LIKE the punch that he didn’t see coming, Honorio Banario’s fall from grace came unexpected Friday night after losing his world featherweight title against Koji Oishi in the ONE Fighting Championship: Rise to Power at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Oishi connected on a perfect right hook with a minute and 45 seconds in the second round to knock out the dethroned Filipino champion and stun the partisan crowd at the packed venue.
“I was planning to hit him, but he caught me good. He was lucky,” Banario said during the post fight interview, still in a jolly mood while answering questions from reporters as he was convinced he won the fight in the first round, when the 23-year-old Baguio-born mixed martial artist almost scored a knockout, only for the Japanese challenger to be saved by the bell.
“I know I won the fight in the first round. I thought it was finished, pero hindi hininto ng referee,” Banario continued. “Tulog na siya doon kasi hindi na siya dumedepensa. Hinintay ko itigil ng referee, pero wala.”
All it took was Oishi’s right hook in the second round to throw away the gains Banario had built early on, eventually losing his crown right in his first title defense.
“Bata pa naman ako. I have a long way to go,” Banario said. “I have a long road to walk before I become champion again.”
Oishi wasn’t available for the customary post-fight interview as he went straight to the hospital after suffering a broken hand.
Hoping to be the saving grace for the night after four of his Filipino stablemates with Team Lakay all lost their bouts earlier, Banario delivered under pressure in the opening round as he leaned on his striking game that nearly took the fight out of Oishi.
“Inisip ko kailangan ko manalo kasi ako yung alas nila na natitira,” Banario said. “Ginawa ko naman ang lahat, pero na-tsambahan ako. Na-feel ko na kayang-kaya ko siya. Pero hindi natin maiwasan sa MMA na may lucky punch. Hangga’t hindi natatapos ang laban, hindi mo masasabing panalo ka. Bawi tayo next time.”
It was a disappointing night for the rest of Team Lakay and the Philippines, in general.
Despite a dominant third round that left his Japanese opponent’s face into a bloody mess, Kevin Belingon lost to Masakatsu Ueda via unanimous decision in a bantamweight grand prix final that could have gone either way.
Eduard Folayang’s two-month US training also failed to pay off as he bowed to Kamal Shalorus in another unanimous decision in the lightweight division.
It was the third loss in four fights for the renowned Folayang, who did show marked improvement in his takedown defense, but was unable to lean on his striking game, with only a few of his kicks landing on his Iranian foe, a former Ultimate Fighting Championship veteran.
Yasuhiro Urushitani proved to be another Japanese thorn for the Filipinos as he edged out Rey Docyogen via split decision in the flyweight division, dealing the Filipino only his second loss in 12 fights.
Geje Eustaquio also faltered in front of the Filipino crowd as he lost a unanimous decision to American Andrew Leone in another flyweight fight.
In the main undercard, Bibiano Fernandes outclassed Koetsu Okazaki with his superior ground game to grab the interim bantamweight title.
Although the fight went the five-round distance, the Brazilian Fernandes, who is also the Dream bantamweight titlist, had chances to force his Japanese foe to tap out with a rear-naked choke.
In other bouts, Lowen Tynanes scored the quickest win of the night, knocking out Felipe Enomoto in the first round; Nobutatsu Suzuki also scored a first-round KO, outgunning American showman Phil Baroni; Tony Johnson beat former UFC heavyweight champion Tim Sylvia via doctor stoppage in third round; and Yusup Saadulaev forced Ryan Diaz to submit in the second round.