2018 PH combat sports in review: Pacquiao back on top; Pinoy MMA reigns

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 26 2018 09:25 PM | Updated as of Dec 26 2018 09:30 PM

Manny Pacquiao and Nonito Donaire Jr. again found themselves wrapping the world-championship belt around their waist in a relatively successful campaign for Filipino boxers.

Their mixed-martial-arts brothers collectively put up their most dominant showing in the international scene, winning a number of ONE Championship titles.

Here is a look back at the triumphant season for the country's heavy hitters.

BANNER YEAR FOR TEAM LAKAY FIGHTERS

It was a big year for coach Mark Sangiao and Team Lakay, as the Benguet-based MMA crew collected 4 world titles in the ONE Championship circuit.

Champions Josua Pacio (strawweight), Geje Eustaquio (flyweight), Kevin Belingon (bantamweight), and Eduard Folayang (lightweight) all simultaneously came away with their belts this year. Photo by George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

BRANDON VERA ENDS 2-YEAR HIATUS

Brandon Vera made a victorious return to the cage after putting his MMA career on hold for 2 years to establish his roots in the Philippines and shoot a movie.

With just a left counterpunch to his opponent's jaw, Vera successfully defended his ONE heavyweight title against Italy's Mauro Cerilli. Photo by George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

PACQUIAO SPLITS, REUNITES WITH ROACH

The year saw long-time ring partners Manny Pacquiao and Freddie Roach part ways, then reunite.

Roach, widely credited for Pacquiao's rise to become an 8-division world champion, found himself kicked out of Team Pacquiao shortly before his fight against Lucas Matthysse.

But after knocking out Matthysse, Pacquiao decided to bring back Roach as his consultant ahead of his January 2019 fight versus Adrien Broner. Photo by Lucy Nicholson, Reuters

PACQUIAO SCORES FIRST KNOCKOUT IN 9 YEARS

Manny Pacquiao finally scored a stoppage victory by halting Argentinean Lucas Matthysse in 7 rounds, his first knockout victory since stopping Miguel Cotto in 2009.

But getting that victory wasn’t easy for the Filipino boxing superstar. First, he split with Top Rank promoter Bob Arum who wanted him to fight Mike Alvarado at a supporting bout for the Terence Crawford-Jeff Horn fight. Also for the first time, he trained minus Freddie Roach and appointed Buboy Fernandez as his new head coach.

Pacquiao’s stoppage win resurrected talks of a rematch with Floyd Mayweather Jr. ​ Photo by Lai Seng Sin, Reuters

PINOY BATTLES PINOY FOR WORLD TITLES

A pair of world-title fights featured an all-Filipino cast, a billing that hadn't happened in 93 years.

In May, Jerwin Ancajas came away with a difficult unanimous decision win to retain the world junior bantamweight crown against Jonas Sultan.

Four months later, Donnie Nietes and Aston Palicte battled for the vacant world super-flyweight title, which ended in a controversial split draw.  Photos by Santino Honasan, ABS-CBN Sports; Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

ROGER LADON WINS SILVER IN 2018 ASIAN GAMES

Olympian Rogen Ladon took home a silver in the Asian Games in Jakarta, the best finish by a Filipino boxer at the tournament.

Despite sporting a deep cut in his right eye, the Bago, Negros Occidental fighter competed valiantly before settling for second place against Uzbekistan's Jasurbek Latipov. 

Countrymen Carlo Paalam and Eumir Marcial, both bronze winners, provided the other medals in boxing. Photo by Willy Kurniawan, Reuters

NONITO DONAIRE BECOMES WORLD CHAMPION AGAIN

  Nonito Donaire Jr. took home a world title again, after crowning himself as the new "super" world bantamweight champion in his victory over Ryan Burnett, who went down with an injury in their bout on November 4. 

It was a successful return by Donaire to the bantamweight class after getting mixed results as a featherweight. Photo from Nonito Donaire's Twitter account

VIC SALUDAR JOINS LIST OF PINOY WORLD CHAMPS

On July 13, former amateur standout Vic Saludar crowned himself as the new world minimumweight (mini-flyweight) champion by outclassing Ryuya Yamanaka on Japan.

The 6-time national amateur champion weathered a strong showing by Yamanaka in the early rounds, before tagging the Japanese with a 1-2 combo that dropped Yamanaka in the seventh round.

The knockdown proved crucial and it swayed the judges to reward Saludar a unanimous decision. Photo by Santino Honasan, ABS-CBN Sports

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