MANILA, Philippines -- Team Lakay kicked off 2021 in style, as rising star Lito "Thunder Kid" Adiwang scored a massive knockout of Japan's Namiki Kawahara in ONE Championship's first event of the year last Friday.
Adiwang stopped Kawahara at the 2:02 mark of the second round of their strawweight clash at ONE: Unbreakable last Friday at the Singapore Indoor Stadium.
It was a competitive match all throughout, but Adiwang emerged as the last man standing.
For Team Lakay head coach Mark Sangiao, Adiwang put together a "solid performance" that showcased his explosiveness and skills.
"I loved how explosive he was with his striking, and he clearly displayed why he's such a dangerous fighter," said Sangiao. "He also had that extra bit of motivation and determination to bring the victory home for the Philippines, and to fight in honor of his mother."
Adiwang had fought just a couple of months after the death of his beloved mother, and afterward he dedicated his victory to her.
According to Sangiao, they were prepared for any eventuality in the fight against Kawahara.
"If it was going to a striking battle, we were prepared. If it went to the ground, we would have been ready to submit him as well," he said. "We worked hard in the gym for all possible scenarios, and it paid off in the end."
Adiwang employed his usual explosive style and tried to barrel through Kawahara's defense early on, but the latter's wide stance proved slightly problematic for the Filipino.
Oftentimes, Adiwang swung for the fences only to come up short, leaving him open for sharp counters. Still, Sangiao was confident that his ward had enough firepower to eventually overwhelm the Japanese standout.
"Kawahara is also a great fighter, no doubt about that. He was calm and composed throughout, and he wasn't fazed by Lito's power at all," Sangiao observed.
"He had a good counter shot that just cannot be underestimated. Lito needed to be extra cautious and apply his kicking, punch accuracy and speed. We tried to attack with punches from a safe distance," he added.
Once Adiwang found his range, however, it was over for Kawahara.
"The thing is, if Lito touches you, you're going down," said Sangiao. "Not many people can survive his power, and he can finish you in many different ways."
"After Lito touched him on the chin, it was lights out. One shot is all it takes," he added.
It was a fantastic turnaround for Adiwang, who late last year dealt with his first loss inside the ONE Circle last November, and then the passing of his mother.
Being a guiding voice in Adiwang's corner, Sangiao tried his best to settle his fighter's mind before the battle ensued.
"I told him to stay calm and composed, and just focus on striking accurately from the outside, not to get too wild and careless. As always, we look for every opportunity for the takedown, if the situation will call for it. Lito is very good with his submissions. I don't think anyone wants to go to the ground with him," said Sangiao.
"2020 was definitely a trying year for Lito. It wasn't easy. But I think he will be much more focused this year, and he will be more consistent with his training. He is very motivated right now, and very driven. The challenges he faced last year in and out of the Circle has made him a lot stronger as a fighter and as a person. He wants the biggest challenges he can get now."