Manila was simply electric last Friday night, as ONE: KINGS OF DESTINY rocked a capacity Mall of Asia Arena with perhaps the most action-packed ONE Championship card to date.
The best local mixed martial arts talent in the Philippines went up against some of best international opposition Asian MMA had to offer, with Team Lakay winning all five of their bouts in emphatic fashion.
Let’s take a look at what could be next for some of the biggest winners of ONE: KINGS OF DESTINY
Entering his first title defense since winning the ONE Lightweight World Championship from Shinya Aoki last November, Folayang turned in a truly defining performance against Malaysia’s Ev Ting, edging the challenger in nearly every category. The fight itself played out much the way it was supposed to.
Folayang was stronger, faster, and busier than Ting on all fronts, and was incredibly difficult to bring to the mat. Ting already had a tough challenge ahead of him, and with Folayang defending his belt in front of his hometown crowd in Manila, things became even tougher.
Victory wasn’t easy, however. The champion needed a near-perfect performance for all five rounds to stave off Ting’s tremendous challenge, but in the end, “Landslide” reigned supreme, as the Team Lakay veteran showcased his wide breadth of striking capabilities.
One man in particular, however, stood out from the pack, calling out Folayang on social media immediately following his victory – ONE Featherweight World Champion Marat “Cobra” Gafurov.
It seems the Russian kingpin has expressed his intent to put together a superfight of epic proportions, and it would be unlike Folayang to turn him down should the opportunity materialize.
By the time Kevin Belingon was finished with his masterpiece of a performance, the entire crowd stood in absolute awe at what had just transpired. The 29-year-old Filipino striker once again put the entire bantamweight division on notice with another dominant outing, easily taking care of Finnish submission wizard Toni “Dynamite” Tauru.
The two fighters spent a brief moment sizing each other up. For Belingon, it was a chance to discover what Tauru had to offer. As soon as he figured out it wasn’t anything he couldn’t handle, Belingon went completely ballistic, firing powerful left and right hands from every angle.
There was no way Belingon was giving Tauru any sort of respite, as he swarmed the Finnish fighter with his own brand of dynamite. Belingon put forward quite possibly his most frightening form, and reminded fans that he is without a doubt the most exciting bantamweight in ONE Championship.
The win now gives Belingon two in a row over high-level opponents since losing to ONE Bantamweight World Champion Bibiano “The Flash” Fernandes in January. Has Belingon earned another crack at the title? Maybe so.
Perhaps a showdown with Filipino-Australian contender Reece McLaren is on the cards before another title shot can come to fruition.
Is there any doubt left whether Honorio Banario is the real deal? He certainly silenced his critics with another spectacular performance, knocking out promotional newcomer Jaroslav Jartim with a single left hook within one round.
With eight-division boxing world champion and ONE stakeholder Manny “Pacman” Pacquiao watching live from cageside, Banario flexed his muscle and uncorked a Pacquiao-esque left hook to separate Jartim from his senses, stunning all who were watching.
The one-punch knockout was Banario’s fourth win in a row, with his most recent two coming via impressive finish.
What’s next for the resurgent lightweight? There are plenty of other challengers for Banario to further test himself against, even though he has repeatedly said he would not fight his Team Lakay “brother” and reigning champion Eduard Folayang.
One fight that makes absolute sense is against Dagestani prospect Saygid Guseyn Arslanaliev. A Banario-Arslanaliev bout would give Arslanaliev the chance to face a big-name opponent, while also giving Banario a chance to further impress with another victory over solid opposition.
Banario, however, has expressed intent on fighting Ev Ting, who dropped a close decision to Folayang in the main event.
Despite not getting the fight fans wanted to see against Malaysia’s Keanu Subba, Christian Lee made a successful return to the ONE Championship cage showcasing improved poise and controlled aggression.
Lee stepped inside the cage with Chinese fighter Wan Jian Ping, looking to erase the bitter memory of the first loss of his career last August, and he electrified the crowd with another exciting first-round finish.
A new maturity in the young athlete was evident, as instead of throwing caution to the wind and attacking Wan from the opening bell, Lee opted to bide his time and pick his shots until an opening presented itself. Eventually, it did, and an emotional Lee got the victory he yearned nearly eight months for.
Subba, however, remains the only logical fight for Lee at the moment, and the bout would most likely happen as soon as Subba recovers from the injury which caused him to withdraw in the first place.