The biggest mixed martial arts (MMA) event to hit the Philippines, One Fighting Championship: Pride of the Nation, began and ended with a one-sided fight in which fans couldn’t wait to end. Nevertheless, it was a terrific fight night complete with great action, stunning upsets, an expected retirement and some controversy.
With an 11-bout card, the event was stacked featuring local favorites, familiar names, fighters hoping to recreate past magic and some regional unknowns. But picking up the reins from the magnificent strides of the local Universal Reality Combat Championship (URCC), One FC, showed that there is indeed a market in the Philippines, for what is said to be the fastest growing sport in the world: MMA.
Eduard Folayang, current URCC welterweight champion, faced off with Japanese-Swiss Felipe Enomoto, in the penultimate bout of the event that ended way past one o’clock in the morning on Saturday.
The match was easily the most anticipated fight outside the fourth meeting of Andrei Arlovski and Tim Sylvia as the Enomoto-Folayang fight had all sorts of undertones to it despite this being the first meeting between the two fighters.
Last February 11, in the One FC: Battle of Heroes in Jakarta, Indonesia, Enomoto defeated Fil-Dane Ole Laursen via second round submission. One month later, Laursen bounced back albeit with a controversial split decision over Folayang in One FC: War of the Lions held in Singapore.
“The fight is important because I know I beat Laursen but the judges didn’t think that way,” said Folayang in the vernacular before the fight. “If I can defeat Enomoto who won over Laursen, I will know in my heart and mind that I never lost to Laursen.”
And Folayang showed why he is dubbed “Landslide.” More than a resident of Baguio, the Philippines’ summer capital, where landslides occur along the mountainous region, the former physical education teacher rained down strikes, elbows and kicks on Enomoto in the first two rounds.
Enomoto took massive shots from Folayang but every now and then, he landed a telling strike of his own, one of which immediately opened up a nasty welt underneath the Filipino’s right eye in the first round.
After expending tremendous energy in trying to bludgeon Enomoto, Folayang ran out of steam in the third and final round as the Swiss fighter began to connect on a series of shots to the head that rocked the hometown favorite.
But Enomoto’s best wasn’t good enough on this night as Folayang won the bout via unanimous decision to hike his win record to 12-2.
Sylvia-Arlovski Part Four
As far as MMA rivalries go, the fourth meeting between Tim Sylvia and Andrei Arlovski had a lot of hype or disinterest depending on one’s point of view.
The first two battles in UFC 51 and UFC 59 respectively were slugfests from the opening bell with Arlovski and Sylvia respectively picking up a win via first-round knockouts. In UFC 61 (July 2006), the two, mindful of each other’s striking power, preferred to jab from a distance. Sylvia picked up a unanimous decision win to loud choruses from Mandalay Center audience that felt was treated to a lackluster fight. However, it was learned later on that the reason for both fighters’ seeming reluctance to mix it up was because Arlovski suffered a broken a leg due to a Sylvia kick in the second round, while the latter suffered an undetected concussion that saw him faint hours afterwards.
In their fourth meeting in Manila with both fighters trying to resuscitate their flagging heavyweight careers, Sylvia promised to shove the Belarusian’s plastic fangs (that he wears as props) down his throat. He came close to accomplishing that but the result was a thrilling and ultimately unsatisfying was a bar room brawl gone wild.
Arlovski, who from day one of the One FC event’s promotions made it memorable with his one-liners and enthusiasm, and Sylvia engaged in what might be the signature fight of the evening.
Sylvia looked like his old fearless self as he was the aggressor early on. And he appeared to get the better of his rival in the first two rounds with a series of jabs, uppercuts and knees to Arlovski’s head and body. But the Belarusian, unlike his recent performances where he would fade early, countered as he rocked the American with shots to the head.
In the second round, one Arlovski strike saw Sylvia’s mouth guard knocked out. As the American attempted to insert it inside his mouth, Arlovski seized the moment with Sylvia momentarily defenseless. He threw some strikes but the American managed to clinch himself out of trouble.
In the third round, Arlovski finally dropped his foe with a pair of shots. As Sylvia fell, Arlovski realizing the moment was his, went in for a pair of soccer kicks. Referee Yuji Shimada called for time and issued Arlovski a yellow card. One FC rules stipulate that a fighter can only go for kicks to the head after securing permission from the referee to do so.
The courtside doctor checked up on Sylvia who said he was seeing double but the judges ruled that the fight continue. With Sylvia still unable to do so, the bout was declared a no contest with fight officials hinting at a fifth fight between the two.
Backstage, one event official said that with all the negative press that the National Football League is receiving stemming from the concussions and suicides of its former players, there is greater emphasis on fighter protection.
The result drew boos from the crowd who earlier saw “The New York Bad Ass” Phil Baroni lay waste to his Brazilian opponent Rodrigo Ribiero in similar fashion.
The third fight of the evening saw an incredibly loose Baroni ham it up for the crowd. Wearing a New York Yankees away jersey, the self proclaimed “Future Legend” sashayed onto the octagon and showed some nifty dance moves.
Once he got it on with Ribiero, he was all business. The New York Bad Ass immediately tagged the Brazilian with a right that sent him staggering back. Baroni was all over him as he mixed up a series of right hammer strikes with a kick to the head. Baroni kicked at Ribiero four times before Shimada, who also officiated the fight, pulled the American away giving his a first round victory and the quickest result of the night.
