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Graduating Lasam relishes Ateneo’s return to the throne



Last year, the University of Santo Tomas kept the championship trophy in España, but not without stiff challenge from the competition. The Golden Judokas snuck past runners-up Ateneo de Manila University by just 3 points. That happened despite Ateneo having won 3 out of the 7 gold medals at stake.

After the disappointing result, the Ateneo Blue Judoka, as shared by third-year veteran Marco Lasam, returned to the training mats with stronger determination and the hunger to bounce back. The small deficit had made them eager to train harder. “Nung nalaman naming ganun lang ka-close yung points, after that season, nagsimula na kami magtraining. As in ganado lahat mag-train para makuha ulit yung championship,” Lasam narrated.

With this motivation, Ateneo prepared well for the then-upcoming competitions. For Lasam, the difference this year was the attitude that he and his teammates showed towards training. He said, “Mas naging gutom talaga yung team para manalo.” Lasam added that this hunger and attitude is what had driven them to train that hard every session.

The junior also shared how their coaches had guided them throughout the whole journey before the competition. Aside from the intense training supervised by Head Coach Robert Divina, Marco said all their coaches had done their part to hone the judokas’ skills and approach towards the task at hand. “Sila yung nagmomotivate sa min. Sila yung lalong nagpagigil sa training at lalo na sa tournament.”

And as the adage goes, hard work pays off. The Ateneo Blue Judoka reclaimed the UAAP title after dominating the field and amassing 5 gold medals. Lasam emphasized this when asked about how they felt after the conclusion of the tournament. “Sa ngayon sobrang saya lang talaga; overwhelming yung feeling. Kasi, hindi lang kami nagchampion, nagchampion pa kami with excellence.” He was also delighted at the fact that this year, all of the team members had stepped up, as compared to last year when they relied mostly on their seniors to carry them to the title.

On his part, the reigning half-lightweight champion had set his sights on defending his crown. However, it had not been an easy task at first, because last year’s Most Valuable Player Al Rolan Llamas of UST went down to his weight class. Lasam shared he had been nervous at first when he had found out that Llamas would be competing in the -60 kg division. However, after Khalid Macadadaya of University of the East stunned Llamas with a throw midway into their first round contest, it was Lasam’s gold for the taking. The Atenean, nevertheless, had felt mixed emotions after that upset. He said, “Oo, [medyo] sure ng magchachampion yung team namin, pero medyo nasasayangan ako kasi last year ko na magcompete, tapos hindi kami naglaban.”

All of the events that occurred just set the stage for Lasam to keep the -60 gold in Ateneo’s dojo. Lasam took care of Ralph Castillo of University of the Philippines and Adrian Perillo of De La Salle University in the first two rounds, before sneaking in a yuko against UE’s Dante Casibang to retain the title.

With his swan song over and done, Lasam shared his pride at exiting the UAAP as a champion, both individually and as a member of the team. Though he now has to leave the judo mats of Ateneo, he knows that the team and its new generations can continue and pick up where he leaves off. Lasam shared that with the same hunger and determination they had prior to this season, these men could wrap up another title next year and in the years to come. He ended, “Medyo confident talaga kami [sa future], kasi maganda yung pool ng rookies namin. [Yung performance nila,] sobrang galing.”

Lasam might have had his last hurrah on the mat, but he has left a legacy and an example for others to emulate. With the motivation to model themselves after Lasam, the Ateneo Blue Judoka have it in them to continue excelling and, perhaps, winning titles.


Grew to appreciate various sports from tennis to judo. True-maroon kiddo since the new millennium. Fanboy. Singer. Occasional sports writer.

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SMART Sports’ Best of 2017: Pound for Pound



2017 was an up-and-down year for Philippine martial arts

While world champions fell and expectations were not met in international campaigns, young warriors also rose. And this keeps the future bright for the industry.

Before we begin, martial artists that need to be acknowledged as well are former ONE Featherweight World Champion Eduard Folayang (Career: 18-6, 2017: 1-1), former IBF Light Flyweight World Champion Milan Melindo (Career: 37-3, 13KO, 2017: 2-1), SEA Games gold medalist Samuel Morrison (Taekwondo, -74kg), SEA Games gold medalist Dines Dumaan (Pencak Silat – Men’s Tanding (Match) Class A), and SEA Games gold medalist Agatha Wong (Women’s Compulsory 3rd Taijiquan).

Here is the top pound-for-pound list for the year that was.

Mixed martial arts: Kevin Belingon (Bantamweight)

Representing the famed Team Lakay in Baguio City, Philippines, Kevin “The Silencer” Belingon is one of the country’s most talented martial artists with a professional record of 16-5.

Belingon is known as a fierce competitor with the ability to finish opponents in a variety of methods as the 29-year old Wushu practitioner owns seven huge knockouts on his resume and is considered as one of the most feared strikers in ONE Championship’s deep bantamweight division.

