Team Lakay head coach Mark Sangiao will be watching intently from the corner when former ONE bantamweight champion Kevin Belingon takes on former UFC veteran John Lineker Friday night.
Belingon and Lineker are set to trade leather in the main event of ONE: Inside the Matrix III, a previously recorded event from Singapore scheduled to air on Friday.
After 4 high-profile bouts against the division’s king, Bibiano Fernandes, Sangiao believes Belingon has to beat others in the top 5 to earn another title shot.
“This fight against John Lineker is actually the fight that Kevin wished for even before. Kevin has been very eager to return to the top, so he wants all the best opponents in the division,” said Sangiao.
“This is the path back to the belt. Kevin has to take out the top opposition. If you want to be the best, you have to fight the best, and this is it.”
Since ONE Championship returned to its flagship event schedule in August, Filipino fighters have appeared twice so far inside the Circle.
However, in recent weeks, things have not exactly panned out for the Filipinos with ex ONE lightweight Eduard Folayang, who lost to Australia’s Antonio Caruso, and karateka Ramon Gonzales, who was stopped by Indonesian wrestling champion Eko Roni Saputra.
ONE: Inside the Matrix III features appearances from three of Team Lakay’s top stars.
Apart from Belingon, former ONE flyweight champion Geje Eustaquio battle South Korea’s Song Min Jong, while rising star Lito Adiwang takes on former Shooto Champion Hiroba Minowa from Japan.
Sangiao has had his hands full as of late, preparing his team for battle. His focus on Belingon has revolved around making sure Belingon is well-equipped to handle Lineker’s infamous power.
Nearly half of Lineker’s 32 career victories have come by knockout, and that’s not a stat Sangiao is taking lightly.
“We’ve been sharpening his skills and rebuilding his confidence. All the fights against Bibiano were tough. It helped Kevin improve a lot. Right now, we’re focused on John Lineker,” Sangiao said.
“He has very powerful hands, which is why he has earned the reputation and the nickname ‘Hands of Stone.’ It’s going to be his striking versus the Team Lakay striking, we’ll see who comes out on top.”
If Belingon beats Lineker convincingly, many believe it will be enough to earn him another crack at Fernandes’ throne.
“In my mind, the winner of this fight deserves a title shot. Kevin is the number one contender. If he beats another ranked opponent, that will put him closer to a fifth bout with Bibiano,” Sangiao concluded.