YOU can’t blame Lakay coach Mark Sangiao for not making any predictions after his team’s forgettable performance in the last ONE Fighting Championship where they suffered a shutout defeat in five fights seven months ago.
He is betting on one thing, though: Lakay fighters Honorio Banario, Eduard Folayang, Kevin Belingon, and Geje Eustaquio are better prepared this time for ONE FC: Moment of Truth later on Friday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
“Ayaw ko munang magbigay ng numbers, pero two-hundred percent ready 'yung mga boys ngayon,” Sangiao said after the official weigh-in ceremony on the eve of the third staging of Asia’s largest MMA organization in the country where seven Filipinos are out to bring pride and honor in front of the home crowd.
No one is more prepared than Banario, who leads the Pinoy cast as he squares off against Koji Oishi in the main event in a rematch of the world featherweight championship he lost to his Japanese opponent in May.
“This is my chance to regain my belt,” said the 24-year-old criminology graduate, who was knocked out by what many observers consider a lucky punch during his first title defense.
Folayang, the former Asian Games silver medalist and one of the most renowned MMA fighters in the country, tries to regain lost glory as he locks horns with Vincent Latoel of Indonesia in the lightweight division.
“This fight is very important to me. I need to get back on the winning track,” said the 29-year-old Folayang, who is on a two-fight losing streak and has only won once in his last four fights.
There’s no more US training for Folayang, who admitted his overseas buildup somehow affected his recovery and making weight last May when he bowed to Kamal Shalorus in a unanimous decision.
“I learned a lot of lessons in my last fight,” he said. “I made adjustments on my recovery.”
Belingon, for his part, faces off with Spaniard David Aranda in a bantamweight bout, seeking to atone for a unanimous-decision loss to Masakatsu Ueda.
“I improved my wrestling and ground techniques,” said Belingon, who was among those who benefited from the training of Iranian wrestling coach Ali Heydarabadi, who was hired to help Lakay improve his admitted weakness. “But if there’s an opportunity to finish the fight standing up, I’ll take it.”
In the only all-Filipino fight of the night, Eustaquio takes on the electrifying Eugene Toquero of Submission Sports Philippines in the flyweight class.
Two other Pinoys in Ruel Catalan and Edwards face Khim Dima and Herbert Burns, respectively.
All the Filipino fighters as well as the 13 foreigners seeing action made the weight.