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Mixed Martial Arts

Red Romero falls in Round of 16 of Road FC $1M tourney

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Universal Reality Combat Challenge standout Red “The Filipino Bolo Punch” Romero was overwhelmed by the bigger Bao Yincang of China in the Round of 16 of Road FC’s $1,000,000 lightweight tournament, Saturday afternoon at the Jangchung Gymnasium in Seoul, South Korea. The bout was stopped due to TKO with 1:48 remaining in the second round.

The pairings were determined via a random draw. Ultimately though, Romero (12-7) was on the unlucky end, as Bao (11-2-1) held an imposing 16 centimeter height advantage.

And the height advantage showed all throughout the bout.

Romero, a fighter out of Deftac MMA, tried to keep distance against Bao, even landing a huge left early in the bout. However, the 23-year-old boxer remained calm and collected, imposing his will on the former URCC Featherweight Champion by securing a take down with 1:57 left in the round. Romero was able to kip back up and get a take down of his own a minute and 22 seconds later, but the Filipino hardly did any damage on his opponent while on top as time expired.

Again, Romero tried to keep distance from his opponent in the second round by going for a bevy of kicks but Bao gladly exchanged. A left overhand by Bao knocked Romero down 27 second in the round but the Chinese fighter did not follow it up, allowing Romero to stand up. Much to both fighters’ surprise, Romero landed a spinning back elbow but slipped upon connecting, leading to Bao following him down. Romero tried to hang on but huge power shots by Bao opened Romero’s defense, which he then followed with a fury of hammerfists that led to referee Herb Dean to stop the bout.

Romero qualified in the tournament after defeating Indian fighter Rahul Raju during URCC Fight Night: Battle of Extreme Superstars last January 28.

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Mixed Martial Arts

Edward Kelly honored to fight alongside brother Eric

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Eric and Edward Kelly lived under the same roof for years in their hometown of Baguio City when they were young and shared the same burning passion in martial arts.

Growing up in the small town community of San Tomas Central, located within the city limits of Baguio, Eric and Edward did not always get along with one another as the two fought all the time, sometimes even resulting in injury.

“We were not that close before. We always fought. In short, Eric and I were headaches to our parents,” Edward recalled in jest.

“But of course, things change when you grow up and mature. We now appreciate each other’s company.”

Fortunately, when the brothers entered high school, Eric discovered martial arts, and everything would change for both of them.

Edward paid attention to the growing accolades of his older brother and was heavily motivated by it.

“I noticed after he started martial arts that it taught him the discipline not to fight me as a brother. Instead, he started giving me advice through what he had learned,” he bared. “I also joined martial arts because it teaches you discipline, and a lot of other positives, too.”

Years later, both men have made remarkable runs as outstanding martial artists in their respective professional careers.

Eric is widely regarded as one of the best homegrown martial arts athletes to come out of the Philippines.

A Wushu practitioner who combines solid striking techniques with high-level grappling skills, Eric owns nine scintillating submissions and one knockout out of 12 total career victories.

Eric’s most impressive showing to date came in a submission win over Rob Lisita in July 2014, a performance that earned him the USD 50,000 ONE Warrior Bonus.

Meanwhile, Edward is considered as one of the best and brightest featherweight prospects to emerge from the well-established martial arts scene in the Philippines.

With a complete striking and grappling skill set, Edward brings Team Lakay’s world-renowned Wushu to center stage as he showcases his impeccable skillset inside the ONE Championship cage.

In addition, the younger Kelly has won three of his last four bouts under the ONE Championship banner, all by spectacular finish.

The Kelly brothers get a rare chance on Friday, January 26 as the siblings will compete side-by-side when ONE Championship holds its first of the four scheduled events in the country for 2018.

Eric squares off with Brazilian standout Rafael Nunes on the undercard of ONE: Global Superheroes, while Edward crosses paths with Cambodia’s Meas Meul in a three-round featherweight clash.

It is the first time both of them will be featured at a ONE Championship event together, and Edward plans to make it a night they will never forget.

“I am so excited because finally, it’s going to happen. It marks the first time that I will compete alongside my older brother. Surely, it’s going to be a memorable night for the both of us,” he said.

“We have the same aim of winning. So making it two for two on this card will make this extra special.”

