Folayang at the crossroads vs an unbeaten opponent

At 34 years old, Eduard Folayang might be entering the horizon of a stretch in an athlete’s life where father-time takes away wins.

His opportunity to show that this ain’t the case when he returns to the cage must have to be at the expense of a new, young face, who is probably itching to use this bout to also show that he has arrived.

Folayang, sporting a mixed martial arts career record of 18-6-0 win-loss-draw card, cannot afford another loss at this stage of his career and he’s going up against a 25-year old Kharun “Predator” Atlangeriev, who is undefeated in 11 fights and is making his debut inside a ONE Championship cage, on May 18 at the Singapore Indoor Stadium.

Folayang felt hard his loss to Martin Nguyen last November.

He was the ONE Lightweight World Champion at that time when he faced Nguyen in a battle of champion against champion. It was a face-off that was a major highlight in his career.

He was knocked out in this one.

“It was hard to talk about it for a time,” Folayang admits in an article by ONE Championship. “Finding the right words to describe what I was feeling was a challenge, even for myself. I think that is just how it goes for me after a tough loss. Losing is not new to me, but it is also an opportunity for me to take a step back, and try to pick up the pieces”, he continued

A knockout loss at this stage of a fighter’s career is not always an ordinary loss and could, sometimes, mean a lot more.

It could be a start of a permanent, slow decline.

This grim reminder was highlighted by some prominent victims of Manny Pacquiao during his earlier reign. Eric Morales. Marco Anotnio Barerra. Ricky Hatton. Even Pacquio, himself, looks totally a different fighter after his knockout loss to Juan Manuel Marquez.

Folayang is now at the crossroads of his career. A loss like his last, coupled with a beautiful young daughter and a loving wife, will definitely make a fighter think of his next move.

He did take some time to clear the cobwebs off his head while spending most of his time away from competition to be with his family.

“I needed the time off to realize where I went wrong – whether that was in my preparations or in the fight itself. I wanted to know where I had miscalculated. I reviewed every angle, and I really took the time to look at my mistakes”, he said.

On the surface, it looks he was brought down by a shot that was either lucky or well-thought of. Either way, it looks like it was not due to declining skills or abilities due to age.

A mistimed delivery of a spinning kick was the culprit. Both fighters were still in the running for winning the match when Nguyen beautifully executed a signature overhand right as The Landslide attempted his own signature move.

“The loss taught me that, to be successful, you have to look deep within yourself – not just at your weaknesses, but also in your strengths,” he says. “Sometimes, your strengths can also fail you. The important thing is knowing who you are, and what you are capable of” said Folayang in same article.

It is his turn to show that his latest loss is not the start of this permanent decline.

Standing on his way is the impressive Atlangeriev. All but one his 11 wins are in abbreviated fashion, three by knockout in the first round, two by knock out in the second, four by rear-naked choke first round submissions, and one by a first round arm-bar submission.

He is the perfect test whether Folayang still has the drive to continue his fight career at the previous level he was in.

And Folayang knows this.

“I am a firm believer that this game is mental, first and foremost. After you get your mind right, then you can start to work on the physical aspect of it all. It does not matter how strong you are; if you are not in the right frame of mind, you cannot move forward. I would go for quiet runs through the mountains, because it gives me a chance to think, and to reflect. Most fighters, after a tough loss, choose to avoid dealing with what goes on inside their minds. I believe that you have to face yourself before you are able to face others.” Folayang said the same ONE article.

Folayang needs to win this one if he is to remain relevant in the chase for championships at ONE. He needs to show that the last loss indeed was just an aberration.

The last thing he needs is another abbreviated loss and becomes one of the statistics of this fighter who loves to take out his opponents early in the match.

By: ARMANDO BOLISLIS

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