Since losing to reigning ONE Bantamweight World Champion Bibiano “The Flash” Fernandes in January 2016, Belingon has barged through his top rivals with a slew of fearsome striking performances and showcased his incredible punching power.

It began with a thorough defeat of Tajikistan’s highly-touted Muin Gafurov in October 2016, followed by a complete first-round annihilation of Finnish submission wizard Toni “Dynamite” Tauru at ONE Kings of Destiny in Manila, Philippines.

Those two consecutive wins earned Belingon a showdown with top bantamweight contender Reece “Lightning” McLaren at ONE: Quest for Greatness in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Belingon needed just 62 seconds to end matters abruptly as hee began the bout-ending sequence by dropping McLaren with a well-placed overhand right.

As the Aussie crashed to the canvas, Belingon followed with a relentless volley of punches to finish the contest.

At ONE: Legends of the World in Manila, Philippines, Belingon scored his fourth straight victory by defeating Korean-American contender Kevin “Old Boy” Chung via unanimous decision.

Come 2018, he is looking to get another crack at gold.

Judo: Kiyomi Watanabe (-63kg)/Mariya Takahashi (-70kg)

In a lackluster 2017 Southeast Asian Games campaign, there was a sport that came into national consciousness. Women’s judo hauled two of the medals for the division.

And it’s all thanks to Filipino-Japanese judokas Kiyomi Watanabe and Mariya Takahashi.

Watanabe, who celebrated her 21st birthday last August 25 — a day before she took stage, wasted no time in dispatching Thailand’s Orapin Senatham in the finale, scoring a waza-ari after a throw early in the contest. Watanabe gained control of her opponent, pinning the latter to the mat to eventually win the match in just 37 seconds.

It was her third SEA Games gold medal, and it was also the Philippines’ 17th gold in the competition.

A day after her win, another star rose as 16-year-old Mariya Takahashi overcame great odds to give the country its 21st overall gold in the competition.

Takahashi stunned four-time SEA Games medalist Surratana Thongsri (Thailand) to win the women’s -70kg division. She secured a leg trip seconds into the contest. The young judoka then carefully transitioned to a pin to secure the win via ippon.

With this, the Philippine Judo Federation has big plans for the two as they are grooming them for the Olympics.

Poomsae: Rodolfo Reyes Jr.

To open his 2017 campaign, Rodolfo Reyes Jr., together with brothers Dustin Jacob and Enrico Raphael Mella, kept the SEA Games’ Men’s Team Poomsae crown in the country after a rousing performance in the finals.

The Southeast Asian Games reigning men’s team poomsae champions turned in 8.37 in the Taegeuk 8, but followed it up with an even more impressive 8.43 in Shipjin. That brought the final score to 8.40, 0.6 clear of hosts Malaysia.

The troika bagged the country’s 16th gold medal in the regional meet.

Reyes then flew from Malaysia to Turkmenistan for the 2017 Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games. He won silver in the Men’s Invidual event while copping bronze with the Mella brothers in the Men’s Team event.

Back as a student-athlete last November, he capped his spectacular UAAP career by helping send the University of Santo Tomas Tiger Jins back to the top of the collegiate taekwondo scene during the UAAP Season 80 Poomsae championships.

Brazilian Jiujitsu: Meggie Ochoa (-45kg)/Annie Ramirez (-49kg)

Jiu-jiteros Meggie Ochoa of Atos Philippines and Annie Ramirez of John Baylon Clube de Jiu Jitsu grabbed the sole two gold medals for the Philippines in the 2017 Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games.

Ochoa won the first gold for the country in the 62-nation sportsfest following a convincing 5-0 victory over Vietnam’s Le Thu Trang Du in the women’s Ne-waza -45kg finals.

Ramirez followed Ochoa on the medal stands an hour later after defeating Jenna Kaila Napolis, 9-0, in the all-Filipino finale of the women’s Ne-waza -55kg category held at the Martial Arts Arena.

“I trained everyday coming in, except on Sundays. But the most important part of my preparation was fixing my mindset,” recalled Ochoa, a three-time world jiu-jitsu champion.

“I prepared the entire year for this and it paid off,” added the 26-year-old Ramirez, the reigning continental and Asian Beach Games champion.

With the gold rush in the upstart sport, the Philippines exceeded one-gold, two-bronze performance of the Philippines back in 2013.

And we have the two jiu-jieteros to thank for it.

Boxing: Jerwin Ancajas (Junior Bantamweight)

Reigning IBF Junior Bantamweight world champion Jerwin Ancajas (28-1-1, 19KO) is just one of two remaining world champions in the Philippines’ stable. With the way his 2017 went, it seems that he will be a world champion for a very long time.

