Honorio “The Rock” Banario started his MMA career with a six-fight winning streak Universal Reality Combat Championship. He lost his first fight in a ONE cage but came back with two wins to make it eight of the first nine fights, great start.
That includes a stoppage of Eric Kelly to become the first ONE featherweight champion.
He, however, ran into a brick wall and lost five in a row from 2013 to 2015 to send his record on a downward spin.
Despite the string of losses, the 28-year-old native of Mankayan, Benguet never entertained the idea that his best days were behind him.
He came back with four straight wins, punctuated by a one-punch knockout of ONE Championship debutant Jaroslav Jartim with a single left hook in April 21, 2017, at the MOA Arena.
That send his MMA career skyrocketing once again.
Banario is set to make his much-awaited return to action on April 20 as he is slated to duke it out with Australian veteran Adrian “The Hunter” Pang on the undercard of ONE: Heroes of Honor also at the MOA.
“I am back! It’s exciting because this will be my first bout in 12 months. I miss everything about competing. It’s an honor because my comeback bout will happen on Philippine soil. Big things are ahead of me,” he expressed.
In delivering the Jartim knockout that landed as second in ONE’s 2017 Stellar knockout list, Banario, countering a body kick with a punching combination, unleashed a left hook that landed square on Jartim’s jaw, turning the lights out immediately for his Czech opponent.
It was Banario’s first real knockout victory since he stopped compatriot Andrew Benibe at ONE: Pride Of A Nation in August 2012.
“That win was so memorable. It was all muscle memory because in training, the left hook is always my go-to move. It landed flush during the match. I went home with a big smile on my face,” recalled Banario who got his four straight after transferring to the stacked lightweight bracket.
Another win could elevate Banario to title contention for the ONE Lightweight World Championship, which is currently in the possession of two-division kingpin Martin Nguyen.
However, a tough test in the form of Pang awaits Banario in the event headlined by his Team Lakay comrade Kevin Belingon, who is taking on American contender Andrew Leone.
Pang, from Brisbane, Australia, is a perennial lightweight competitor famous for his extreme toughness and has walked through opponents with his overwhelming power.
In addition to being a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt, Pang is regarded as a hard-hitter who is known for dropping foes with a single punch.
Although Pang is already 40 years old, Banario believes that his Australian opponent remains as a formidable counterpart due to his vast martial arts experience.
“Even if he is up there in age, he has not appeared to have slowed down. He is still very strong, and he has the experience of a veteran, which is very tough to deal with,” he acknowledged.
However, Banario likes his chances against Pang as he believes that his size advantage will play a pivotal role in their lightweight clash.
“I have a better cardio than he does, and I am a little taller than he is, so I am going to use that to my advantage. I am young, and I am strong, so I feel very confident that I can outlast him, conditioning-wise. In terms of skill, however, we are very even. We have a similar skill set,” he explained.
According to Banario, if he can defeat Pang in convincing fashion, it will be the biggest triumph of his pristine run as a lightweight.
“Ever since I moved up to lightweight, I feel so much stronger. This is my natural fighting weight. I am a lightweight fighter. I just feel reinvigorated. My punches and kicks are powerful, my body is sturdy, and my mind is strong,” he stated.
“I feel as though the momentum is still on my side. I want to continue what I started,” Banario added.
With ONE Championship housing high-caliber lightweights such as Pang, Eduard Folayang, Ev Ting, Amir Khan, Timofey Nastyukhin, Ariel Sexton and Shinya Aoki, Banario asserted that his main objective is to elevate his status in the weight class’ rankings.
“I’m a hundred percent ready to go back in there again. I will fight anyone who stands in front of me. I have no problem if it’s a big name or a small name in this division. What’s important is that I stay active and improve my rankings,” he ended.
By: ARMANDO BOLISLIS.