On his way out of the ring following his victory, Baroni picked up ring girl Kim Ha Yul much to the delight of the crowd. “You have to put on a show for the fans. I’m a fun-loving guy and I show it,” explained Baroni backstage.
Baroni evened his record to 15-15-0 and the New Yorker said: “I got him (Ribiero) early and never let him get into the fight. I’m happy with this win because I got to do this in front of the first big MMA fight in the Philippines. And it evens up my record.”
When asked about the “future legend” on his shirts, Baroni promised with a hearty laugh, “I am working on it.”
In the eagerly anticipated Eric Kelly-Jens Pulver match, the former won the fight but the latter won the crowd.
Kelly, who along with Folayang are the top names in Philippine MMA, showed his superb conditioning and explosive power as he rocked the American early on. But Pulver proved to be adept and telling on his counter attacks as he took the first round.
Come the second round, Kelly, who fights out of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, came out attacking as two quick punches rocked Li’l Evil as Pulver is nicknamed. The American shrugged off the punches and dared Kelly to bring it on. The Filipino obliged and with two rights and a kick to the midsection, dropped Pulver to his knees. Kelly threw a few more strikes after which the referee put a stop to the fight.
Kelly hiked his record to a perfect 8-0, while Pulver fell to 26-17-1. Pulver announced his possible retirement from fighting and he surprised the crowd by saying that he was donating the profits of a shirt of his being sold online to the relief efforts for the victims of the recent typhoons that have plagued the Philippines. The crowd, biased for the hometown fighters, lustily cheered on Pulver.
Backstage the American said, “That kid (Kelly) is good. Now if that didn’t knock some sense into me then I don’t know what will. Yeah, I think this is as good as any time to hang it up. I’ve had a good run. Been champion. Done that.”
After Kelly’s win, he was informed on stage by Cui that he will be taking on fellow Filipino and current URCC lightweight champion Honorio Banario (who dispatched of an overmatched Andrew Benibe in the first match of the night) this coming October in One FC: Rise of Kings in Singapore. The announcement somewhat soured Kelly’s victory as the crowd did not relish the idea of two Filipinos clashing for the One FC featherweight title.
In other matches, URCC flyweight champion Kevin Belingon lost his second consecutive One FC fight when he fell to Korean Soo Chul Kim via unanimous decision. Kim came out aggressive from the opening bell when he repeatedly took down Belingon and pummeled him with a series of hammer fists.
Belingon, on the defensive for the most part, occasionally managed to slip out of the various locks the Korean employed on him. But Kim, slippery and maintaining his aggressiveness, would reverse the move and get back on top of the Filipino.
Belingon, egged on by the crowd, tried to keep the fight from going to the canvass where the ground game was more to the Korean’s advantage. The Filipino bloodied Kim but he shook it off and continued his attack.
In the final round, Belingon was able to take down Kim but the Korean deftly prevented the hometown favorite from latching onto a submission maneuver as he picked up the victory via unanimous decision.
“Stone Cutter’ Jung Hwan Cha, the submission specialist, made it clean sweep for the Korean contingent when he followed up Kim’s victory with a masterful win over Brazilian Igor Gracie due to strikes.
Cha and Gracie seemed evenly matched but the second round takedown of the scion of MMA’s Royal Family took something out of him. In the third round, Char staggered Gracie with a series of strikes and following a takedown, found himself on top of the Brazilian who was left defenseless. The referee stopped the fight one minute and three seconds into the round.
Igor’s two other brothers, younger brother Gregor and older sibling Rolles picked up a pair of dominating victories to ensure some cheer for their family. Gregor got Australian Nicholas Mann in an armbar prompting the referee to stop the fight, while Rolles dropped an overmatched and slow Tony Bonello with several thunderous takedowns and hammer fists. The 6-foot-3 Rolles finished off Bonello with a rear naked choke.
The second fight of the evening saw Thai Shannon “OneShin” Wiratchai awarded a controversial victory over American Mitch “The Dragon” Chilson. As both fighters traded punches and kicks, the Thai dropped Chilson with a right and kick to the body. Referee Moritaka Oshiro waded in and stopped the fight much to the dismay of Chilson and the crowd.
“I thought it was a little premature,” said Chilson. “Maybe he would have finished me off. Maybe I could have defended myself. Guess we won’t know that now.”
But there was no such controversial end to the main event that saw Brazilian Bibiano Fernandes take on Brazilian-Australian Gustavo Falciroli.
Despite the match being fought at past 1 a.m., the two summoned a lot of energy to close out One FC’s inaugural event on Philippine shores. But Fernandes was simply better as he escaped one hold after another to rock Falciroli. Unfortunately for Fernandes, egged on by the crowd to close the fight out with something spectacular or memorable instead pocketed his first One FC win via unanimous decision.
Personal memorable moments:
During the Soo Chul Kim and Kevin Belingon bout, there was a moment there when the Korean took down the Filipino and was talking to him. It reminded me of that scene from "Saving Private Ryan" when a German soldier was trying to impale an American soldier with a bayonet. The scene was ad libbed by the characters playing the respective roles and “the German” was talking to the “American” before plunging the bayonet through his heart.
The fight between “Stone Cutter” Cha and Igor Gracie was the best technical match for me.
The Sylvia-Arlovski fight was the most memorable one as it went one way then another and back and forth until the controversial ending.
Loved the Pulver-Kelly and Enomoto-Folayang fights as all four fighters battled on and never let up.