The 25-year-old pugilist started the year by making his first successful defense of his crown by retiring José Alfredo Rodríguez at the Cotai Arena in Macau.

Fighting in the co-main event of the Battle of Brisbane, Ancajas was not fazed, scoring a seventh round TKO win over Teiru Kinoshita last July 2.

He capped his sensational year by taking over Ireland with a stoppage win over hometown favorite Jamie Conlan in the eighth round last November 18.

With this, the Davao del Norte-born southpaw is being dubbed as the next Manny Pacquiao. Still, he is remaining grounded as he always looks back to the time he was a struggling fighter.

“Lagi naman akong naghahanda talaga at hindi po ako nagpapabaya lalo na parang sakin po kasi, habang tumatagal na nagdedepensa, pabigat na ng pabigat ang mga laban.

“Ganun po yung ginagawa ko talaga, hindi ako nagkukumpyansa. Sa ensayo, ensayo talaga,” he furthered. “Kumbaga ito na yung daan na makilala kami, yung team namin na maipakita yung best sa laban.”

Ancajas will make his fourth title defense on February 3 against Israel Gonzalez.

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Ateneo, UST declared co-champions of UAAP Men’s Judo



UAAP Season 80’s mantra is “Go for Great”, and the drama in the second and final day of the men’s judo championship was nothing short of great, reaching a fever pitch on Sunday at the De La Salle Zobel Sports Pavilion in Muntinlupa City.

Early in the afternoon, University of the Philippines junior and returning judoka Gabriel Salazar set the tone for a roller-coaster day with a stunning finish over former Rookie of the Year and Ateneo de Manila University’s Nico Clemente in the quarterfinals of the lightweight category.

Nonetheless, the day was all about how Clemente’s squad rallied to challenge reigning champions University of Santo Tomas’ slim six-point lead at the end of Day 1. The race for the other podium finish between the De La Salle University and the University of the Philippines was equally thrilling.

UST padded on the lead, however, after they took their third gold and their second silver of the tournament, as Daryl Mercado threw Sherwin De Rosa for a buzzer-beating win for the gold in the half-lightweight class. UP’s Edward Figueroa and skipper Hyesung Lee stopped their La Sallian opponents to take the all-important bronzes and points.

Needing to take the last push for the title, Blue Eagle Isaiah Tuazon, who just recovered from a surgery, won via a single waza-ari past De La Salle University’s Josh Oleta to clinch the featherweight gold. UST’s Russel Lorenzo had to settle for third-place in an all-Thomasian bronze medal match with Shergeon de Rosa, while the University of the East’s Raul Baldos, Jr. took the other bronze.

Ateneo’s Eric “Petmalu” Uy followed his teammate’s lead and stopped La Salle’s Michael Borja in the final of the men’s half-middleweight category. Almer Suga bagged UP’s sure bronze past partner Lorenzo Lugue, while UST’s Niko Ong took the better of Ateneo’s Ralph Sapi in another crucial match for the two title contenders.

It boiled down to where the drama started — in the -66 kg category.

Blue Eagle Michael Isidro had to claim the gold for Ateneo to secure a solo lead in the overall championship.

In the end, and amidst the loud “U-nibersidad ng Pilipinas” cheers of almost the whole Pavilion crowd, it was Salazar who took the emotional win in the final match after throwing Isidro twice for waza-aris. Clemente pocketed Ateneo’s third bronze, while UE’s Nathan Morales pocketed the other.

When the dust settled on the mats, the battle went to the table.

With the points tied between the Golden Judokas and the Blue Eagles due to exactly the same three golds, two silvers, and three bronzes medal hauls, the tournament officials have decided to award both teams the UAAP Season 80 title. UAAP Season 80 - Men's Judo - Champions - Ateneo Judo Association UAAP Season 80 - Men's Judo - Champions - UST Golden Judokas

On the other hand, Salazar and UP’s lone gold was not enough despite a deadlock in points with La Salle at 16, as Oleta’s and Borja’s silvers in the day were the difference in the second-place tally, and the Green Judokas once more finished third.

UAAP Season 80 Men’s Judo Championships Standings
November 12, 2017 – De La Salle Zobel Sports Pavillion, Muntinlupa City

ADMU – 30
UST – 30
DLSU – 16 (1-3-0)
UP – 16 (1-1-6)
UE – 3

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UST remains queen of UAAP Judo for 4th straight year



After losing the crown four years ago, the University of Santo Tomas Lady Judokas vowed to reclaim the throne.

The result was four dominant years at the top.

UST, riding on the benefits of a full roster, completely fended off the challenge of the University of the East to retain the title and claim a four-time finish, Sunday at the De La Salle Zobel Sports Pavilion in Muntinlupa City.

