ONE Championship returns to the Mall of Asia Arena in Manila, Philippines, on Friday, April 21, for ONE Championship: Kings of Destiny.
In the evening’s headliner, newly crowned lightweight king Eduard Folayang defends his title for the first time against rising prospect Ev Ting in front of a hometown crowd. Folayang stole the belt from Japanese great Shinya Aoki in the third round of their championship bout at ONE Championship: Defending Honor. Ting has won seven of his last eight bouts under the ONE banner and is riding a four-fight winning streak.
Filipino bantamweight Kevin Belingon represents his home country in the co-main event, where he takes on former Cage Warriors bantamweight champion Toni Tauru. Belingon is looking for back-to-back victories for the first time since 2013 after trading wins and losses in his past seven outings. Tauru picked up his first win under the promotional banner when he submitted Filipino prospect Geje Eustaquio at ONE Championship: Age of Domination in December.
The main card also features a number of prospects looking to set themselves apart from the pack. Undefeated Filipino flyweight Danny Kingad takes on two-time Malaysian Invasion MMA amateur tournament champion Muhammad Aiman, Indonesian grappler Stefer Rahardian returns to the circular cage against the Philippine’s Eugene Toquero, and promotional darling Christian Lee looks to bounce back from his first career loss when he takes on late-replacement opponent Jianping Wan.
The event airs live at 8:30 a.m. ET via ONE Championship’s live streaming service.
Eduard Folayang scored an upset when he dropped Shinya Aoki with strikes to capture the ONE lightweight championship. Now he puts the belt on the line against fellow streaking 155-pounder Ev Ting. How does this fight play out? Can Folayang keep his momentum going?
Folayang’s big win over Aoki seemed to be a culmination of years of effort by the Filipino striker to break into the upper echelon of the ONE Championship lightweight division. The 32-year-old has been with the promotion since the company’s first event, but it seemed like he was never going to fight his way to a title after devastating setbacks against Kamal Shalorus, Ole Laursen and, most recently, Timofey Nastyukhin. The Team Lakay MMA product has since won his past three fights and five of his past six. He earned a shot at the title after victories over former ONE champ Kotetsu Boku, skilled Australian veteran Adrian Pang and former Zst titleholder Tetsuya Yamada. After toppling Aoki in November, Folayang finally reached the pinnacle of the ONE lightweight division. The promotion is pushing all the chips in on its most successful Filipino fighter to date as the circular cage comes back to Manila.
Malaysian prospect Ting is hoping to derail the hype when he gets his first opportunity to fight for a title inside the promotion. Ting, 27, has developed his skills in his adopted home of New Zealand at Auckland MMA under head coach Hamish Robertson. Ting has helped the growth of Kiwi MMA despite largely fighting in his country of birth under the ONE banner. His star power has continued to blossom after six stellar performances in front of the Malaysian audience. Even before Ting made his ONE debut, he was highly touted as a prospect in Asia after picking up wins over UFC vet Will Chope and PXC contenders Mark Abelardo and Rolando Dy. He furthered his stock after starting his ONE career with finishes over Yohan Mulia Legowo, Edward Kelly and Cary Bullos. Ting’s only setback in the promotion came against undefeated ONE featherweight champ Marat Gafurov on less than a week’s notice. Despite the loss, Ting’s stock didn’t wane and the fights to follow proved his worth as a title contender. Ting earned back-to-back submission wins over scrappy Filipino featherweights Honorio Banario and Eric Kelly before edging former title challenger Rob Lisita and the aforementioned Shalorus.
After the promotion adjusted its weight-cutting policies, Ting moved up to the lightweight division to compete at his natural weight. He won’t be giving up any size when he takes on the champion. Ting is a well-rounded fighter with good stand-up and a stellar ability to lock up submissions in transition. Ting will switch his striking approach during the fight to exploit his opponent’s weaknesses. He is traditionally an orthodox fighter, but Ting will fight out of both stances to throw his heavy kicks to the body and head. He constantly moves forward to find the openings in his opponent’s game, but he always remains in position to defend the counters and move out of danger. He’s slick in the grappling exchanges and has finished multiple fights in ONE with beautiful guillotine chokes in the scrambles.
