BRANDON Vera wasted little time in atoning for the losses of his compatriots as he knocked out Paul Cheng right in the first round to become the first ONE heavyweight champion in Spirit of Champions on Friday night.
The Filipino-American MMA star connected on a left hook and a left kick to the face the floored his Taiwanese foe, a last-minute replacement, with only 26 seconds gone by in the opening round for the quickest win of the night to the delight of the Mall of Asia Arena crowd.
“Itong title na ‘to, hindi lang sa kin, pero para sa inyong lahat,” Vera said. “Maligayang Pasko.”
Vera was one of only two Filipino fighters who emerged victorious, the other being Eugene Toquero. The Cebuano fighter scored a technical knockout victory over Li Wei Bin after his Chinese opponent refused to get get out of his stool at the start of the third and final round following a beating from Toquero in the previous round.
Vera and Toquero thus atoned for losses of countrymen Ana Julaton, Mark Striegl, and Ruel Catalan.
Julaton lost to Russian Irina Mazepa via unanimous decision after the Pinay former boxing champion tried to take the fight to the ground and proved unsuccessful.
Striegl failed to sustain his early gains as he tapped out of rear-naked choke by Australian Reece Mcalren late in the last round after dominating the fight early with takedowns.
Catalan, for his part, likewise lost via submission to Brazilian Alex Silva late in the first round of their flyweight fight.
That left Vera to be saving grace, and he didn’t disappoint as the former UFC contender sent Cheng to the canvass quicker than it took him to enter the ring with Diddy’s “Coming Home” on the background.
Vera, though, admitted it wasn’t an easy transition preparing for Cheng, who replaced Chi Lewis-Parry three nights before the fight.
“Mahirap,” he said. “I’ve been preparing for twelve to sixteen weeks then the camp changes overnight. I didn’t sleep that night (of the announcement of change). I stayed up the whole evening. I fell asleep with my iPad on the face, hitting myself watching Paul Cheng’s videos.
“It was a big deal and nerve-wracking,” Vera added as he never underestimated Cheng, who sent his last foe, Mahmoud Hassan into retirement after getting knocked out.
It was a double celebration for siblings Angela and Christian Lee as the won their respective fights, with the female forcing Lena Tkhorevska with a rear-naked choke, and his younger brother knocking out David Meak in another quick victory, just three seconds slower than Vera’s win.
Bruno Pucci also forced Anthony Engelen to submit with rear-naked choke in featherweight bout.