The conclusion of one of ONE Championship’s most epic rivalries will take place on 31 March at ONE: A NEW ERA as Kevin “The Silencer” Belingon takes on Bibiano “The Flash” Fernandes for the third time.
Brazil’s Fernandes made short work of the Team Lakay athlete in their first meeting in 2016 – a first-round kimura allowed him to retain the ONE Bantamweight World Title.
Six straight wins – including a victory in an interim World Championship bout against Martin Nguyen – finally put the Filipino back into the cage with Fernandes last November.
It was an instant classic over all five rounds at ONE: HEART OF THE LION, and Belingon was able to eke out the victory by split decision to become the new, undisputed World Champion.
This is how he did it.
As a wushu expert, it is no surprise that Belingon has a wide array of striking combinations at his disposal, but his skills were arguably never put to better use than against Fernandes in their rematch.
The 31-year-old was conservative with his power shots to ensure he had enough energy to go all five rounds, but when he finally exploded during an exchange, he was looking for maximum damage.
Some of the best strikes that Belingon threw over the 25-minute affair came after he worked his way out of a Fernandes’ clutches, and then unleashed a flurry that usually ended with a kick flying at the Brazilian. He also kept Fernandes guessing with spinning kicks that had the crowd on its feet.
The constant barrage of strikes with pinpoint accuracy really paid off in the fourth round when Belingon cracked Fernandes with a stinging right hand that sent the Brazilian down to the canvas.
When the match was in its closing stages, a blistering series of leg kicks kept Fernandes at bay and took Belingon to the victory after the final bell.
It is not often anybody goes to the ground with Fernandes and survives, but Belingon managed to do that a few times at ONE: HEART OF THE LION.
While “The Flash” was able to score with several takedowns, he struggled to stop Belingon from finding a way to break free and scramble back to his feet.
Getting out of those positions time and time again frustrated the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt and may have caused him to take fewer risks in going for the finish.
Even when Fernandes managed to get the mount at one point during the bout, Belingon continued to move until he was finally able to escape.
Bottomless Gas Tank
One of the best weapons that Belingon employed against Fernandes in the rematch was his ability to push the pace for all five rounds.
While Fernandes has spent his entire career in ONE Championship preparing for World Title bouts, it was Belingon who was able to turn the tables on him with his cardio as they entered the business end of the contest.
Perhaps the best example of that supreme conditioning came during the fourth and fifth rounds when the Filipino machine really turned up the heat with his striking attacks. They likely sealed the deal for his victory.
With just five minutes remaining in the contest, Belingon was still bouncing on the balls of his feet and launching leg kicks at Fernandes like it was the opening round.
“The Silencer” had to be technically proficient in all areas of the bout with Fernandes, but he also showed unreal mental acuity when he was caught in a couple of bad positions.
In the second round, Fernandes took his rival’s back and transitioned into an armbar attempt that he had to believe would finish the contest.
It was a similar situation in the fourth round when the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt once again secured a takedown and worked towards the same submission.
However, on both occasions, Belingon gritted his teeth, refused to tap, and scrambled out of the submission.
Considering how Fernandes so effortlessly finished their first meeting via tapout, Belingon showed a new level of mental toughness in the rematch, and it was the difference between another early night, and the World Title getting wrapped around his waist.