Brandon Vera on ONE opponent Cheng: 'Hindi alam ni Paul na kawawa s'ya bukas'
Fil-American Brandon Vera and last-minute replacement Paul Cheng of Chinese Taipei in a staredown on the eve of their ONE heavyweight title fight. Jerome Ascano

HE may have a different opponent, but expect Brandon Vera to have the same mentality on Friday night when he aims to become the inaugural ONE heavyweight champion.

With original foe Chi Lewis-Parry suddenly out of the picture, the Filipino-American MMA star now takes on Paul Cheng in the maiden heavyweight title bout that serves as the main event of Spirit of Champions at the Mall of Asia Arena.

And Vera vies for no less a knockout against his new Taiwanese foe in front of the home crowd.

“Hindi alam ni Paul na kawawa siya bukas,” the man known as “The Truth” said after the official weigh-in ceremony on the eve of fight night, drawing chuckles from the crowd at the Mall of Asia Music Hall as Cheng, just a few meters away, probably didn’t understand a word Vera said.

Cheng may be a last-minute replacement, but he still looks like a dangerous foe.

The 37-year-old Cheng sports a 5-1 win-loss card and has won his last four fights, although his last win came in June last year when he scored a technical knockout win over Mahmoud Hassan in ONE: War of Dragons.

“If I pull something off tomorrow, I apologize in advance,” said the 6-foot-3 Cheng, who’s an inch taller than Vera.

The 38-year-old Vera, the former UFC rising star who made a successful ONE debut last December when he knocked out Igor Subora right in the first round of their bout in ONE: Warrior’s Way, remains the favorite as he looks to improve his record that has 13 wins, seven losses, and one no-contest.

The main event fighters passed their weight tests with flying colors.

Four other Filipinos are set to see action in the eight-fight card that starts at 7:30 p.m.

Ana Julaton seeks to bounce back from a loss as the former boxing champion takes on Irina Mazepa, while in the men’s division, Mark Striegl squares off against Australian Reece Mclaren in a bantamweight bout and Ruel Catalan faces Alex Silva of Brazil at flyweight.

However, one Filipino, Geje Eustaquio, has been deprived of the chance to show his wares as his flyweight fight against Yang Jian Bing was canceled after the latter failed to make weight, prompting another last-minute change.

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