This fight could be contested in all areas of MMA, but it’s more likely Folayang would like it to transpire on the feet. The Team Lakay fighter is a dangerous kicker with continued improvements in his wrestling and grappling. Folayang has an aggressive, attacking offensive style, but he is comfortable in the wrestling exchanges, too. “Landslide” switches between his diverse array of kicks, powerful punches, and well-time takedowns to keep his opponents guessing what his plan of action could be. Folayang finished Aoki with a series of knees and punches while the Japanese fighter was on the ground against the cage. The champion will need to take advantage of the opportunities presented to him, because Ting will battle back in all areas of the fight game.
Folayang is getting a promotional push because he is one of the more popular Filipino fighters on the roster. Ting offers an excellent challenge for Folayang’s first title defense. This fight truly is a battle of two of the promotion’s top fighters in their respective markets. Ting will have a difficult challenge ahead of him, but he’s capable of putting up a tough fight. Folayang remains the favorite, but Ting won’t go away without putting everything he has into the cage.
While an upset is not out of the question, Folayang should have his hand raised. He is just a little better on the feet and his confidence level is at an all-time high.
There are several veterans of the Pacific region on this card that have struggled through some rocky times. Kevin Belingon, who has not strung together three consecutive victories since 2011, and Toni Tauru, who is just one fight removed from a three-fight losing streak, meet in a bantamweight contest. Meanwhile, lightweight Honorio Banario, who is just three fights removed from a five-fight skid, clashes with Jaroslav Jartim. Will any of these men ever achieve consistency and, potentially, championship status with the ONE organization?
Belingon and Tauru have had inconsistent results in their ONE careers, but both men have already challenged for the ONE bantamweight title.
Tauru signed with the promotion after picking up the Cage Warriors bantamweight crown in his 10th straight victory. He was a prospect with great hype behind him before he met ONE bantamweight champ Bibiano Fernandes in his ONE debut. The Finnish fighter couldn’t find victory against one of the best bantamweights outside of the UFC, but his stock didn’t fall until he lost his second straight inside the promotion against Muin Gafurov. “Dynamite” lost yet again outside the promotion against relatively unknown Spanish fighter Marc Gomez Sariol at Euro FC 01, but he ended his skid with a quick submission victory over Team Lakay’s Geje Eustaquio in December.
Belingon has been a mainstay with the promotion since the very beginning. The 29-year-old made his debut against two-division Deep champion Masakazu Imanari at ONE FC 3 in 2012. The Filipino fighter has split wins and losses between 10 contests in the ONE cage. He picked up victories over Yusup Saadulaev and Thanh Vu in the eight-man bantamweight tournament in 2013, but lost in the finals against Bellator veteran and former Shooto champ Masakatsu Ueda. He has since traded wins and losses over his next five fights, including victories over the previously unbeaten David Aranda Santacana, the aforementioned Gafurov and former Shooto champ Koetsu Okazaki. All of Belingon’s career losses have come against top competition. He dropped contests to South Koreans Dae Hwan Kim and Soo Chul Kim earlier in his ONE run. His most recent defeat came against the aforementioned Fernandes in his bid for the bantamweight title earlier this year at ONE Championship: Dynasty of Champions.
Besides this being an exciting match-up, both fighters still have plenty to give in their ONE careers. Belingon has defeated every fighter he should have beaten, but he has faltered against top competition. His biggest win came over two years ago against Okazaki. He has a chance to get another big win and earn redemption for his fallen teammate on his path back to contendership. However, Tauru’s grappling and submission ability presents a dangerous obstacle for the Team Lakay product. Three of Belingon’s five losses have come via submission, and Tauru has locked up eight submissions.
