It’s no secret that Team Lakay has established itself as one of the region’s most formidable MMA camps, and as ONE Fighting Championship makes its 2nd return to the Philippines, 5 fighters from the esteemed gym will not only be looking to add on to their respective win columns, but in fact, a whole nation will be on their backs, pushing for the right results.
On May 18th at the Ynares Sports Arena, the Pacific Xtreme Combat showcased its 37th event which featured 3 fighters from Team Lakay. It was a relatively poor night for Mark Sangiao’s men, however, as they went 0-3. Fans and critics lamented on the style(s) of the Lakay fighters, stating ‘they had no ground game’. Sangiao’s fighters are in fact renowned for their stand-up game , given the multiple Wushu and other striking credentials they possess but takedown defense was a major concern for most of Lakay fighters as they ended the night poorly in Pasig City, Philippines.
Geje Eustaquio (4-1) will be the 1st Lakay fighter to grace the ONE FC cage on May 31st, and he’s up against Andrew Leone (6-2), one of the region’s most accomplished grapplers. And although Eustaquio escaped/defended the clutches and submission attempts of BJJ World Champion, Alex Silva, in his first ONE FC outing, Leone may very pose a more well-rounded offense which beckons the question: Can Eustaquio pull it off in perhaps the biggest fight in his career to date, and defend his nation’s pride?
Kevin Belingon (11-2), in the meantime, has had his fair share of criticism in the past but the Filipino hot-shot may very well be ONE FC’s most improved fighter to date. Following back-to-back losses to Masakazu Imanari and Soo Chul Kim, Belingon won consecutive bouts against Yusup Saadulaev and Thanh Vu, displaying his takedown abilities in his match-up with the latter. Belingon, in most people’s minds, is perhaps the most well rounded fighter out of the Lakay circle, but a bout with a veteran like Masakatsu Ueda (17-2-2) always signals hard work, especially when the Japanese combatant forces his fighters into a slow and methodical pace.
For many years, Eduard Folayang has been the poster boy of sorts, for the Philippines when it comes to the sport of Mixed Martial Arts, holding a very respectable record of 12-3. After an upset defeat to rising star Lowen Tynanes in URCC waters, many were contemplating if Folayang had what it took to still be seen as a major force in the upper echelon of ONE FC’s 155-lbs division, and now with a slated match-up against former WEC stand-out Kamal Shalorus (7-3-2), this may very be a true test of Folayang’s abilities. ‘The Prince of Persia’ will no doubt be trying to make this a grappling exchange but remember, Folayang has slipped up in the past when it comes to high-profile bouts, evident in his losses to Ole Laursen and Jon Tuck.
URCC veteran Rey Docyogen (10-1) was a perfect 10-0 heading into his bout with Shinichi Kojima at ONE FC 7: Return of Warriors but a slick Guillotine choke was all it took to put a dent on his professional MMA record. And it gets even harder for the 30-year-old, as he contests Yasuhiro Urushitani (19-6-6), who is widely considered to be the one of the best 125-lbs fighters in this or any other region. Once again, this is the toughest test, to date, for Docyogen and on May 31st, a daunting task awaits him as his 2nd appearance under the ONE FC banner will be witnessed by his home country, thus increasing the mounting pressure to get the ‘W’.
The main event, of course, pits Lakay’s own Honorio Banario (8-1), who’ll be putting his ONE FC 145-lbs title on the line against promotional newcomer, Koji Oishi (23-9-10). Despite having an opponent that has almost 4 times as many fights, the former is expected to be the favorite heading into this title match. Banario will once again be expected to perform following his upset win over the much-fancied Eric Kelly in his previous ONE FC outing. Will the Philippines bare witness to see one of their own getting dethroned on home soil, or will ‘The Rock’ rise to power and remain as the ONE FC Featherweight champion?
In the end, when it’s all said and done, Team Lakay’s fighters will indeed be heading into the toughest fights of their respective careers with the mindset of not only getting a win for themselves, but for the thousands that will be in attendance as the Singapore-based promotion makes its 2nd return.
Check out the full fight card for ONE FC 9: Rise to Power, here.