When ONE Championship came here in April I was not able to cover it as I had something going out of town, which was why for the promotion’s most recent event here on Aug. 2 I made sure if I was available I would go.
It surely helped as a come-on that “ONE: Dawn of Heroes” had a stacked card, the most packed even since it began doing shows here in the Philippines back in 2012.
And surely Dawn of Heroes delivered as a solid offering, satisfying both the journalist in me with the many storylines pre- and post-event, and as a fan with the number of entertaining and exciting fights.
Fight of the night for me was that between Jonathan “The General” Haggerty of the United Kingdom and Thai Rodtang “The Iron Man” Jitmuangnon in a ONE world flyweight muay thai championship, which was the co-main event.
The fight was engaging right from the fighters’ entrance with Jitmuangnon dancing and all and to the fight itself.
Admittedly I was rooting for erstwhile champion Haggerty but Jitmuangnon was just like a diesel engine that continued humming and hitting as the fight progressed on his way to the unanimous decision victory to seize the title.
The main event between champion Vietnamese-Australian Martin “The Situ-Asian” Nguyen and Japanese challenger Koyomi “Moushigo” Matsushima for the ONE world featherweight championship was downright solid as well.
After fighting some time in lightweight and bantamweight, Nguyen made it known that he is back in featherweight and was looking to highlight his stranglehold on it.
He definitely delivered on that as he came on Matsushima with much fire, beating the latter by technical knockout due to strikes in the second round to keep his title.
Of course, as we all know by the now, Dawn of Heroes was not a good night for Filipino fighters, particularly Team Lakay, which went 1-4 at the event with flyweight fighter Danny “The King” Kingad the lone victor.
His Team Lakay stable mates Eduard “Landslide” Folayang, Geje “Gravity” Eustaquio, Honorio “The Rock” Banario and Edward “The Ferocious” Kelly all fell by the wayside in their respective fights.
But while Kingad’s was the only victory for the Filipinos on Friday, it was still one of the biggest for the night as it merited for him a spot in the ONE flyweight grand prix finals in October against MMA legend and top pound-for-pound fighter Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson of the United States.
It did not come easy for Kingad against Australian Reece “Lightning” McLaren, and for a while I thought he was going to lose, but good thing he picked it up in the third and final round with takedowns and ground-and-pound to swing the decision in his favor for the split decision win.
Folayang’s first-round submission loss (rear-naked choke) to American champion fighter Eddie “The Underground King” Alvarez was lamentable because he had the latter in trouble but overzealousness, as he admitted after, got the better of him and cost him a spot in the lightweight grand prix finals.
The former lightweight champ attacked Alvarez with a blitz of strikes to open the contest and a low kick brought the American to the mat. Alvarez, however, was able to sweep Folayang to wind up in mount. From there, Alvarez took Folayang’s back, fished for the submission, and forced the tap.
In the post-event press conference, Folayang said he acknowledged his mistake and vowed to learn from it; lesson-filled indeed.
The KO loss by Eustaquio in the first round at the hands of Japanese Yuya Makamatsu, meanwhile, I did not see coming but I guess that is MMA for you, you just do not know what to expect.
Banario and Kelly fought gallantly but just did not see things go their way with the former losing by UD to Korean Dae Sung Park and the latter falling by technical decision to Chinese Xie Bin.
Johnson was a marquee name for the night at the Mall of Asia Arena and lived up to it.
From his entrance to Led Zeppelin’s Immigrant Song to his actual fight and UD victory over Japanese Tatsumitsu Wada, he was all action and had no dull moments.
Welterweight James Nakashima descending the ramp to the Cure’s Just Like Heaven and winning by UD over Yushin Okami and the lone women’s fight of the night between strawweight Ayaka Miura of Japan and Samara Santos of Brazil, with the former winning by submission (Americana) in the second round also stood out for me.
Touted to deliver a memorable night of combat sport action, the 14-fight Dawn of Heroes held its end and congratulations to the group is well-deserved. Looking forward to ONE’s next Manila event in November.
Michael Angelo S. Murillo has been a columnist since 2003. He is a BusinessWorld reporter covering the Sports beat.