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Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Win some, lose some

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THE twin mixed martial arts (MMA) events of ONE Fight Night 5 and ONE 164: Pacio vs. Brooks on December 3 was a sumptuous feast that Filipino MMA fans helped themselves to in unli-fashion.

Twelve Filipino MMA athletes participated in the extravaganza that kept adding on exciting names to the already stacked card. Brandon Vera, Eduard Folayang, Jhanlo Sangiao, Drex Zamboanga and the winner of the ONE Warrior Series, Adonis Sevilleno, were late additions to the list that had already sparkled with Denice Zamboanga, Jackie Buntan, Jenelyn Olsim, Jeremy Pacatiw, Geje Eustaquio and, of course, the defending strawweight champ, Joshua Pacio.

The Pinoy crowd was noisy, expressive and united in cheering for the Pinoy athletes. Wearing flashing LED wrist bands, they were not just heard but seen—like twinkling stars in the cavernous darkness, assuring the Pinoy warriors that they were around and that they’ve got their backs.

“The crowd was insane!” exclaimed Fil-Am fighter out of Redondo Beach, California, who dominated UK opponent Amber Kitchen. Born and raised in the US but 100 percent Filipino by blood, Jackie had never experienced fighting in front of a Filipino crowd before. She was clearly touched and propelled by the yells of her kababayans.

“I’m so happy that I finally got the chance to fight in front of my countrymen,” said Denice Zamboanga, who asserted her might over Chinese foe Lin Heqin. “It’s really different when you hear the crowd cheering. I was overwhelmed by their support. Sobrang malaking bagay ’nun sa akin.”

A foreign journalist remarked right after the fight that Pinoy fans are indeed vastly different. Crowds in other countries are diehard MMA fans, he acknowledged. But they don’t show the same level or degree of support that Pinoy fans give to their athletes or admired MMA heroes.

On that magical night, Zamboanga and Buntan were joined in the winners’ circle by Drex Zamboanga, Jhanlo Sangiao and Jeremy Pacatiw. The TRex downed ONE Warrior Series winner Sevilleno via unanimous decision. Jeremy Pacatiw took the starch out of Vietnamese opponent Tial Tang whom he forced to tap out in the second round with a deep triangle choke.

But it was Jhanlo Sangiao, son of legendary Lakay founder and coach Mark Sangiao, who delivered the most smashing performance of all. The Sangiao scion, also called “The Machine” like his father, demolished Anacleto Lauron in the first round with a rear-naked choke, following a relentless treatment of ground and pound.

So impressive was Jhanlo in just his second ONE appearance that ONE founder, chairman and CEO Chatri Sityodtong said in the post-fight press conference: “He will be a champion one day.”

But alas, not all Pinoy fighters were successful that night. Jenelyn Olsim got knocked out by Meng Bo in just 24 seconds of the first round. Eduard Folayang’s fight against Edson Marques was stopped early when a right-hand swing by Marques sent Folayang falling head first to the mat at the 2:53 mark of the first. Geje Eustaquio was also knocked out in the first round by China’s Hu Yong.

But perhaps the most dramatic defeat of all was Brandon Vera’s. Back in harness after a long absence, The Truth faced Iranian Amir Aliakbari in ONE 164. But at 3:37 of Round One, Aliakbari managed to overpower Vera on the mat, punching him repeatedly in the head and causing the referee to halt the fight.

The TKO had repercussions beyond just a loss absorbed by the most dominant heavyweight of an era. Vera retired right then and there before the crowd that still cheered him on despite the sour outcome. “Pasensya na ha?” he said over the mike, still wearing that lovable grin that captivated his fans for so long.

Amid thunderous applause he made his way back to the dugout, his baby son, wife and entourage in tow.

But the unkindest cut of all? Yes, Joshua Pacio’s championship belt was pilfered by Jarred Brooks.

Could this be the end of an era? Reporters asked at the post-fight presscon. Could the results in ONE Fight Night 5 and ONE 164 be saying that it is time for the classics to move on and give way to new names and rising stars?

Chatri Sityodtong said he will talk it out with the Lakays and ponder the future.

Meanwhile the ONE parade marches on. ONE Championship will make its US on-ground debut in May at the 1st Bank Center in Broomfield, Colorado. The card will be headlined by the highly anticipated trilogy bout between MMA legend Demetrious Johnson and Adriano Moraes who are currently tied at 1-1.

Read full article on BusinessMirror

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