Tauru is extremely dangerous on the mat. One wrong move could push Belingon back to the bottom of the division, but Belingon will avoid the dangerous exchanges on the ground and claim a close decision win.
Meanwhile, the Czech Republic’s Jartim makes his ONE debut on two weeks’ notice. The 24-year-old takes the place of the stumbling Rob Lisita against Filipino favorite Honorio Banario.
Banario, 27, is another Team Lakay representative. “The Rock” is a longtime promotional vet with a roller-coaster career inside the ONE cage. Banario won the vacant ONE featherweight title over Eric Kelly at ONE FC 7 in 2013, only nine fights into his professional career. Disaster struck in his next outing when UFC veteran Koji Oishi stole the title with a massive knockout in a wild back-and-forth fight. Banario couldn’t find a way out of the slump. He suffered four more losses following the championship defeat at ONE FC 9. Banario dropped bouts to Oishi, Ev Ting, Herbert Burns and former champ Narantungalag Jadamba. Banario turned his fortune around to start off his 2016 campaign with three straight wins following a move up to lightweight. Banario topped prospects Vaughn Donayre and Eddie Ng, and most recently submitted top Indian fighter Rajinder Singh Meena at ONE Championship: Age of Domination.
Jartim has compiled eight wins, including six stoppages. The Czech lightweight is currently riding a three-fight winning streak. His most recent victory, over fellow Czech Marek Koželuh earlier this month at an event in Slovakia, garnered the attention of ONE brass. Jartim got the call to replace Lisita following the win. This will be his fourth trip to Asia, where he is currently undefeated following victories over Thai Ritty, Junpeng Xie and Morteza Minbashi.
Banario should be the heavy favorite despite the ups and downs he’s endured in his career. He is a skilled striker who has rounded out his game over the years. Banario will have a big advantage if this fight stays standing. However, the short-notice nature of the affair could be a factor.
Jartim can be expected to shoot for the takedown early and often. He tends to be the first to engage in the wrestling game, which could raise some questions for Banario. The debuting Czech will hunt for a quick finish, a strategy that might just be what gets him into trouble. Jartim is a strong lightweight who doesn’t have a flashy ground game, but it’s been effective against low-level competition. However, he was submitted in the first round when he fought the toughest opponent in his career, undefeated Bellator prospect Ádám Borics.
Jartim is an aggressive fighter who is willing to exchange with the former champion wherever the fight takes place, but this will eventually be his undoing. Banario will pick up his fourth straight win and start to move closer to title contention in the lightweight division.
Undefeated flyweight up-and-comers Danny Kingad and Stefer Rahardian have separate bouts on this card against middling competition. Will both men emerge with their spotless records intact, and are they legit future threats in the division?
Rahardian may be undefeated in his professional career with five victories, but his age — Rahardian is 30 — makes it tough to call him a prospect. He is a highly skilled grappler who splits time between Bali MMA and Jakarta MMA in his home country of Indonesia. The Carlson Gracie Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu brown belt is absolutely one of the better grapplers in the ONE flyweight division. However, his striking needs work to compete at the highest levels of ONE’s 125-pound weight class. It will certainly be tested when he takes on exciting Filipino striker Eugene Toquero.
Rahardian will be best served to get the fight to the mat quickly, just as he has done in all five of his previous outings. Toquero’s last two defeats came by way of submission against Adriano Moraes and the aforementioned Kingad. Rahardian absolutely needs to get this fight down to get the win. He already has three wins under the ONE banner, but another submission win on the televised portion of this card will push Rahardian up the ranks.
Kingad, 20, is still very young in his MMA career. However, the Team Lakay product has been impressive through his first five wins. Kingad made a stellar promotional debut with a ground-and-pound finish of Muhamad Haidar. He went on to score a submission victory of the aforementioned Toquero in December. Despite only two fights in his ONE career, Kingad is already one of the better Filipino prospects. He trains at one of the better fight camps in the country, but what sets him apart from other Filipino fighters is his grappling ability. He’s looked dominant from the top in both of his outings inside the circular cage.
