Steve Dawson Analyzes Kevin Belingon VS Toni Tauru

ONE Championship lead commentator and Fox Sports presenter, Steve Dawson, gives his take on this exciting matchup between two top bantamweights.

Now on 11 appearances in ONE Championship, Kevin Belingon (14-5) takes on Toni Tauru (11-4-1) at The Mall of Asia Arena in Manila this Friday at ONE: KINGS OF DESTINY.

It’s a matchup that has seemed inevitable. Both have lost world bantamweight title challenges to the incomparable Bibiano Fernandes, and yet both are capable of working their way towards a second challenge.

Tauru had his tilt first in July 2015, but came unstuck in a third-round KO. It was a memorable contest for me in commentary, as I’d brought into question the Brazilian’s ability to finish a fight via punches, only for him to answer me emphatically within moments.

In January of the following year Belingon challenged Fernandes, and as many expected, he was submitted in double quick time.

What followed for Team Lakay was the greatest year in its history, culminating in Eduard Folayang exhibiting excellent takedown defence to flatten Shinya Aoki, and dispel the myth that Lakay fighters couldn’t compete with high-level grapplers.

Belingon was very much a part of that famed year, beating the very highly-regarded youngster Muin Gafurov by unanimous decision in October. Much of Gafurov’s appeal was that he had beaten Tauru on the night that Belingon challenged Fernandes.

On paper then, Belingon seems to have the advantage, as determined by their common opponent from Tajikistan, but Tauru qualified for a match with Belingon by defeating the Filipino’s teammate Geje Eustaquio in December. It was a win that steers him firmly back on track, and makes this match a one to keenly observe.

Whoever wins is likely to have to work his way through the captivating Reece McLaren, who provided Fernandes with his toughest challenge to date. That, though, is a challenge for another day, as is a potential fight with Mark Striegl in an exciting bantamweight division.

In truth, Tauru needed the win over Eustaquio to re-establish his credentials at this level. Now that he has, we could well see a resurgence in the Finnish fighter’s career.

Eustaquio is a fine fighter with focus and technicality, but Belingon is naturally bigger and stronger. His offense is headlined by damaging kicks that come thick and fast, seamlessly alternating with assaulting fists.

If Tauru can overcome the 29-year-old’s standup prowess, he has the chance to work the submission moves that have led to eight of his 11 wins.

The alternative is that he succumbs to Belingon’s striking, or the probability that he’ll be outworked to a decision.

Steve Dawson is ONE Championship’s lead commentator, a Fox Sports presenter and an author of sporting biographies. He can be found on Twitter & Instagram as @Gulasahi and on Facebook as Steve Dawson.