MMA: Young stars shine in rocky 2021 for Team Lakay

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 29 2021 02:33 PM

Jhanlo Mark
Jhanlo Mark "The Machine" Sangiao was among the young Team Lakay stars who shone in 2021. Photo courtesy of ONE Championship

MANILA, Philippines -- The young fighters of Team Lakay showed their readiness for the big stage, as they carried the fight for the famed gym during an up-and-down year.

Team Lakay continued to grapple with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2021, and its fighters were tested during their campaigns in ONE Championship.

Even as their veteran fighters struggled, the up-and-comers of the stable broke through and showed that the future is bright for Team Lakay in the promotion.

At the forefront of Team Lakay's youth revolution is reigning ONE Strawweight world champion Joshua "The Passion" Pacio, who finally made his return to the ONE Circle after 18 months of inactivity.

Pacio proved that the 56.7-kg class is still his realm, as he silenced his rival Yosuke "The Ninja" Saruta with an emphatic first round knockout to successfully defend his belt at ONE: Revolution back in September.

Jeremy "The Juggernaut" Pacatiw also announced his arrival in the bantamweight division with a scintillating unanimous decision conquest over "The Ghost" Chen Rui at ONE: Battleground last July to leave a lasting impression for fans.

Just before the year ended, young bantamweights Stephen "The Sniper" Loman and Jhanlo Mark "The Machine" Sangiao made strong impressions in their respective debuts at ONE: WINTER WARRIORS II in December.

Loman, who has been a champion in different promotions before jumping to ONE, wasted little time proving that he belongs among his weight class' heavy hitters and stunned erstwhile no. 3-ranked Yusup "Maestro" Saadulaev with his electric striking, and delivered a killer left hook that floored the Russian late in the first round.

Sangiao, the son of Team Lakay head coach Mark Sangiao, lived up to high expectations as he made quick work of Paul "The Great King" Lumihi with his impeccable grappling to secure the first round submission win with his rear naked choke.

Other stalwarts also continued to make a name for themselves.

Lito "Thunder Kid" Adiwang continued to show that he's one of the fastest rising stars in the promotion, first knocking out Namiki Kawahara with a killer left hook in round two of their bout at ONE: Unbreakable in January, and a methodical unanimous decision win over "Wolf of the Grasslands" Hexigetu at ONE: Revolution.

Unfortunately, his rise was stalled in his first main event billing as he submitted to an arm triangle choke in the second round of his match against Jarred "The Monkey God" Brooks at ONE: Nextgen III in November.

Jenelyn Olsim also displayed her might, tapping Maira Mazar with a guillotine choke at ONE: Fists of Fury III in March before moving to the loaded women's atomweight division. 

She immediately proved that she belonged, clobbering Bi "Killer Bee" Nguyen at ONE: Battleground III for the unanimous decision win before stepping up in the ONE Women's Atomweight World Grand Prix as a replacement for Itsuki "Android 18" Hirata.

Unfortunately, Olsim got outwrestled by Ritu "The Indian Tigress" Phogat in their semifinal showdown, losing via unanimous decision in their match at ONE: Nextgen.

Still, their impressive wins made up for subpar performance from the veterans who drew the short end of the stick one time too many this year.

The skid continued for former ONE Lightweight World Champion Eduard "Landslide" Folayang who had to deal with last minute changes before taking on his rival Shinya "Tobikan Judan" Aoki for the third time at ONE On TNT IV, one which he lost via a first round submission. He also lost via unanimous decision to Zhang "The Warrior" Lipeng at ONE: Battleground II as the legend has now lost four straight matches.

It's the same fate for former ONE Bantamweight World Champion Kevin "The Silencer" Belingon, who was surprised with a devastating liver shot to take the technical knockout loss to "Pretty Boy" Kwon Won Il at ONE: Winter Warriors II to spoil his return to the ONE Circle.

Even ONE Flyweight World Grand Prix runner-up Danny "The King" Kingad fell in his comeback, losing via unanimous decision to former ONE Flyweight World Champion Kairat "The Kazakh" Akhmetov in the main event of the aforementioned card.

Of the veterans who fought this year, it was only Edward "The Ferocious" Kelly who got his hands raised as he outlasted Ahmed “The Prince” Faress via split decision at ONE: Full Blast back in May.