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De Lara opens PXC 51 with a bang; Braca’s ground game proves enough



Pacific Xtreme Combat made its debut at the Solaire Grand Ballroom with a bang. Literally.

In the opening match of the night, former professional boxer Rex De Lara opened the card in a flash while Korean Han Seol Kim, Japanese Sho Kogane, and Filipino Ernie Braca took home decision wins.

Rex De Lara vs. Stephen Loman

Rex De Lara had a poor start to his career. As the losses piled-up, he had enough as he ran through the local circuit, including the grueling WLC circuit.

As the wins kept coming, the PXC came calling and signed him up immediately. In his debut fight, years of frustration were packed in his punches as he made quick work of 20-year-old Team Lakay upstart Stephen “the Sniper” Loman to open the card.

With the two fighters feeling each other out in the early-going, “T-Rex” connected with a huge one-two combination, the first a left to the temple of Loman and the second landing exactly on the chin of Loman. Loman immediately dropped to the canvas face first and the referee immediately called for the bell.

De Lara was overjoyed after the bout. Lost for words De Lara promised to keep style as exciting as possible in saying, “ganito talaga ako lumabam. Sana napasaya ko kayo at magtraitraining pa ako sa wrestling ko.”

Nao Yoneda vs. Han Seul Kim

To add some international flare in the PXC 51 undercard, lanky Korean Han Seul Kim faced off against Japanese welterweight Nao Yoneda in the next bout.

Yoneda tried to close in the distance from the much-taller Han to open the bout. The Japanese welterweight was able to successfully take the Korean down in the first round but could not take advantage of it.

In the next two rounds, Han Seul Kim was able to utilize his length with stinging jabs and powerful kicks. Even if Nao was able to secure a takedown to close out both rounds, it was not enough as he gassed out in the third and final round that the 25-year-old Korean Top Team product was able to take advantage of. All three judges scored the bout in favor of Han (29-28, 29-28, 30-27) for the unanimous decision victory.

The Korean welterweight then called out all of the top welterweights in the PXC after the bout. With the win, Han Seul Kim climbs to 6-3 in his career while Nao Yoneda falls to 5-2.

Ernie Braca vs. Emilio Urrutia

Legacy Gym bantamweight Ernie Braca, even in being an underdog, against a bigger Emilio Urrutia showed great heart to take home a split decision victory in front of his home crowd.

Emilio Urrutia immediately went for a successful shoot into a takedown to open the match. Braca then surprised the American with a successful sweep to go on top. However, as the two stood up, Braca was accidentally hit with a low blow that called for a momentary stoppage of the bout at the 1:52 mark of the first round. After the break, Urrutia again connected with a successful double leg takedown. Braca stayed active on the ground and trapped the Muay Thai fighter’s head in a triangle and threw sharp elbows and short punches that bloodied up Urrutia to close out an exciting first round.

Again, Urrutia was able to take down Braca to open the second stanza and again was swept by the Filipino for the immediate stand-up. As Braca again succumbed to another takedown, Braca trapped the right arm of Urrutia for a kimura attempt but was unsuccessful. Braca then went on to head hunt, landing a few jabs and an overhand. With 1:16 left in the round, Urrutia again scored another takedown and was able to secure a full mount. The Filipino bantamweight was able to push the American off and the two slugged it out to end the round.

With the crowd on its feet in the final round, Urrutia again charged at the Filipino for another takedown. Urrutia landed hammerfists, a few just glancing at Braca, while in his opponent’s guard. After two minutes, both fighters were stood-up due to inactivity. A left straight stunned Urrutia but, with his wrestler instincts, cornered Braca for another takedown. Elbows by Urrutia resulted to a cut on the forehead of Braca.

In a surprise, the judges deemed that Braca’s activity on his back proved to be enough as he was awarded the victory by split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28). The win evens Braca’s slate to 2-2 while Urrutia’s three-fight win streak ended.

Sho Kogane vs. Wesley Machado

PXC 51 - Sho Kogane
Former model turned fighter Wesley Machado promised during the Philippine Sportswriters Association forum that the audience will see a new fighter at PXC 51. However, Japanese fighter Sho Kogane’s experience negated the new facets Machado’s game in a grappling fest to close out the preliminary card of PXC 51.

Kogane overpowered Machado for 15 minutes in landing empphatic takedowns in every round. Even with a Brazilian contingent cheering him on, Machado could not muster an offensive rally against Kogane. The Japanese in the latter rounds was able to take the Brazilian down with ease.