Kingad will get by two-time MIMMA tournament champion Muhammad Aiman. Kingad’s Malaysian opponent was impressive on the amateur circuit, but he looked like an amateur when he stepped up to fight undefeated South Korean prospect Sung Bin Jo at Kunlun Fight 41. Jo dominated the fight and finished Aiman with a right hand early in the contest. Aiman has since debuted with ONE and picked up wins over Hisyam Sams and Eduardo Novaes.
Aiman has defensive deficiencies that Kingad will exploit on his way to victory.
Which fight is the sleeper match-up on this card?
This card features some interesting prospects, including 18-year-old Christian Lee (the younger brother of ONE atomweight champ Angela Lee), PXC veteran Gina Iniong, and the undefeated Jeremy Miado. However, the best fight on this undercard is clearly the style-vs-style match-up between Brazil’s Michelle Nicolini and Russia’s Irina Mazepa. Both women are in the latter parts of their careers after long runs in their respective combat sports, but this fight is even more compelling now than it would have been five years ago.
Nicolini, 35, started training in BJJ as a teenager, but she didn’t fall in love with the martial art until she went to Robert Drysdale’s gym. Eventually, she turned into one of the best female BJJ competitors in the world. Nicolini earned multiple world championships in gi and no-gi competition, including eight black-belt world titles and the 2013 ADCC women’s 60-kilogram tournament. She holds a win over the famed Kyra Gracie and officially retired from BJJ competition in 2016 after competing against fellow BJJ-to-MMA star Mackenzie Dern at the IBJJF worlds. Nicolini moved to Evolve MMA before her ONE debut against Mona Samir. Nicolini’s only setback came against Invicta veteran Norma Rueda Center at Legacy FC 36 in 2014.
Mazepa is a skilled striker with a background in wushu and a long career in kickboxing. The multiple-time wushu champion has fought some of the best fighters in the world in her kickboxing career. Her kickboxing record isn’t very impressive, but she was bound to eat some losses in competition against the likes of greats Wang Kehan and Valentina Shevchenko. Mazepa couldn’t defeat Isis Verbeek in the quarterfinals of the super bantamweight tournament to become the first ever GLORY women’s kickboxing champion. Her most recent loss came in June 2016, but Mazepa hasn’t competed in MMA since her decision win over Ana Julaton in December 2015. Mazepa is undefeated under MMA rules with two victories inside the ONE cage. She defeated talent prospect Ann Osman in her professional debut at ONE Championship: Tigers of Asia.
Mazepa doesn’t have one-punch knockout power, but she does have her fair share of stoppage wins. She used her Muay Thai experience to control the clinch exchanges in her first two bouts with the promotion. This is a dangerous approach against the aggressive submission game of Nicolini. The Brazilian won’t want to keep the fight standing, but the onus is on Mazepa to create opportunities on the feet.
If the fight hits the mat, you can call it right now — Mazepa is getting a limb wrapped up. Nicolini is an aggressive guard player with a knack for locking up submissions from the bottom. This is a throwback striker-vs-grappler fight that should get the blood boiling for the fans at the Mall of Asia Arena in Manila.
Nicolini should be able to avoid any damage on the feet and bring Mazepa to the floor for her fourth career submission victory.
LW Championship: Eduard Folayang vs. Ev Ting
BW: Kevin Belingon vs. Toni Tauru
LW: Honorio Banario vs. Jaroslav Jartim
FW: Christian Lee vs. Jianping Wan
FlyW: Danny Kingad vs. Muhammad Aiman
FlyW: Eugene Toquero vs. Stefer Rahardian
BW: Chan Rothana vs. Xie Bin
Women’s AtomW: Gina Iniong vs. Natalie Hills
Women’s StrawW: Michelle Nicolini vs. Irina Mazepa
StrawW: Robin Catalan vs. Jeremy Miado
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