SINGAPORE -- Filipino Kevin Belingon isn't called "The Silencer" for nothing.
Coming into this fight with two straight defeats that cast doubts into his ability to challenge for the crown and faced against a taller, bigger foe with a better record, Belingon silenced his critics and non-believers with a first round stoppage of Russian Yusup Saadulaev in the One Fighting Championship: Rise of Kings Saturday night at the packed Singapore Indoor Stadium.
In a virtual showdown between a dreaded striker and a ground specialist, the one standing up prevailed as Belingon caught Saadulaev with powerful combinations three minutes and 18 seconds into the first round to nail his first win in three fights inside the One FC cage and his 10th overall in 12 mixed martial arts (MMA) bouts.
And the spectacular victory helped Belingon, an Ifugao native who trained in the famous Baguio City-based, wushu-rich Team Lakay, earned redemption following painful losses at the hands of Japan's Masakazu Imanari in the One FC: War of the Lions in Singapore last March 31 and Korea's Soo Chul Kim in the One FC: Pride of a Nation in Manila last August 31.
"I know if I lose this one I will have a difficult time to get back on track and earn a chance to fight for a title," said the 25-year-old Belingon, who grew up in an Ifugao town named Kiangan before falling in love with their tribe's martial arts called "Bultong," in Filipino.
"So I really trained hard for this and really focused on winning," he added.
And Belingon did it by coming prepared against his Russian foe known mainly for his superb takedowns and freakishly efficient grappling skills because of his long history of training in wrestling and jiu-jitsu back home in Russia and in the United States where he plunged into the MMA scene there before eventually ending up with Pride.
The former URCC champion never really gave Saadulaev, who came into the match with a better record of 9-1 to the former's 9-2 card, a chance to take the bout to the ground by keeping the fight a striking battle. But when the Russian did manage to pull the Filipino down, it backfired as Belingon wound up with a side mount.
There, Belingon attempted a paintbrush submission, or a tactic similar to arm locking, but when he failed, the Filipino assaulted the Russian with elbows and knees to the face and his side with some punishing flurries to the stomach.
The end came when Belingon landed a couple of vicious punches that turned Saadulaev glassy-eyed, forcing the referee to stop the fight.
The Russian, who fell to his second loss against nine wins, tried to protest the referee's decision saying that the stoppage was premature but replays in the massive video screens surrounding the stadium clearly showed the verdict was correct.
"When I hit him hard, I knew he was out so the referee made the right decision to stop it otherwise I may have given him more damage," said Belingon.
Belingon thus moved up the Bantamweight Grand Prix ladder where he hopes to win a couple of more fights to have a chance to face off with old tormentor Soo Chul Kim, who surprised everyone by coming up with a sensational second round stoppage of a highly favored Leandro Issa of Brazil for the bantamweight title.
"I'm focused to becoming the champion," said Belingon, who came here with his Team Lakay coach Marq Sanguiao.
Along the way though, he might run into some of One FC's top bantamweight's like American Jens "Lil Evil" Pulver, the UFC's first lightweight champion, and Japanese Masakatsu Ueda.
The 37-year-old Pulver survived kung fu master Zhao Ya Fei after officials stopped the fight early in the third and last round no thanks to the Chinese's illegal kick to the former's privates, sending the American to the canvass in grimacing in excruciating pain for several minutes.
Pulver, who got knocked out by Filipino Eric Kelly in the One FC's visit to Manila, eventually won it in the scorecards via unanimous decision.
Ueda, for his part, also won via unanimous decision over Korean Min Jung Song.
Belingon and Soo's upsets were one of the many surprises that happened on fight night, including one by Japanese Shooto champion Kotetsu Boku, who dethroned Brazilian Zorobabel Moreira to snatch the lightweight crown.
Japan's Shinya Aoki, meanwhile, proved he's the best armbar submission specialist in the world after he made shortwork of Frenchman Arnaud Lepont, whom he disptached in just a minute and 25 seconds to improve to 31-6-1 on his One FC debut.
In a non-titled middleweight bout, Dutch-Surinamese Melvin Manhoef sent Japan's Ryo Kawamura with a powerful right 20 seconds left in the first round to likewise debut in One FC on a bright note.
In other bouts, Mitch Chilson knocked out Indonesian Ngabdi Mulyadi in the second round while Malaysian wonder boy, 19-year-old Gianni Subba came through with the fastest win of the evening with a 33-second stoppage of Singaporean bet Bruce Loh, who took the fight on a 10 days notice, to dismay of his hometown crowd cheering him for a win.
Subba was quick to dedicate his triumph to a cousin who died a couple of months ago due to cancer.
"This one's for my cousin, who died two months ago due to cancer and didn't get to see me win this fight," he said.
One FC big boss Victor Cui, a Fil-Canadian said the next two fights will be on December 1 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and sometime in February next year in Manila.