In the third round, Kogane dragged Machado down for a take down and stayed on top for at least more than three minutes. With 32 seconds left on the clock, the Brazilian tried to take Kogane down but was easily stuffed by the Japanese. Kogane closed the match with a Kimura attempt to end a strong outing.

Sho Kogane swept the cards with a 30-27 unanimous decision win. Wesley Machado falls to 0-2 while Kogane improves to an impressive 9-2 slate.

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Calvin Abueva rejuvenated with return of physical play: ‘Masarap maglaro’



Photo by PBA Images

For Calvin Abueva, it feels great to play in the PBA nowadays.

The Beast, who has always been known as one of the league’s most physical players since entering in 2012, was all praises for the way the officiating has changed this 43rd season — by just letting all the players play.

“Mas gumanda yung tawagan ngayon, naging physical nga. Naging exciting para sa mga tao, mas marami na nanonood ngayon eh,” said Abueva moments after their 97-83 victory over the Barangay Ginebra San Miguel, Sunday night.

As has been said many times, physicality had become something controlled over the last two years. Abueva knows it too well, having been a casualty, as he has paid a bevy of penalties during that time.

And now that it is a thing of the past, the 6-foot-2 bruiser feels much better, knowing that he can display his brand of basketball once more.

“Masarap maglaro, talagang pisikalan,” said the 29-year-old forward from Angeles, Pampanga. “Siyempre makikita naman natin kung sinasadya o hindi, basta katawan lang.

“Pisikal. Yun yung magandang laro di ba?”

Aside from the comeback of physicality, what makes Abueva beam even more is the way the Aces have been playing in the 2018 Philippine Cup. After a 0-2 start in the tourney, they have now booked their third straight win.

“Nung 2017 parang nilubog na namin yung losing streak namin doon. Ito 2018 na at panibagong destination na naman yung ina-ano namin,” said Abueva, who had nine points, nine rebounds, and five assists against Ginebra.

“Sustain muna namin ‘to… Sana magtuloy-tuloy ‘tong winning streak namin.”

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Alaska takes advantage of Greg Slaughter’s absence



For the streaking Alaska Aces, their stunning 97-83 victory over the favored Barangay Ginebra San Miguel on Sunday night was partly made possible by the absence of one key player: seven-foot behemoth Greg Slaughter.

The 28-year-old center, who was averaging 20.67 points and 10.3 rebounds prior to Sunday, did not play against the Aces due to a hamstring injury. How he incurred the injury has yet to be determined.

“There’s a small person named Greg Slaughter who didn’t play; I think he has an impact on the game,” quipped coach Alex Compton after the match.

“[They missed] a guy who I think is gonna win an MVP soon in Greg Slaughter.

“Sometimes dito sa liga natin, you have to take advantage when opportunities come your way. You don’t want anybody to get hurt [though],” added Compton.

With Slaughter out of the way, the Aces’ big men feasted.

Vic Manuel top-billed with 18 points and five rebounds, and elder statesman Sonny Thoss turned back the clock with a 17-point, four-rebound outing.

“Malaking bonus na rin sa amin, kasi wala nga si Greg kaya nakuha namin yung panalo,” said Manuel.

“Yeah it definitely helped,” added the six-foot-seven Thoss, who shot 6-of-12 from the floor and made four of his freebies.

“He’s a big guy, he’s a big presence inside so it took one big guy off our shoulder.”

Slaughter was approached and asked by scribes regarding his injury, but he was not in the mood to comment. No one can blame him, though, since the Barangay have slipped to their second straight defeat after a 2-0 start.

“I’m always there in practice, going over our gameplans. But it’s better if you ask our PT,” he said.

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Alaska completes turnaround at Greg Slaughter-less Ginebra’s expense



Photo by PBA Images

A strong second half surge was all the Alaska Aces needed to turn back the heavily-favored Barangay Ginebra San Miguel, 97-83, and book their third straight victory, Sunday night at the Ynares Center in Antipolo City.

The Aces, who have yet to lose this 2018, have now improved to 3-2. Meanwhile, the Barangay absorbed their second straight loss and have dropped to 2-2.

“I was telling the guys na parang ang dami nating iniisip, hindi natin ginagawa yung ginagawa natin noong nakaraang dalawang linggo. Sabi ko relax lang tayo,” said coach Alex Compton, sharing what he told his wards that sparked the win.

Vic Manuel led the Milkmen with 18 points and five rebounds. Sonny Thoss turned back the clock as he made 17 markers on 6-of-12 shooting, while Chris Banchero supplied 14 points, six assists, and five rebounds.

