ONE Championship's 18th live event on Philippine soil last Friday, August 2, was billed as a landmark spectacle in the flourishing mixed martial arts (MMA) scene in the country because of its all-star lineup of bouts—but it was not the best of nights for the renowned Team Lakay.
At ONE: Dawn Of Heroes, the most recognizable all-Filipino MMA stable lost four of their five matches in front of a huge hometown crowd at the Mall of Asia Arena.
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Filipino superstar Eduard Folayang bowed to former UFC and Bellator champion Eddie Alvarez in a showdown that was promoted to a ONE Lightweight World Grand Prix semi-final clash.
Folayang attacked Alvarez with a blitz of strikes to open the contest and a low kick brought “The Underground King” to the mat. Alvarez, however, was able to sweep Folayang to wind up in the mount position. From there, he took Folayang’s back, fished for the submission, and forced the tap.
The preliminary card likewise proved to be disastrous for Team Lakay as they went 0-3 to kick off ONE: Dawn Of Heroes.
Former flyweight champion Geje Eustaquio suffered the first knockout loss of his career after getting stopped by heavy-handed Japanese combatant Yuya Wakamatsu in just the first round. Wakamatsu, who had lost his first two outings under the ONE Championship banner, timed his shot and connected on a well-placed right straight that had Eustaquio out.
The Japanese contender followed up with a couple of punches before the referee stepped in to call a stop to the bout at the 1:59 mark.
Meanwhile, ex-featherweight kingpin Honorio Banario could not pull out a win either as he lost to South Korea’s Dae Sung Park via unanimous decision.
To compound the misery, Edward Kelly also had an unfortunate end to his evening after an unintentional illegal blow to the back of the head midway through second round rendered him unable to continue in his bout against China’s Xie Bin.
With the fight already past the midway point, a technical decision was ruled, in favor of Xie, who picked up his eighth-straight win as he improved to 8-1 in his career.
The lone Team Lakay member who had his arm raised at ONE: Dawn Of Heroes was Danny Kingad, who secured his spot in the ONE Flyweight World Grand Prix finals with a split decision win over Australia's Reece McLaren.
Kingad survived a number of precarious situations in the first two rounds to rally back in the final round. In the last two minutes of the bout, he dominated a fading McLaren as he was able to land a couple of takedowns and unload some ground-and-pound to swing the decision in his favor.
Not the first time
Team Lakay headmaster Mark Sangiao remains confident they can recover despite the 1-4 slide because his fighters are no stranger to adversity.
"This is not the first time we experienced cases like this. Before, we experienced a 0-5 night. We will be back again. I know we will be back better and stronger," Sangiao expresses.
Earlier this year, Team Lakay also faced a tough stretch where they lost all four world title belts in quick succession from January to March.
As quickly as fans show their support when you win, they turn on you when you lose. This is a harsh reality that athletes go through, especially now in this age of social media. While most athletes tend to look away from the negative comments, there are others who see fit to take those criticisms and turn them into positives.
This is what made Team Lakay successful. For years, the group has absorbed all the criticism that people have thrown at them, from not being world-class to not having a good enough ground game to compete with the best.
Team Lakay responded by defeating the best that ONE Championship and other promotions have to offer en route to multiple world title wins. But with the ups come the downs, and at ONE: Dawn of Heroes, Team Lakay went 1-4. Of course, the negative comments came storming in, and at this point, the team is no longer surprised.
Joshua Pacio, the reigning ONE Championship strawweight titleholder, has been on the receiving end of some of those negative comments from his previous losses. However, he turned those into motivation, which translated into two world title reigns at the age of 23.
During Team Lakay's post-fight presser, Pacio had a message for those Team Lakay bashers: “Like we’ve said in the past, bashers, we take these things as a positive. This will motivate us. They are part of this sport. There will be bashers, and there will be lovers.” Despite the struggles, Folayang left parting words at the same post-event press conference that promise a comeback.
"We shall return," Folayang vows.