By Michael Angelo S. Murillo
SINGAPORE — Champion Filipino mixed martial arts fighter Kevin “The Silencer” Belingon shed the “interim” in his ONE Championship resume after successfully defeating erstwhile champion Bibiano “The Flash” Fernandes of Brazil by split decision in their unification bout at “ONE: Heart of the Lion” at the packed Singapore Indoor Stadium on Nov. 9.
Showing the marked improvement in his game that he promised in the lead-up to the unifying bout, Mr. Belingon of Team Lakay exacted himself on Mr. Fernandes en route to the victory after five rounds that effectively ended the nearly eight-year championship reign of the Brazilian.
It was a payback for 31-year-old Belingon, who was dealt a first-round submission loss by Mr. Fernandes, 38, in their first encounter in 2016.
Mr. Belingon (20-5), with the win, also became the third reigning ONE champion of Team Lakay, joining featherweight Geje “Gravity” Eustaquio and strawweight Joshua “The Passion” Pacio.
Displaying top form and showing dogged determination to succeed, Mr. Belingon is convincing and deserving as an undisputed champion, said local fight analyst Nissi Icasiano.
If at all, what was surprising, Mr. Icasiano said, was that Mr. Belingon’s victory was not ruled a unanimous decision one.
“Looking at the fight I was surprised not of the outcome that Kevin won, but more of the decision because I was expecting a unanimous decision victory over Bibiano Fernandes,” said Mr. Icasiano, who was in Singapore to witness the fight, in a postmatch interview with BusinessWorld.
“The performance that Kevin exhibited was enough to earn him the unanimous decision victory. Unfortunately he got a split decision nod,” he added.
Icasiano went on to say that objectively looking at the fight, while Mr. Fernandes had his moments, Belingon had it dominant.
“Save for the third round, it was all Kevin. Bibiano managed to have his takedowns and ground and pound but they did not have much authority. Kevin had the first two rounds and then picked it up in the fourth where Bibiano was just saved by the bell. He continued that in the fifth round. Near finishes, submission escapes, control of the fight and striking, Kevin delivered,” Mr. Icasiano said.
Willing his way to become the undisputed ONE bantamweight champion, Mr. Icasiano said the victory over a legend like Mr. Fernandes could be considered a defining moment in the career of Mr. Belingon (20-5).
“This would go down as his career-defining moment. Consider this. Bibiano hasn’t lost a fight for nearly eight years plus he dominated ONE Championship since he made his debut in 2012. Fernandes is touted at least in the eastern hemisphere as the most dominant champion and defended the ONE Championship title eight times which is no joke,” said Mr. Icasiano as he highlighted the hugeness of Mr. Belingon’s triumph.
“Belingon’s is a great story. When Fernandes fought Belingon in 2016 the latter was coming off a long sabbatical. He wasn’t that prepared. But he fought and willed himself back, fighting six tough fights. He went through the eye of the needle to get where he is now. His journey is like that of Eduard Folayang. They slew giants in their division,” said the analyst, making mention of Belingon teammate Folayang, who won the lightweight title over Japanese legend Shinya Aoki in 2016.
Mr. Icasiano said the victory should open a lot of opportunities for Mr. Belingon, not only in ONE but also possibly outside of it.
ONE Championship returns on Nov. 17 for “ONE: Warrior’s Dream” in Jakarta, Indonesia, featuring the clash between Zebastian “The Bandit” Kadestam and Tyler McGuire for the vacant ONE welterweight title.
By Michael Angelo S. Murillo