On Friuday, 20 April, the heroes of ONE Championship electrified the Mall Of Asia Arena in Manila, Philippines, just as the organization has on many occasions.
At ONE: HEROES OF HONOR, the world’s best martial artists took to the promotion’s brand new five-rope ring, and delivered a roaring show. From the action-filled prelims to the night’s explosive main event, our athletes entertained the masses with their elite talent and warrior spirit.
Let’s take a quick look at what could be next for five of the night’s biggest winners.
Kevin “The Silencer” Belingon
Last Friday, in front of a raucous hometown crowd, Kevin “The Silencer” Belingon turned in perhaps his most spectacular victory to date.
The 30-year-old Filipino warrior overwhelmed Bali-based American grappler Andrew Leone in the first round of their main event bout, and finished him off quickly in the second round. Belingon unleashed a potent spinning back kick to Leone’s midsection, which sent the American reeling across the ring. The Filipino then finished him off with a thunderous torrent of ground and pound.
Belingon did not necessarily have to face Leone, however, as he was apparently already offered a title shot at ONE Bantamweight World Champion Bibiano “The Flash” Fernandes by ONE Chairman and CEO Chatri Sityodtong. The fact that the proud Igorot warrior decided he didn’t want to wait, and had the boldness to risk it all against such a dangerous opponent proves what kind of a martial artist he he truly is.
Now, after five straight wins, Belingon marches forward to the rematch he has long craved. Expect a Fernandes showdown to be officially announced soon.
Honorio “The Rock” Banario
After losing the ONE Featherweight World Championship and going on a five-bout skid, Honorio “The Rock” Banario has experienced a resurgence ever since recreating himself as a lightweight.
The 28-year-old Filipino hero now has five straight wins, with his latest victory coming against his toughest opponent yet in Australia’s Adrian “The Hunter” Pang.
Banario threw everything but the kitchen sink at Pang, but the hard-hitting Aussie kept coming forward like a freight train looking to run him over. In the end, the Filipino’s overall activity and accumulated damage earned him a close split decision win in the eyes of the judges.
Speaking to “The Rock” following his victory, he mentioned three names as his next possible opponents — Singapore’s Amir Khan, Thailand’s Shannon Wiratchai, and Malaysia’s Ev Ting.
All three offer enticing match-ups for Banario, but in particular, a clash with Ting would be the most interesting. The Malaysian defeated him in a 2015 featherweight contest, and it is a loss the Filipino would like to avenge at lightweight.
Marat “Cobra” Gafurov
Thailand-based American Emilio “The Honey Badger” Urrutia declared war on the top featherweights earlier this year. He vowed to take over the weight class, and asked for the best athletes the division had to offer.
Against the division’s former kingpin Marat “Cobra” Gafurov, Urrutia was in for a rude awakening.
The Dagestani needed less than half of the first round to wrestle “The Honey Badger” to the ground, and latch onto a slick arm-triangle choke to seal the deal. To Urrutia’s credit, he defended until the end and never gave up, but was put to sleep in the process.
It was a much-needed victory for Gafurov, who experienced his first, and only, career blemish in his ONE Featherweight World Title loss to Martin “The Situ-Asian” Nguyen in August 2017.
Gafurov should be watching ONE: UNSTOPPABLE DREAMS in Singapore very closely, as he could very well face the winner of the upcoming featherweight world title bout between Nguyen and Singaporean sensation Christian “The Warrior” Lee.
Gina “Conviction” Iniong
Filipino hero Gina “Conviction” Iniong made a thunderous statement last Friday.
After having her hot start in the promotion extinguished by Mei “V.V.” Yamaguchi last November, the Filipina looked better than ever against Jenny “Lady GoGo” Huang. The 28-year-old dominated the former world title challenger in all areas, even nullifying Huang’s submission wizardry with her Team Lakay brand of wrestling.
Now, having recently faced two grapplers in a row, it would be nice to see Iniong clash with a fellow striker next. In particular, a battle with Brazilian two-time Muay Thai World Champion and former ONE Women’s Atomweight World Title challenger, Istela Nunes, would undoubtedly produce fireworks.
“Ottogi” Dae Hwan Kim
Following two recent losses to Leandro Issa and Daichi Takenaka, South Korea’s “Ottogi” Dae Hwan Kim re-emerged on Friday night looking like a new man against veteran Masakazu “Ashikan Judan” Imanari.
The 31-year-old appeared more well-rounded than the Japanese leg lock legend, as he punished Imanari with powerful strikes laced with unmistakable ferocity. His foe tried to goad him into a ground war, but Kim wisely avoided it, and dominated the proceedings until the final bell rang. He earned a unanimous decision victory for his top-shelf performance.
Up next for Kim could be some of the bantamweight division’s most well-rounded grapplers, such as Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt Yusup “Maestro” Saadulaev. The Russian, who trains with Gafurov as a regular sparring partner, has one of the most fearsome ground games in the weight class. Also, he is on a five-bout win streak, and most recently also decisioned Imanari in January.
Aside from Saadulaev, Kim might very well want a rematch with the aforementioned Takenaka, whom he lost to via disqualification this past February. The two have unfinished business, which is best settled right in the cage.