After months of anticipation, Team Lakay’s Stephen “The Sniper” Loman finally made his ONE Championship debut – and he lived up to all the hype.
This past Friday, 17 December, the Filipino bantamweight sensation knocked out the division’s #3-ranked contender, Yusup “Maestro” Saadulaev, in the first round of their mixed martial arts clash at ONE: WINTER WARRIORS II in Singapore.
“I started out on a good note, and I was able to show the fruits of my training,” Loman says. “I think this is a good sign of things to come, and I will continue to do my best to live up to the expectations of the fans.”
For weeks, Loman had said that he was looking to hit the Dagestani submission ace with a clean shot, and he certainly backed up those words.
The 26-year-old Baguio City native constantly took aim at Saadulaev throughout the contest, even tagging “Maestro” with a picture-perfect overhand left that had him stumbling across the Circle.
But once that happened, Loman didn’t exhaust all of his energy in search of the finish.
The Team Lakay star knew the Dagestani was still dangerous, so he maintained his composure and stuck to his game plan. After all, he knew it would be a matter of time before another opportunity presented itself.
“I got him with a clean straight early on, but I felt like he was still strong and he could still recover,” Loman says.
“If I rushed, I could have gotten caught with a counter. That’s why I waited for the opportunity to get that clean shot. I patiently waited for him to let his guard down.”
Moments later, that patience paid off.
When Saadulaev stepped forward with a jab-cross, “The Sniper” saw a window of opportunity, stepped in, and cracked his bearded rival with a crunching overhand left that instantly dropped him to the canvas.
After a few follow-up punches to his grounded foe, referee Olivier Coste stopped the contest and awarded the Filipino debutant with the TKO victory at the 4:09 mark of the opening stanza.
“That counter is something that I’ve practiced inside the gym countless times before,” Loman continues.
“In the fight, the instinct kicked in. I knew he was getting comfortable with that jab-straight combo, so I timed it well and I got it in.”
By defeating Saadulaev, “The Sniper” pushed his record to 15-2 and extended his winning streak to nine victories. Following that success, he’s a lock to enter the top-five bantamweight rankings.
Now, Loman is looking to build off his momentum and focus on his next challenge – but from the sounds of it, he doesn’t think it’ll be for the ONE Bantamweight World Title.
The Filipino accepts that the two Brazilians have to battle first, so he’s willing to stay busy and fight another highly regarded athlete in the meantime.
“I am really not picky, but I want someone who’s higher than me in the rankings,” Loman says. “Maybe I’m one fight away from it. I know that I’ll have to wait at least after the bout between Lineker and Bibiano.”
There could be a lot of movement in the bantamweight rankings soon, especially after #4-ranked Fabricio “Wonder Boy” Andrade’s spectacular first-round knockout and “Pretty Boy” Kwon Won Il’s shocking upset of Loman’s Team Lakay stablemate, #2-ranked Kevin “The Silencer” Belingon.
Regardless, Loman promises that he’ll be ready for whoever the matchmakers put him against next.
“From now on,” he says, “I expect more challenges.”