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    MMA yearender: Four crowned Team Lakay ONE champions lead banner year

    Dec 31, 2018
    PHOTO: jerome ascaño

    THERE could be no other greater year for Philippine mixed martial arts than 2018 as Filipino fighters went on a golden streak inside the cage.

    And at the forefront of that revolution was Baguio-based stable Team Lakay, with the Igorot warriors claiming four titles in ONE Championship in one calendar year.

    Geje Eustaquio started the year right, winning the interim flyweight title via unanimous decision in his rematch against Kazakh rival Kairat Akhmetov in January at ONE: Global Superheroes in Manila.

    It didn't take long before "Gravity" vanquished titleholder Adriano Moraes in a close split decision victory to snare the undisputed belt at ONE: Pinnacle of Power in Macau last June.

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    Riding a five-fight win streak, Kevin Belingon also staked claim to the interim bantamweight title, besting two-division champion Martin Nguyen at ONE: Reign of Kings in Manila back in July.

    With confidence on a high, "The Silencer" gained a measure of revenge that was two years in the making, edging longtime division kingpin Bibiano Fernandes via split decision to sit atop the bantamweight throne at ONE: Heart of the Lions in Singapore last November.

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    Soon, it was 22-year-old Joshua Pacio's turn for the spotlight as "The Passion" outpointed Japanese foe Yoshitaka Naito at ONE: Conquest of Heroes in Jakarta in September to become the new flyweight champion.

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    And to complete the quartet of kings, Eduard Folayang reclaimed his lightweight title with a dominant showing over Amir Khan at ONE: Conquest of Champions last November, winning back the belt "Landslide" dropped to Nguyen last year.

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    Other than the champs, Team Lakay also got positive results elsewhere.

    Danny Kingad has gone undefeated this year, with his lates a big win over Yuya Wakamatsu to continue his ascent in the ONE flyweight ranks, Honorio Banario also picked himself up from a defeat to Khan in September as he easily dispatched Rahul Raju in November, and Edward Kelly has went 2-1 in his campaign this past year.

    Stephen Loman also had a pair of successful title defenses for his Brave CF bantamweight title, beating South African rival Frans Mlambo and Brazilian challenger Felipe Efrain to sustain the stable's stronghold as the best Filipino MMA gym.

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    But the fun isn't limited to just the boys from Baguio, as Brandon Vera finally ended his two-year absence from the cage and defended his ONE Heavyweight Championship in record time back in November.

    The 41-year-old needed only 64 seconds to dismember challenger Mauro Cerilli of Italy, landing a brutal knockout punch, further extending his reign in the heavyweight division.

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    With the banner year that was for Filipino fighters, one couldn't be faulted for fantasizing for bigger things in store for these warriors as they aim to preserve their position at the top of their respective mountains.

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    PHOTO: jerome ascaño
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