Ateneo’s Judo coach Ali Sulit rocked a black jacket on top of his school branded collared shirt, with shiny leather shoes, as he instructed his players. Even if Sulit was not the designated coach for the bout, he could still be seen along the front row of the bleachers motivating his players.
Sulit was a happy man at the end of the UAAP Season 78 Judo Tournament. His Blue Eagles had reclaimed the UAAP Judo Championship, while the Lady Eagles finished fourth place.
The coach felt that the Blue Eagles were spectacular this Season 78, and called it the most dominant performance in their history. He said, “I mean there is an additional weight division, the lightest one, so instead of seven there’s eight. Even before when there was just seven, we’d like take three medals or four at most. But now we took five at most out of eight. That’s spectacular. Even if you know we aimed to get all eight but of course that’s the goal right? I’m just really happy we got this far and we actually had a big lead over our opponents.”
The Blue Eagles actually have more rookies this season compared to last year. Sulit admitted that an observer might think the current crop is worse than last year’s, but that is now patently untrue. He then cited the unity of the coaching staff and the Blue Eagles’ perseverance as key factors. “We adjusted the school year right? Normally we start school in June, that’s the time we do in-competition training. Now, March pa lang this year we start competition training really early and it was just putting these boys through a very rigorous, strict and a very mentally and physically punishing routine that really got them ready for this. It was really no other thing but that.”
Sulit also gave special mention to his rookies for a job well done. “Even the rookies, you know they didn’t even play like rookies. These guys, all heart man. Hard work really works. Hard work pays off. That’s all I have to say about that.”
The Blue Eagles were only a few points away from first place in last season’s UAAP Judo Tournament. While that has been set aside, Sulit shared that it had motivated them to go one further this Season 78. He added, “I mean every year is the same thing. We’re using our winning formula, the one that got us the championships from before and of course we decided to make some adjustments here and there.”
While the Blue Eagles won the championship this year, the Lady Eagles ended Season 78 at a respectable fourth.
It is inevitable that every varsity team will go through a rebuilding phase every few years. This season was one such occurrence for the Lady Eagles. Sulit believes the Lady Eagles still have much to improve on in Judo, and stated his holistic approach regarding player development. “I mean Judo is not just a sport, it’s a martial art. They have to appreciate the martial art for the whole of it. Everything. Discipline, character building, stuff like that. No exceptions. We don’t just focus moves. We want well rounded Judo athletes.”
Nevertheless, a fourth place finish in Season 78 is an achievement in itself for the Lady Eagles if one considers their circumstances. Sulit stated that roughy 80% of them were new to Judo and that they were recruited from scratch. He declared, “We developed them to be athletes you know and some need a lot of work but it’s a short amount of time we made them UAAP caliber. But you know the performance today and yesterday, we realized na we still have a lot of work to do but they’re on their way. They’re in good spirits. They’re on their way. It’s just a matter of time.”
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.
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.
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)
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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