Former ONE Featherweight World Champion Honorio “The Rock” Banario and Edward “The Ferocious” Kelly are set to be back again in the cage on September 8, 2018 at the Baoshan Arena in Shanghai, China where they will face formidable opponents.
Banario will take on Former Singaporean Muay Thai champion Amir Khan while Kelly faces a tough task of trying to avoid a losing streak against Christian Lee.
Banario is seeking to propel himself to belong to the elite title contenders for the lightweight crown, staking a five-bout winning streak that includes a sensational knockout of Jaroslav Jartim, a submission against Rajinder Singh Meena, and decisions over Vaughn Donayre and Adrian Pang, his latest victim.
Banario, however, is not putting that pressure on himself, even though the victory over a top contender like Pang undoubtedly elevate him closer to a lightweight world title opportunity.
He, instead, vows to do his best to clinch another big win.
“There have been a lot of ups and downs throughout my career, but I am still here. I am still persevering. I am still giving it my all. Win or lose, I will give my best when I step into the ring,” he said.
He is carrying a 13-6 career record going into this bout.
Banario is actually in the midst of a career renaissance.
It will be recalled that Banario became the first Filipino ONE champion way back in 2013, when the promotion was more popularly known as ONE FC. He accumulated a fight record of 9-1 by the time he kayoed compatriot Eric Kelly for the featherweight title.
He, however, inexplicably went downward spiral in the next three years, losing all of his five fights including back-to-back knockouts against Koji Oishi in title matches.
That turbulent period that saw him fall to new depths in his professional stint as a mixed martial artist that got him pondering retirement from the sport altogether.
The encouragement by friends and family, however, made the 28-year-old Team Lakay veteran to continue forging ahead.
And he found the perfect cure to reverse his fortune, moving up in weight and improve his grappling skill, which Banario affirmed himself.
“I have made it a point to do what I can to improve my grappling,” he stated. “Everyone knows my weakness has always been grappling, but that’s what we do, we focus on plugging those holes and erasing our weaknesses.”
Khan, not to be confused with the famous boxer, is a member of the famed Evolve MMA based in Singapore. He is carrying 10-3 career record in to the fight that includes a very remarkable seven victories in his last eight fights. In his most recent bout, Khan stopped South Korean Sung Jong Lee with punches in the second round.
Ironically, Khan also took down Jartim, Meena, Donayre and Pang within his last six bouts, making his face-off with Banario a perfect match-makers choice.
With both competitors showcasing predominantly stand-up skills and preferring to keep the bout on the feet, Banario believes that the contest will play out in entertaining fashion.
“I see the fight as an exciting fight because we are both strikers,” he gauged. “I also see it that I am winning this fight.”
On the other hand, Kelly had been blowing hot and cold in his last ten fights, splitting wins and losses at exactly 5-5.
He was unstoppable in 2016, accumulating three wins in abbreviated fashion. Then he lost his only fight in 2017 to Emilio Urrutia.
He was at it again last January when he knocked out Meas Meu in just 21 seconds but succumbed to Narantungalag Jadambaa by knockout last June.
He comes to this fight carrying a 10-5 win-loss record and a heavy underdog against “The Warrior”, who is often unfairly described as the younger brother of the more famous reigning ONE Women’s Atomweight World Champion Angela.
Lee, who showed he is a man of his own, has accumulated an impressive 9-2 career fight record, with his two losses coming from ONE’s first two-division title holder Martin Nguyen.
The 20-year-old Lee began his professional career on an absolute tear, railing off five straight victories by thrilling finish. After Nguyen put a halt to the run, he again rattled four straight wins, two by kayoe and two by submission.
He is, however, fresh from an unsuccessful attempt to dethrone Nguyen from the ONE Featherweight throne.
By: ARMANDO BOLISLIS