The Aces were trailing by eight, 36-44 at the half, but it became a different ball game come the third chapter as they outscored the Gin Kings, 37 to 19, to erect a favorable 73-63 cushion heading into the game’s final 12 minutes.

From there, Alaska kept their foot on the gas to sustain their lead, which grew to as much as 18, 85-67, after their 6-0 spree — punctuated by Banchero’s lay-up plus a foul — with 6:14 remaining in the final frame.

Ginebra still tried to make one last push as they inched within 10, 75-85, but baskets by Thoss and Kevin Racal propelled Alaska to an 89-75 lead with 3:42 left to play — more than enough to knock out their counterparts.

“I was glad to come away with the win,” added Compton. “Sometimes, we have to take advantage of opportunities coming your way. You don’t want anybody to get hurt but when two number one picks on the other team aren’t playing… There.”

Jvee Casio had 13 markers for Alaska, while Calvin Abueva nearly had a double-double of nine points and nine boards along with five assists in 20 minutes.

Aljon Mariano had 15 points, nine rebounds, and three dimes for Ginebra, who — despite having Sol Mercado back in the fold after ankle issues — missed the services of Joe Devance and Greg Slaughter due to injuries.

Japeth Aguilar, Scottie Thompson, and Kevin Ferrer each scored 12 for the Barangay, with Thompson adding five assists. The trio combined for 15 of Ginebra’s 43 rebounds.

Alaska will aim to extend their streak versus the Blackwater Elite on Saturday, January 27 at 4:30 PM, while Ginebra will look to end their slump against the Phoenix Fuel Masters on Friday, January 26 at 7:00 PM. Both games are at SMART Araneta Coliseum.

The Scores:

Alaska 97 — Manuel 18, Thoss 17, Banchero 14, Casio 13, Abueva 9, Teng 9, Cruz 5, Enciso 3, Potts 3, Exciminiano 2, Magat 2, Racal 2, J. Pascual 0.

Ginebra 83 — Mariano 15, J. Aguilar 12, Ferrer 12, Thompson 12, Caguioa 8, Cruz 8, R. Aguilar 5, Tenorio 5, Mercado 2, Taha 2, Wilson 2, Jamito 0.

Quarterscores: 26-23, 36-44, 73-63, 97-83.

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Frustrated Jared Dillinger admits ‘he’s getting sick’ of Meralco’s bad PH Cup runs



It’s no secret that the Meralco Bolts have struggled in the Philippine Cup for the last three years. During the last two seasons, the eight-year-old franchise’s win-loss tally is four wins and 18 losses.

And in the 2018 edition, the narrative has been the same, with little to no hope of it turning the other way around.

The Bolts bowed to the TNT Katropa, 99-81, Sunday night — their third straight defeat after winning over Blackwater Elite in their opener last December. If things continue as they are, it looks like another poor all-Filipino tilt run is looming.

“We’re 1-3 and there’s nothing to be happy about,” said Jared Dillinger, who had 14 points and five caroms in the match at Ynares Center in Antipolo. “It’s a long season though… We [shouldn’t] panic but it’s not fun right now.

“The Philippine Cup has been our Achilles heel and every damn Philippine Cup we get our ass kicked. I’m getting sick of it.”

In this game, Meralco missed the services of top forwards Ranidel De Ocampo and Cliff Hodge due to injuries. But for Dillinger, those issues shouldn’t be excuses.

“When you get two guys like Ranidel and Cliff out, as a team, that’s the opportunity for the guys below them to step up,” asserted Dillinger, who has been with the franchise since 2013.

“It doesn’t have to mean scoring, getting the assists or rebound, it’s just making the right play, being smart.”

Asked what went wrong in this particular loss versus their sister team, where they shot just 39.2 percent from the floor and had committed 17 turnovers, the 10-year veteran lamented the poor effort that the Bolts put up.

“TNT didn’t do anything much, given that they played well. But they didn’t have any secret schemes against us. They just passed the ball around, and they got open shots,” added the 10-year pro, as TNT made 23 assists and shot 18 triples.

“Our effort wasn’t there. We got to put up the intensity cause it sucks right now.”

Meralco have a chance to end their slump against the Kia Picanto this Wednesday. Dillinger sees it as a do-or-die affair, warning that it will be a grind-out affair knowing that the Picanto is coming off a skid-ending win over Rain or Shine.

Do-or-die ’cause that’s gonna be a playoff game. Thank God they beat Rain or Shine ’cause you don’t want to be that one team that gives the win to a 0-16 [team]. You don’t want to play teams like that,” stressed the all-around forward.

“Nothing to take away from Kia though. It’s gonna be tough.”

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