This phenomenal rubber match will see two of the most skilled athletes on the ONE Championship roster go to battle in a historic ONE Bantamweight World Title trilogy contest.
In one corner, the defending World Champion will come in as one of the most in-form competitors in the world. Seven electrifying wins in a row against stiff competition have taken him to his sport’s ultimate prize.
Standing on the other side of the ring will be the most dominant World Champion in the history of the world’s largest martial arts organization – an iconic veteran with a burning desire to prove he is still the best on the planet.
Before they face off this Sunday, 31 March at the Ryogoku Kokugikan in Tokyo, Japan, get caught up with everything you need to know about Belingon VS Fernandes III.
The Road To Tokyo
The story of these two warriors’ rivalry began in January 2016 when Fernandes – already the long-reigning ONE Bantamweight World Champion – dispatched Belingon by first-round submission to defend his belt.
That lit a fire under the Filipino warrior. He returned to action after eight months honing his skills as a new and improved mixed martial artist, and began one of the most impressive winning streaks in ONE history.
Five consecutive victories took him to a showdown for the ONE Interim Bantamweight World Title against then-two-division ONE World Champion Martin “The Situ-Asian” Nguyen.
The Team Lakay star put on the best display of his career to earn a unanimous decision and set up a unification rematch with Fernandes – who had defended his gold three more times since their previous meeting.
Their contest at ONE: HEART OF THE LION was exhilarating. After five rounds of back-and-forth action during which every facet of mixed martial arts was on display, Belingon emerged with the narrowest of split decision victories. That left the scores tied between these outstanding warriors, so it was only right to book bout number three – at the biggest event in ONE history, no less.
Breaking Down The Bout
There were plenty of options available for each man to face in the talent-right bantamweight division, but as we laid out when this match-up was booked, it had to happen first.
Just days after his career-defining victory, Belingon revealed he was willing to face anyone, but because of his respect for Fernandes he was happy to run the bout back one more time. He also suggested this match-up more than any other was likely to make him even better when he next competed.
As ONE: A NEW ERA drew nearer and he was deep in his training camp, “The Silencer” explained how becoming World Champion has not changed him, and the urge to prove himself has motivated him to work harder than ever.
The 31-year-old also spoke of how the collective spirit of Team Lakay has pushed him to sustain his intensity, and the discipline he has learned keeps him on that path – even on his most difficult days.
After several months of reflection and the chance to review his defeat, Fernandes still failed to see how he could have lost, but he explained how his analysis has informed him exactly how to turn his fortunes around in Tokyo.
As always, one of the people who has been integral to his preparation is Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson. The Brazilian revealed how his relationship with the ONE Flyweight World Grand Prix contender has helped to make him into a martial arts legend.
The 39-year-old also broke down one of the most important reasons why he has managed to stay motivated to work hard at his craft after so many years as a World Champion at the top of his game.
It is anyone’s guess who will get the edge in this third meeting of bantamweight greats, but we have been through their résumés with a fine-tooth comb to offer some insight.
Beginning by looking backward, we investigated how Belingon turned the tables to win the rematch and showed he has the tools to make lightning strike for the second time.
On the other side of the coin, there is a lot of evidence to suggest why Fernandes has the skills to adjust and reclaim the gold in the rubber match.
Finally, you can look into the standout skills that could be each athlete’s keys to victory, and should also make for another unforgettable battle.
Sunday cannot come soon enough.