It was UST through and through, as the program nears UP’s record haul of 12 UAAP women’s judo titles at 10, after finally claiming four straight titles of their own.
UAAP Season 80 - Women's Judo - Silver - UE Lady Warriors
UE only had three judokas remaining, and also needed a surge from the University of the Philippines in the weight classes where they had no entries to perhaps stop the reigning queens from staying in the top.

Patricia Rosario, Sharlene Guyo, and Bianca Estrella all did their part for the Recto-based squad. Rosario and Guyo finished off their respective Fighting Maroon counterparts in the semifinals of the women’s half-middleweight to arrange an all-UE final. Estrella, on the other hand, also stopped another UP judoka in Isabella Fojas to enter the middleweight title bout.

Nonetheless, the defending champions looked good in the half-heavyweight and heavyweight categories, winning their first matches in the pool.

In the lighter of these two calsses, Jamaika Ponciano took down Rhea Chong of the Ateneo de Manila University in the first match of the pool, even as Maroon Bianca Paloma stopped Thomasian Katrina Bernardo in the semifinal match. On the other hand, Renielyn Castillo finished both teammate Risa Deka Cruz and UP’s Patricia Palencia in the round robin to pocket the gold in the +78 kg class.

For the Lady Red Judokas, Rosario won via waza-ari over Guyo in the final of the -63 kg class. The plan, however, did not fully work, as Lorelei Tolentino took another one point for UST, winning the bronze over Jemimah Miranda of UP. Maroon Kayla Amado bagged the other third-place medal.

Bianca Estrella closed the eventual runner-ups’ account with a dominant stoppage of Tomasina Khrisha Rotairo in the -70 kg gold medal bout. Fojas pocketed another bronze for the Fighting Maroons, while Bernadette Carpio increased UST’s lead after the other bronze.

UE then cheered for the Maroons, but it was not enough to bother the Tigresses. After Justine Main won past Chong in the second of the pool matches of the -78 kg, Ponciano stopped the former in the following match to deny an all-UP final in the said category.

The UST half-heavyweight went on the win the gold, after her last-minute waza-ari was enough to break the deadlock with Paloma in the final. Main bagged another bronze for UP, while Chong slipped past Bernardo for the other third-place finish. The win virtually sealed UST’s run to the title and the consequent dynasty.

Even as Palencia took the silver in the +78 kg class over Dela Cruz, the order in the podium is eventually settled.

UST lightweight Almira Ruiz was hailed as the MVP of the tournament

UAAP Season 80 Women’s Judo Championships Standings
November 12, 2017 – De La Salle Zobel Sports Pavillion, Muntinlupa City
UST – 45
UE – 32
UP – 11
DLSU – 4
ADMU – 2

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UST holds slim edge over UE as Khrizzie Pabulayan, Almira Ruiz pocket gold



Defending four-time UAAP Women’s Judo queens University of Santo Tomas Lady Judokas are up for the challenge but are wary of the danger ahead, particularly of the University of the East Lady Warriors.

The España-based ensemble have a precarious 11-point lead over the Lady Red Judokas after Day 1 of the competition, Saturday at the De La Salle Zobel Sports Pavilion in Muntinlupa City.

The one-two finishes of the reigning champions in the extra-lightweight and lightweight categories fueled them to the top of the table.

In the lighter of these classes, Khrizzie Pabulayan overpowered Kimberly Pantoja in the final. Pantoja actually landed awkwardly on the mat, dislocated her right shoulder, and could not finish the contest. Almira Ruiz took the other gold after stopping training partner Devrah Devaras.

The University of the Philippines’ Celine Ayson and University of the East’s Deane Battala took home the bronze medals in the -48 kg, while Fighting Maroons captain Diane Bargo and the Ateneo de Manila University’s Alyssa Chan bagged those for -57 kg.UAAP-Season-80---Judo---half-lightweight---ue-def-ust---Claudine-Nargatan-def-Miam-Salvador

The judokas from Recto bagged their two mints from the stellar performances of standouts Claudine Nargatan and Jealane Lopez in the half-lightweight and featherweight categories. The Lady Red Judokas defeated former Rookie of the Year and UST’s Miam Salvador and De La Salle University’s Charmea Quelino, respectively, to pocket the golds.

Tracy Honorio and Rhodesa Bayas, both from UST, finished in third place in the -52 kg class. On the other hand, it was Lady Tiger Judoka Alexis Belen and Lady Green Judoka Carmilla Cadorna who bagged the bronze medals from the -44 kg category.

Despite the lead, UST head coach Gege Arce is quick to say that the competition is far from over. “Medyo nag-aalangan pa kami sa UE kasi may players pa sila na malalakas,” he shared.

The multi-title coach hopes to see more from the girls. He said, “Kailangan mag-perform pa rin at mag-medal.”

UAAP Season 80 Women’s Judo Championships Standings
November 11, 2017 – De La Salle Zobel Sports Pavillion, Muntinlupa City

UST 26
UE 15
UP 2

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