THE Philippines has carved a niche in mixed martial arts as a breeding ground of world-class fighters. In 2016 Filipino combatants glimmered like diamonds atop an international MMA stage in ONE Championship.
Eduard Folayang concluded his long journey to a world title in MMA. The Filipino fighter handed Japanese MMA legend Shinya Aoki his first defeat in nearly five years to capture the ONE Lightweight World Championship.
In addition, members of the fabled Team Lakay accomplished a breakout year.
Honorio Banario, the former ONE Featherweight World Champion, broke his long losing spell with a hard earned decision over Vaughn Donayre in April, 2016.
He followed that up with another hard earned decision this time over Eddie Ng in August, 2016. He capped a three-fight win streak with a resounding Armbar submission of Rajinder Singh Meena in December, 2016 to return to title contention.
Edward Kelly attained a come-from-behind submission victory over Jordan Lucas in March and then picked up imposing knockout wins over Vincent Latoel and Sunoto.
Geje Eustaquio started 2016 with a bang by scoring a one-punch knockout of Saiful Merican in January before furnishing with a lopsided decision victory over Gianni Subba last April.
Kevin Belingon might have stumbled in his meeting with ONE Bantamweight World Champion Bibiano Fernandes in January, but he made up for it by outpointing Tajik standout Muin Gafurov this past October.
April Osenio pulled off a major upset triumph in September by submitting Malaysian superstar Ann Osman with a first-round guillotine choke.
Other than Team Lakay members other Filipino fighters also excelled.
Fil-Am fighter Brandon Vera proved worthy to be called ONE Heavyweight World Champion by defeating Japanese challenger Hideki Sekine in the headliner of ONE: Age of Domination this December. Vera won by technical knockout just minutes into the first round.
Burn “The Hitman” Soriano is relatively new to the promotion, having just made his debut last April in a loss to Indonesian fighter Sunoto. In his second trip to the ONE Championship cage, Soriano notched a highlight-reel knockout triumph over Indonesian prospect Mario Satya Wirawan in their bantamweight encounter at ONE: Titles and Titans in August.
Jimmy “The Silencer” Yabo likewise recorded a scintillating knockout victory against Pakistan’s Bashir Ahmad at ONE: Tribe of Warriors in February. Yabo uncorked a solid right hook while moving backward that laid Ahmad out cold, adding a hammerfist on the ground for good measure.
The Philippine MMA scene witnessed the emergence of Team Lakay’s young guns Joshua Pacio and Danny Kingad.
Pacio earned a date with ONE Strawweight World Champion Yoshitaka Naito this past October. He lost but there can be no denying that he has reached world class status with his year-long performance.
Kingad had his fair share of spectacular moments as part of ONE Championship’s exciting flyweight bracket. In his first promotional appearance last April, he stopped Malaysian fighter Muhamad Haidar in the first round.
At ONE: Age of Domination this December, Kingad mustered a huge victory by submitting veteran and compatriot Eugene Toquero with a first-round armbar.
Team Lakay has become an instantly recognizable name in the Philippine MMA scene because of the big number of successful homegrown talents that it has produced since its inception in 2003.
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