As Eric seeks to get back on the winning track at the expense of Nunes, Edward is likewise looking to move forward in his career after getting his three-bout winning streak snapped by American stalwart Emilio Urrutia in August 2017.

In his next cage outing, Edward goes up against Meul, a undefeated promotional newcomer with six wins to his credit.

“My coaches has prepared me well for this. I am not going to disappoint my team and my country when I enter that cage on 26th of January,” Edward assured. “I don’t want to let my countrymen down this time. I am here to give them a great bout.

“And of course, win the bout in impressive fashion for them.”

Edward has no qualms if he has to go full three rounds with Meul, but he admitted that his sights are always set on securing the finish.

“I am looking to dominate him for three rounds. But hopefully, I can get the finish,” he vowed.

“A finish will be the perfect way to tell the world that I am back.”

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Kairat Akhmetov looks to put decisive end to rivalry with Geje Eustaquio

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Former ONE Flyweight World Champion Kairat “The Kazakh” Akhmetov has the chance to make a definitive statement and recapture lost gold as he is slated to take on a familiar foe in his upcoming bout.

Akhmetov (24-1) will be entering enemy territory to battle Filipino rival Geje “Gravity” Eustaquio (9-6) in the main event of ONE: Global Superheroes, which takes place at the SM Mall of Asia Arena in Manila, Philippines on Friday, January 26.

It is also a rematch of their main event tilt from ONE: Total Victory in September of last year, where Akhmetov got the better of the 28-year-old Baguio City native and earned a razor-thin split decision nod.

The stakes are much higher in their second encounter as the interim ONE Flyweight World Championship title is up for grabs.

The 30-year-old admitted that he was shocked when he initially received the news that he is booked to face Eustaquio in a rematch at Global Heroes — the 12th foray of the organization on Philippine shores.

After defeating Eustaquio four months ago, Akhmetov undeniably expected that he would be pitted in a rubber match with reigning ONE Flyweight World Champion Adriano “Mikinho” Moraes, the man who blemished his previously-immaculate professional record in their second meeting in August of last year.

“I was surprised,” the eight-year veteran bared. “Without question, I won the bout against Geje Eustaquio last September. At first, I thought that I would get a third bout with Adriano Moraes for the belt. I guess everything happens for a reason. I respect ONE Championship’s decision.

“I am just honoring the process.”

Even though Akhmetov did not get the trilogy bout that he desired, the Kazakh wrestling dynamo is up for the challenge, asserting that he is highly motivated to once again defeat Eustaquio in his own backyard.

“Of course, I would prefer not to compete against Geje in his hometown. I felt an advantage when I was competing at home before. But it does not intimidate me,” the Alash Pride-trained fighter stated. “I am ready for everyone that will cheer against me.

“I am coming with the mentality that it will be me versus the world, and I am ready for it.”

The maiden cage contest against Eustaquio was a quick turnaround for Akhmetov, who had lost the ONE Flyweight World Championship to Moraes a mere six weeks earlier via unanimous decision, albeit following an almost two-year layoff.

Akhmetov revealed that he had slight difficulties preparing for his first bout with Eustaquio as he was coming off a disappointing setback and nursing minor injuries.

“It was hard to prepare for Geje back then, because it was on shorter notice that I was used to, and I had some little injuries coming off the title match.

“But during the match, it did not affect me, and I did not feel any cage rust like I did against Adriano. That time, it was hard, both physically and mentally,” he said.

The first match-up between Akhmetov and Eustaquio proved to be a thriller as it could have gone either way, but two of the judges at cageside favored the Kazakh, leading to a split decision victory.

Akhmetov believes that his split decision triumph over Eustaquio in September of last year was justified and well-deserved.

“I do not think it was controversial. I thought I dominated the match, and it was not close at all,” he explained.

Although they have had 15 whole minutes to become acquainted with what each has to offer in the first bout, Akhmetov feels that things will play out differently in the rematch.

“Geje Eustaquio did not showcase everything he can do in our last match. Neither have I,” he warned. “I am going in there with what I am truly capable of.”

According to Akhmetov, his five-round championship clash versus Eustaquio is the perfect opportunity to prove once and for all that he is the better warrior and take a step closer to the trilogy match with Moraes that he so longingly wants.

“In 2017, I had ups and downs. I do not want to look back. In 2018, I am looking forward to reaching my dream to battle Adriano Moraes for the third time,” he declared.

