ONE Championship lead commentator and Fox Sports presenter, Steve Dawson, breaks down this massive matchup to decide the fate of the ONE Lightweight World Championship.
Arguably the biggest mixed martial arts night Manila has ever had will kick off at the Mall of Asia Arena on Friday, 21 April – ONE: KINGS OF DESTINY
The MMA heart of the Philippines has always beaten at its strongest with the sheer tenacity of Eduard “Landslide” Folayangpumping through it.
At long last, having come within one win of a title challenge several times, the 33-year-old finally has a belt around his waist, and he’s wasted no time in letting the people of his beautiful country — especially his hometown of Baguio — get to see it.
Since becoming ONE Lightweight World Champion, he’s been involved in everything from a lavish street parade to intimate meet-and-greet sessions as far as the United States.
If all that isn’t wonderful enough for Folayang, his Team Lakay camp, and his Filipino compatriots to enjoy, there’s also the cherished realization that it was the great Shinya Aoki whom he de-throned.
Amid speculation that Folayang’s first defence would be a rematch with Aoki, most appreciated that it would be unlikely. Aoki’s loss wasn’t the result of a flash knock down or opportunism stemming from a moment of bad luck. Folayang’s win was thorough, emphatic, and because of the mix of styles on show, not entirely unexpected.
There may one day be a rematch, but first Folayang is likely to deal with a list of lightweight challengers, who themselves had been eyeing Aoki for a good while.
First among them is Ev Ting (13-3) who, since losing to featherweight lord Marat Gafurov in mid-2015, has blazed through a first-round submission win over Honorio Banario, a third-round submission of Eric Kelly, a unanimous decision over Rob Lisita, and a split decision over Kamal Shalorus.
That last fight was his most accomplished performance. He won fans by taking the fight despite his opponent not making weight, and followed it up with a toe-to-toe war in which he always looked to have the edge.
Lisita and Shalorus are well-muscled lightweights, and having come through those tests after rising from the featherweight division, Ting can now put up a very good case for not allowing the equally muscular Folayang to throw him around, despite giving away two inches in height to the 170cm tall Filipino.
What stands out here is that both men like to stay in the pocket while standing up. If a backward step is taken by either man, it will be with great reluctance.
Ting has won three of his last five by submission, but Folayang (17-5) worked hard on submission defense in preparation for Aoki, and I don’t foresee him tapping to Ting in this fight.
In terms of striking, the bludgeoning heaviness of a knee may have an impact. Aoki fell to Folayang with that form of attack, but perhaps only because the Japanese fighter was so concerned with bringing his challenger to the ground, thereby exposing himself.
Ting will certainly be more willing to stand and trade than Aoki was, and also better at defending strikes. The Malaysian is excellent with both knees and kicks, and this may be how the fight is stopped if it doesn’t go the full five rounds.
In all likelihood, the judges will have to work almost as hard as the fighters for 25 minutes. The extent to which Folayang, whose cardio is exceptional, can control Ting on the rare occasion when this does get to the ground may be crucial.
He’ll use that time to grab a breather against the younger man, while pressuring Ting and eating up time to defend a points lead. If he can’t do that, Ting’s ambition and fabulous energy may well dig out a points advantage of his own.
If pushed, I would lean towards Folayang winning a close points decision.
In the case that it does go turn out that way, expect a triangular series of bouts between these two and Aoki to ensue over the next 18 months, with Ariel Sexton waiting somewhere in the wings.
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.