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Mixed Martial Arts

Title vacancy leaves Stephen Loman with no other option but to beat Bibiano


With the ONE bantamweight championship still rendered vacant following the controversial outcome of the grudge match between John Lineker and Fabricio Andrade at ONE on Prime Video 3 last weekend, Stephen Loman believes that the traffic towards securing a world title shot has become a bit more hectic than it was initially expected.

The 27-year-old Ifugao native is slated to battle former longtime division kingpin Bibiano Fernandes on the undercard of ONE on Prime Video 4 on November 19, which entailed serious implications when the bout was publicly confirmed last week.

From a matchmaking standpoint, it made the most sense to determine the next challenger as the three-round encounter pits the current No. 5-rated bantamweight in the promotion against Fernandes, who occupies the No. 3 spot in the rankings.

However, impressions changed when Lineker relinquished his possession of the gold-plated strap a day prior to sharing the cage with Andrade after going over the 145-pound limit by half a pound during the official weigh-ins, forcing the promotion to strip him of his status as champion.

Although Lineker was allowed to face Andrade the next day in a catchweight tiff, the latter was still eligible to take home the available hardware and he seemingly came within seconds of doing it.

Unfortunately for Andrade, he missed his chance as the clash met a devastating end due to an unintentional low blow in the back half of the third round that resulted in a no-contest and forced the bantamweight title to remain vacant.

Without an alpha at the top of the food chain, Loman sees himself figuring in an open hunting season with his fellow bantamweights.

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“Nobody expected it to end in that manner. Now that the title is vacant at bantamweight, I think every fighter in the division will try their best to seize the opportunity to make their case for a shot at the title,” he told Tiebreaker Times during an online media availability last Thursday, October 28.

Given that the entire weight class is in a free-for-all state, the Team Lakay export plans on putting the pedal to the metal to separate him from the rest of the pack.

“If they want the shot, so do I. That’s why I am putting my entire focus on this fight because I may be on the verge of getting a title shot after this one,” he stated.

Moreover, “The Sniper” relishes the fact that he has the momentum heading into the high-profile duel against a top-tier opposition such as Fernandes, who was widely considered the face of the organization’s bantamweight bracket for the better part of the last decade.

Loman has been undefeated since April 2016, embarking on a magnificent ten-fight winning streak that saw him establish a dominant reign as the BRAVE CF bantamweight champion before bringing his talent to ONE Championship to score back-to-back victories.

Victory No. 3 could be on the horizon for Loman, who is oozing with confidence that he will get the job done on November 19.

“All I can promise is that I will do my best in every aspect of the fight to ensure that I will walk away with the win. The goal is to win. I am confident in my skills as a fighter. I will be 100 percent ready for Bibiano.”

Written By

Nissi Icasiano has been immersed in the sports industry since 2013, covering the biggest sports events in both domestic and overseas. He has worked as a reporter and a contributing writer for several media outlets/networks such as Rappler, ABS-CBN, Philboxing.com, MSN.com, The Phnom Penh Post, Asian MMA, The Fight Nation and South China Morning Post. In 2017, he started a career as a Combat Sports Analyst for television and radio, appearing on various news shows for ABS-CBN, GMA, TV5 and Radyo Pilipinas. He is also Business World's resident fight analyst.


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