Uni­fi­ca­tion bout head­lines ONE Cham­pi­onship to­day

Business World - - Worldsports - By Michael An­gelo S. Murillo Se­nior Re­porter

SIN­GA­PORE — Top mixed mar­tial arts ban­tamweight ac­tion head­lines ONE Cham­pi­onship’s “Heart of the Lion” event to­day with the uni­fi­ca­tion bout be­tween reign­ing world cham­pion Bib­iano “The Flash” Fer­nan­des of Brazil and in­terim champ Kevin “The Si­lencer” Belin­gon of the Philip­pines.

To hap­pen at the Sin­ga­pore In­door Sta­dium, the uni­fi­ca­tion fight is a re­match of the fighters’ 2016 en­counter but some­thing Messrs. Fer­nan­des and Belin­gon both see pro­vid­ing a whole new dy­namic.

Mr. Fer­nan­des (22-3) is out to stay on top of the heap in ONE’s ban­tamweight di­vi­sion, a place he has been at since 2013 when he seized the ti­tle.

He has taken all-com­ers and has suc­cess­fully de­fended his belt seven straight times to date.

The Brazil­ian cham­pion met Mr. Belin­gon in Jan­uary of 2016 where he prac­ti­cally had his way, con­clud­ing the fight in the open­ing round by way of sub­mis­sion (kimura).

But while he had the num­ber of the Filipino cham­pion in their first meet­ing, Mr. Fer­nan­des rec­og­nizes that he should know bet­ter than tak­ing Mr. Belin­gon lightly con­sid­er­ing how the lat­ter has evolved sig­nif­i­cantly since they last fought.

“Kevin Belin­gon has im­proved im­mensely. I have seen him grow as a com­peti­tor over the past few years. I know that in our re­match, Kevin will be a com­pletely dif­fer­ent fighter,” said Mr. Fer­nan­des as a word of cau­tion even as many have him as a fa­vorite to win anew.

He went on to say that he will come in for to­day’s ti­tle fight the only way he knows how to — a win­ner.

“I have held this world ti­tle for a long time, and I’m not about to give it up now. I am ready to go the full five rounds, but I am also ready to fin­ish the bout by knock­out or sub­mis­sion when the op­por­tu­nity presents it­self. I look

for­ward to putting on a show this Nov. 9,” Mr. Fer­nan­des said.

IM­POR­TANT FIGHT

Hav­ing suc­cess­fully bounced back since he lost to Mr. Fer­nan­des, Team Lakay’s Belin­gon now views his re­match as “the most im­por­tant bout of my ca­reer.”

Baguio na­tive Belin­gon (19-5) has racked up six straight vic­to­ries since he was tripped by the Brazil­ian and he said the de­feat taught him a lot and served as one of the in­spi­ra­tions for his on­go­ing as­cent.

“This is the most im­por­tant bout of my ca­reer. I have worked very hard for this. It has taken me years to reach this level, and I have learned so much as a mar­tial artist and as a com­peti­tor since I first met Bib­iano in 2016,” said Mr. Belin­gon.

“Since that loss, I have kept my fo­cus on im­prov­ing my skills and work­ing to erase my weak­nesses. Right now, I can con­fi­dently say

how much I have im­proved. One of the big­gest im­prove­ments is my ground game. I know he is a BJJ black belt, I have had the priv­i­lege of ex­pe­ri­enc­ing his grap­pling first­hand be­fore. But now, I am bet­ter equipped to han­dle any­thing he throws at me. I am look­ing to end mat­ters early, and I vow to be­come the undis­puted ONE Ban­tamweight World Cham­pion,” he added.

In­ci­den­tally, both Messrs. Fer­nan­des and Belin­gon are com­ing off vic­to­ries over a sim­i­lar foe in world feath­er­weight cham­pion Martin “The Situ-Asian” Nguyen.

Mr. Fer­nan­des nar­rowly beat Mr. Nguyen, also the for­mer light­weight champ, by split de­ci­sion in March this year while Mr. Belin­gon won over the Viet­name­seAus­tralian by unan­i­mous de­ci­sion in July.

STEP­PING IN

Mean­while, step­ping in for the erst­while main event of Heart of the Lion is the feath­er­weight

bat­tle be­tween Chris­tian Lee of Sin­ga­pore and Kazuke Toku­dome of Ja­pan.

The fight, serv­ing as co-main event to Fer­nan­des vs. Belin­gon, was a re­place­ment for the sup­posed main event fea­tur­ing the cham­pion-against-cham­pion clash be­tween women’s strawweight champ “The Panda” Xiong Jing Nam of China and women’s atom­weight cham­pion An­gela “The Un­stop­pable” Lee of Sin­ga­pore for the for­mer’s ti­tle.

Un­for­tu­nately, it was an­nounced on Mon­day that the bat­tle be­tween Misses Xiong and Lee would not push through due to the back in­jury sus­tained by Ms. Lee late in train­ing.

Other fights fea­tured in Heart of the Lion in­clude that be­tween Gir­gio Pet­rosyan of Italy and Sor­graw Petchyindee Academy of Thai­land in a kick­box­ing Su­per Series bat­tle and women’s strawweight Tiffany Teo of Sin­ga­pore ver­sus Michelle Ni­col­ini of Brazil.

ONE CHAM­PI­ONSHIP REIGN­ING ONE Cham­pi­onship world ban­tamweight cham­pion Bib­iano Fer­nan­des of Brazil (L) takes on in­terim cham­pion Kevin Belin­gon of the Philip­pines in the head­lin­ing fight of “ONE: Heart of the Lion” in Sin­ga­pore to­day.

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