“But of course, I have to beat Geje Eustaquio first to fulfill my dream.”

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Geje Eustaquio hopes sacrifices pay off come Global Heroes

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Photo from ONE Championship

Sacrifice means to give up something cherished in order to get something even more valuable in the future

This concept also applies to the constantly-evolving world of martial arts, as the path to becoming a celebrated world champion is paved with much sacrifice.

To set foot at the pinnacle of success, all competitors must suffer blood, sweat and tears in training. Furthermore, martial artists have to be separated from their families for months to dedicate their lives to the craft that they seek to perfect.

Filipino striking ace Geje “Gravity” Eustaquio (9-6) had to undergo the same process, as he had to give up numerous special occasions with his family and friends to fully focus on his training.

“The life of a professional martial artist is difficult, but I understand that in order to be the best, we have to make certain sacrifices.

“Spending time away from friends and family to train isn’t easy,” he said.

Eustaquio is slated to face former titleholder Kairat “The Kazakh” Akhmetov (24-1) for the interim ONE Flyweight World Championship in the co-main event of ONE: Global Heroes, which takes place at the SM Mall of Asia Arena in Manila, Philippines on January 26.

For his highly-anticipated second encounter against Akhmetov, Eustaquio did not have the chance to fully savor Christmas and the rest of the Yuletide season.

According to Eustaquio, the most painful sacrifice is not being able to celebrate the most wonderful time of the year with his beloved family, but he knows that there is a reward waiting for him.

“It’s part of being a professional martial artist. A lot of sacrifices have been made. Training in December was one of them. I had to give up Christmas celebrations for this fight. I missed a lot of family activities such as birthdays and reunions,” he stated. “If I want to consider myself as a championship-quality athlete in this sport, I have to make that sacrifice. In the end, I will reap the fruits of my labor.

“Hard work cannot be denied forever.”

On January 26, the 28-year-old Baguio City native aims to turn his sacrifices into gold, as he is looking to exact some revenge and claim a world title in front of his treasured countrymen.

The headlining flyweight clash between Eustaquio and Akhmetov serves as a rematch of their grueling collision four months earlier, where the Kazakh dynamo defeated the Filipino standout by way of razor-thin split decision.

It was a learning experience for me, the first time I met Kairat,” Eustaquio recalled. “I knew going into the match that it would be one of the biggest challenges of my career, given that he is a former world champion.

“Honestly, I was a little flustered. I thought I could have pushed the pace more, and maybe forced him to defend my strikes.”

Eustaquio admitted that there were lapses on his part when he first fought Akhmetov in September of last year.

“I lost focus of the game plan and allowed myself to operate at Akhmetov’s pace instead of dictating the action on the feet. I also could have had better takedown defense. I would have loved to have won, but it is what it is,” he explained.

With five rounds to duel and an interim ONE Flyweight World Championship title on the line, Eustaquio vows to bring more intensity to the cage when he crosses paths with Akhmetov once more.

Kairat is a tricky opponent. After three rounds with him, I have gotten to know him a little bit better. I am able to understand what makes him a great martial artist,” he mentioned.

Eustaquio is known for his fluid Wushu striking game, with the distinct ability to remain calm under duress.

Moreover, Eustaquio has faced some of the most talented martial artists in the world, with notable triumphs over Kentaro Watanabe, Gianni Subba, Anatpong Bunrad and reigning ONE Strawweight World Champion Alex Silva.

The 5-foot-5 Team Lakay veteran had even previously challenged current ONE Flyweight World Champion Adriano “Mikinho” Moraes for the inaugural title in September 2014, losing via guillotine choke in the second round.

Eustaquio receives the second world title opportunity of his professional career, and a victory over his Kazakhstani rival would line up a future showdown with Moraes for the undisputed title of best flyweight in the world.

As he shares the ONE Championship cage with Akhmetov once more, Eustaquio bared that he has been working on correct the mistakes he committed in their initial meeting in order to pick up the victory.

Eustaquio believes that a superb takedown defense should prove handy against a wrestler of Akhmetov’s caliber.

“One of the aspects of my game I am working very hard on is my takedown defense,” he revealed. “Every day, we drill very hard in training. We all work to improve our ground game and takedown defense, so we can better showcase our Wushu.

“After every bout, I aim to get better, win or lose. Every bout is a learning experience.”

