Last Sunday, ONE Championship commemorated its 100th live event by hosting two separate stacked fight cards on the same day at the Ryogoku Kokugikan. It was a memorable night in Tokyo for the promotion, featuring a 22-bout lineup that delivered many intense battles.
While Japan continues to be a fantastic site as a whole for the Singapore-based organization, it seems to be a perturbing place for Filipino mixed martial arts (MMA) athletes. When ONE Championship held its first show here in March, the nation’s contingents struggled to get significant victories. It happened once more at ONE: Century, where four of the five competitors who donned the Philippine colors faltered against foreign opposition.
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Aung La N Sang derailed Brandon Vera’s aspiration to become a two-division MMA world champion by defeating the Filipino-American superstar by way of a second-round technical knockout to retain the light heavyweight title.
Both men stood toe-to-toe from start to finish and figured in one of the most exciting bouts in the promotion’s eight-year existence. Myanmar’s only world MMA champion came out of the gates blazing, peppering his opponent with heavy blows from different angles. Vera, a southpaw, fired back, repeatedly tagging The Burmese Python with crisp elbow shots and lethal knees in closed-quartered exchanges.
Drawing cheers from the raucous crowd, the two warriors unloaded blistering combinations that pushed each other to the limit in the second round. However, the pace seemed to take a toll on Vera, who had not been to the second round since 2014 and has slowed down dramatically.
Capitalizing on his foe’s exhaustion, Aung La N Sang landed a hard right hand and smashed him with a spinning back elbow. Vera copied and went for an elbow shot of his own, but he missed and paid for it.
Aung La N Sang quickly pounced with a volley of strenuous punches that dropped the heavyweight champion to the canvas. He rained down unforgiving punches, and all Vera could do was cover until the referee stepped in to wave it off at the 3:23 mark of the second frame.
With his title defense, Aung La N Sang improved to a 26-10 record, riding high on a seven-fight winning streak. The second-round demolition of Vera also earned him his fifth-straight win by knockout. On the other hand, Vera suffered his first loss in six years. The disappointing defeat likewise snapped his four-bout strife since joining ONE Championship in 2014. His professional record currently stands at 16-8.
Vera did not grant interviews after the fight, but in a video that he posted on Instagram, the Fil-Am sensation offered nothing but respect to Aung La N Sang.
“Sometimes, things don’t go as planned. Sometimes, no matter how hard you chase them and how perfect things are, it still don’t turn out perfect. Am I happy? No. Am I mad? Yeah. But Mr. Aung La N Sang, congratulations again, brother. You deserved it. You earned it,” he says.
Bad day at the office
Meanwhile, the whole-day affair proved to be catastrophic for Team Lakay as they went 1-3 at ONE: Century.
Bibiano Fernandes put the biggest rivalry in ONE Championship history to bed with an emphatic finish of Kevin Belingon. In their fourth clash for the bantamweight crown, the Brazilian legend dominated and then submitted his long-standing adversary with a rear-naked choke in the second round.
Meanwhile, former lightweight champion Shinya Aoki made quick work of ex-featherweight titlist Honorio Banario, submitting the Team Lakay member in just 54 seconds. It was the beginning of the end for the Filipino when the Japanese legend dropped him to the mat with a body-lock takedown right at the start of the round.
Aoki then caught the defenseless Banario with an anaconda choke to force the tap. He celebrated his scintillating submission victory over the Filipino outside the cage, which drew a loud ovation from the hometown crowd.
Danny Kingad also lost to former UFC titleholder Demetrious Johnson in the finals of the ONE Flyweight World Grand Prix via unanimous decision. The American pound-for-pound king authored a masterful performance to outclass the Filipino standout over the course of three rounds, utilizing his impeccable ground game to secure the victory.
The lone Filipino fighter who triumphed last Sunday was Lito Adiwang, who put together an impressive showing in his ONE Championship main roster debut. He scored a first-round technical knockout victory over former Pancrase champion Senzo Ikeda.
Known for his striking, he showed off a different facet of his game as he scored an early takedown and immediately executed a scarf-hold armlock. The bout was stopped just moments later after Ikeda suffered an injury to his arm, giving the stoppage win to Adiwang.
It appears that Filipino talents are at a crossroads in ONE Championship, but the road to redemption for these athletes begins on November 8. ONE: Masters Of Fate will be headlined by Joshua Pacio, defending his strawweight title against compatriot Rene Catalan.
In the co-main event, Filipino icon Eduard Folayang will square off against Mongolia’s Amarsanaa Tsogookhuu. Meanwhile, Geje Eustaquio battles former title contender Toni Tauru in a rematch.
For more information on ONE: Masters of Fate, visit OneFC.com.