.”
Such a marquee win to cap a victorious streak of five consecutive bouts left no doubt that “The Rock” belongs up there with his weight class’ best.
In 2019, that could mean he will have the chance to test how far he can go as the ONE Lightweight World Grand Prix kicks off.