Despite falling on the wrong side of a split decision to Akhmetov in September 2017, Eustaquio remains optimistic that he will walk out of the SM Mall of Asia Arena with his hand raised and the interim ONE Flyweight World Championship belt around his waist.

“He he has a big heart. Kazakhstani martial artists have big hearts, and lots of pride. They do not go down easily, and are very tough. I am expecting another difficult bout. That is why I am preparing very well. A victory over Kairat would land me a rematch against Adriano,” he shared.

“I believe I have what it takes to become the undisputed ONE Flyweight World Champion.”

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Joshua Pacio, Kelly bros headline undercard for Global Heroes

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Tuesday evening, ONE Championship announced its main event for its first of four cards in Manila for 2018.

In the main event, Team Lakay’s Geje Eustaquio figures in a grudge match against Kairat Akhmetov for the interim ONE Flyweight World Championship.

The event will take place on Friday, January 26, at the SM Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.

“This is the first in four blockbuster events in Manila in 2018, and ONE Championship is looking to kick things off with a spectacular show,” said Chairman and CEO of ONE Championship Chatri Sityodtong. “Fans of martial arts in the Philippines are among the most passionate in the world, and it is our honor to present the best in local and global martial arts talent.

“The Mall of Asia Arena will be pulsating with excitement as hometown hero Geje Eustaquio takes on Kairat Akhmetov in a highly-anticipated main event rematch. This time, it’s for the interim ONE Flyweight World Championship.”

Joining Eustaquio in the card are three of his fellow Baguio-natives.

In the co-main event, Joshua Pacio of Team Lakay takes on undefeated Thai Pongsiri Misatit.

Joshua Pacio is one of the promotion’s most talented strawweights and a proud member of the famed Team Lakay. Pacio is a wushu practitioner with a solid grappling repertoire. All but one of his 10 career victories have come by spectacular finish, which includes five wins by submission and four by devastating knockout.

In his most recent bout, Pacio knocked out veteran Roy Doliguez with a second-round spinning back fist. A former ONE Strawweight World Championship Title Challenger, Pacio is looking to bring himself back to title contention with another victory.

A tough task is ahead of Pacio, however, as he is slated to lock horns with Pongsiri Mitsatit.

Pongsiri “The Smiling Assassin” Mitsatit is an undefeated martial artist from Chiang Mai, Thailand, and was previously a North Thailand Muay Thai champion with a 72-17 record, which included 49 KOs.

Since making his professional debut in the cage, the strawweight has amassed an unblemished record of 9-0 with seven knockout triumphs and one submission victory, and made an immediate impact in ONE Championship with first-round finishes over Ye Thway Ne and Rabin Catalan.

Local MMA legend Eric Kelly is also slated to make his return, taking on Brazilian young gun Rafael Nunes.

Featherweight standout Eric “The Natural” Kelly of Baguio City is widely considered one of the best homegrown martial arts athletes to come out of the Philippines. The wushu practitioner combines solid striking techniques with high-level grappling skills, which has resulted in nine impressive submissions and one knockout out of 12 total victories.

In his next bout, Kelly will face Rafael Nunes.

Rafael Nunes is a martial artist from Sao Paulo, Brazil with a 10-1 record. He is the former Premier FC Lightweight Champion and has steamrolled through the competition in his home country with a knack for winning by exciting finish. All but one of Nunes’ 10 wins have ended within the distance.

Eric’s brother Edward Kelly is also in the card, going up against Cambodian Meas Meul.

Edward “The Ferocious” Kelly is a 33-year old Filipino martial arts talent and one of the brightest featherweight prospects to emerge from the Philippines. With a complete striking and grappling skill set, Kelly brings Team Lakay’s world-renowned wushu to centerstage as he looks to showcase his expertise inside the ONE Championship cage. Kelly has won three of his last four bouts, all by spectacular finish.

He will take on Meas Meul.

Meas Meul of Phnom Penh, Cambodia is an undefeated martial artist with a professional record of 6-0. Meul made his ONE Championship debut in 2014, submitting countryman Chan Heng via rear-naked choke.

The undercard will also feature the following bouts: Sotir Kichukov vs. Ma Hao Bin; Yago Bryan vs. Hayato Suzuki; Bruno Pucci vs. Emilio Urrutia; and Rajinder Singh Meena vs. Zhang Ze Hao.

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