ONE Championship returned to Kuala Lumpur’s Stadium Putra with the Malaysian crowd rocking all night.
In a card that featured three Filipino fighters, only one had his arm and the flag raised to end the evening.
Kelly makes triumphant return to ONE cage
After a much-documented 15 month hiatus from the world of mixed martial arts, local MMA legend Eric Kelly returned to the cage. Kelly seemed to savor the moment of finally getting to walk down the stage again as he looked intense and ripped. His opponent was Japanese grappler Hiroshige Tanaka.
Kelly was aggressive to open the matchup in immediately going to the center of the cage to stalk his opponent. A highly respected striker, Kelly threw an array of head and body kicks and stinging jabs to keep distance from his opponent. The Filipino was able to score on a huge takedown midway through the round but Tanaka was able to sprawl right back up. The Japanese had no other choice but to try to get a takedown from the back of his opponent to stymie the offense of Kelly to end the round.
Cage-rust stemming from the long layoff for the Baguio-native was visible in the second round. The timing of his strikes were completely off as he was punching blanks to start the round. A mistimed kick was countered by a huge right by the SHOOTO veteran that clocked Kelly and resulted to a suplex. Tanaka then grabbed the back of Kelly just like in the first round. Back elbows by the Filipino though resulted to a cut on the right eyebrow of the Japanese as both stayed in the position to end the second stanza.
Now having a strategy to halt the striking of his opponent, Tanaka grinded his opponent in the majority of the final round. Fortunately for “the Natural”, he was able to secure another takedown with a minute to go in the round and tried to finish his opponent off with a choke. The Japanese grappler though was saved by the bell just as Kelly was able to secure the grapevine.
With the damages inflicted on Tanaka and Kelly’s end game, the judges deemed that the Filipino was the victor by unanimous decision. This brings Eric Kelly’s slate up to 12-1 while Hiroshige Tanaka falls to 10-3.
Banario sinks to new low
Two years ago, Team Lakay’s Honorio Banario was at an all-time high. He had just won the ONE Featherweight Championship and was the golden boy for the famed camp. How times have changed.
“The Rock” vowed to Evolve MMA’s Ev Ting, who was two pounds over the featherweight limit, in just 56 seconds. Banario attempted to shoot to open the contest but Ting immediately locked-in a standing guillotine. Once he was able to get to the ground, Ting trapped the arm of the Filipino using his leg. He then rolled to the mount resulting to the submission victory.
This sends the Team Lakay fighter to his fifth straight loss (8-6) while the Evolve MMA fighter goes to 10-3.
Upstart Toquero suffers setback
One of the brightest stars that came out during the ONE: Valor of Champions card was Eugene Toquero. Coming into Tigers of Asia with a 7-1 slate, Filipino fight fans expected this night to be the crowning moment for the Team Lakay fighter as he went against former ONE Flyweight Championship challenger Asuka “Riku Shibuya” Mikami.
The major knack on Team Lakay MMA’s defense is the lack of wrestling. In this fight, the flaw was greatly emphasized as the Japanese grappler grinded out the Filipino in 15 minutes of cagetime. Mikami toyed with opponent in securing takedowns and attempting chokes. Though able to escape the attempts, the strategy by “Riku Shibuya” demoralized Toquero as he could not muster any offense.
Mikami took the unanimous decision sending Toquero to his secon
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