Team Lakay led fighters who stood tall in ONE

one-logoTeam Lakay made 2016 a memorable year for the stable. The Philippines’ premiere MMA stable embarked on an incredible winning streak, showcasing a magnificently-improved ground game to thwart several top opponents en route to piling 16 straight victories, including five for five in a ONE Championship card.

Team Lakay has become an instantly recognizable name in the Philippine MMA scene because of the big number of successful homegrown talents that it has produced since its inception in 2003.

Team Lakay accomplished the clean sweep at ONE: GLOBAL RIVALS last April. All of the celebrated MMA group representatives emerged victorious after impressive performances.

Geje Eustaquio defeated Malaysia’s Gianni Subba by unanimous decision, Honorio Banario defeated countryman Vaughn Donayre by unanimous decision, Joshua Pacio tko’ed countryman Rabin Catalan on punches at the 3:19 mark of the second round, April Osenio made fellow Filipino Natalie Gonzalez Hills tap out 3:23 in the first round by an armbar in the first round, and Danny Kingad won over Malaysia’s Muhamad Haidar by TKO on punches at the 2:20 of the first round.

All in all, Team Lakay is 18-4 in ONE events last year. Eduard Folayang, Honorio Banario, and Edward Kelly lead the way with their 3-0 cards.

(See related article: Team Lakay goes 3 for 5, The Truth retains One Championship belt in Age of Domination)

Folayang authored an ultimate comeback story by edging high-profile counterparts Tetsuya Yamada and Adrian Pang to earn a date with Shinya Aoki for the ONE Lightweight World Championship in November which he eventually dominated.

CHAMP AT LAST! Eduard "Landslide" Folayang became the first to defeat Japanese MMA legend Shinya Aoki in nearly five years enroute to the ONE Lightweight World Championship. Phot courtesy of ONE Championship.
CHAMP AT LAST! Eduard “Landslide” Folayang became the first to defeat Japanese MMA legend Shinya Aoki in nearly five years enroute to the ONE Lightweight World Championship. Phot courtesy of ONE Championship.

Folayang’s long journey to a world title in MMA had an epic conclusion as the renowned Filipino fighter became the first to defeat Japanese MMA legend Shinya Aoki in nearly five years.

The 33-year-old Baguio City native captured the ONE Lightweight World Championship belt by beating Aoki via third-round technical knockout in the main event of ONE: DEFENDING HONOR last November.

(See related article: Folayang Defeats a Legend)

With his astonishing conquest of Aoki, Folayang joined Team Lakay comrade Honorio Banario and international MMA sensation Brandon Vera as Filipinos to win world titles in ONE Championship.

Folayang is willing to face any deserving fighter on ONE Championship’s lightweight roster and seeks to have his first title defense in front of his countrymen.

Banario, the former ONE Featherweight World Champion, broke his losing spell in 2016 and is currently riding high on a three-bout victory parade. He also defeated Eddie Ng and Rajinder Singh Meena last year.

Meanwhile, Kelly attained a come-from-behind submission victory over Jordan Lucas in March and then picked up imposing knockout wins over Vincent Latoel and Sunoto.

Geje Eustaquio started 2016 with a bang by scoring a one-punch knockout of Saiful Merican in January, furnishing a lopsided decision victory over Gianni Subba last April, but yielded to Toni Tauru by submission last December.

Kevin Belingon stumbled in his meeting with ONE Bantamweight World Champion Bibiano Fernandes in January to open the year for the stable but he made up for it by outpointing Tajik standout Muin Gafurov this past October.

Pacio followed up his Global Rivals debut win with a submission of Kritsada Kongsrichai with a first-round rear-naked choke last August before dropping a his latest bout for the ONE Strawweight World Championship against Yoshitaka Naito this past October.

Pacio was close to becoming the youngest Filipino fighter to claim a world title in MMA but made a crucial mistake in the bout, derailing his championship aspirations as Naito secured a rear-naked choke in the third round.

Pacio might have fallen short in the first world title fight of his budding career, but he managed to silence his critics. Even at a tender age of 20, he has already reached championship-caliber status.

Danny Kingad stopped Malaysian fighter Muhamad Haidar just a little over two minutes into the first round in his first promotional appearance last April.

He followed that up by mustered a huge victory by submitting veteran and compatriot Eugene Toquero with a first-round armbar in December.

On the other hand, Osenio followed up her Global Rivals win by pulling off a major upset triumph in September by submitting Malaysian superstar Ann Osman with a first-round guillotine choke before succumbing to Jenny Huang on a gogoplata.

It has definitely been a banner year for the Philippines’ premier MMA team. According to Team Lakay head coach Mark Sangiao, numerous heartbreaking setbacks in previous years fueled their desire to get better.

The nation has been deeply involved with MMA since 1995 when Kung Fu practitioner Onassis Parungao made his professional debut in the United States, but it took seven years before the sport was formally introduced on local shores.

For over two decades, it has been a dizzying rollercoaster ride for Filipino fighters as they encountered a mix of sweet triumphs and heartbreaks.

However, it was a different story in 2016 as Filipino combatants glimmered like diamonds atop an international MMA stage.

Over the course of 14 events in ONE Championship’s 2016 calendar, Filipino competitors tallied 24 victories, including a successful title defense and a stunning championship-winning performance.

Other Filipinos who made waves in ONE last year were Vera, Burn Soriano, Jimmy Yabo

STILL INCREDIBLE. Long-time UFC legend Brandon Vera took his talents to the ONE Championship where he is 3-0 and is the ONE FC Heavyweight Champion. Photo courtesy of ONE Championship.
STILL INCREDIBLE. Long-time UFC legend Brandon Vera took his talents to the ONE Championship where he is 3-0 and is the ONE FC Heavyweight Champion. Photo courtesy of ONE Championship.

Vera made easy work of the previously-unbeaten Japanese stalwart, winning by technical knockout just minutes into the first round to retain his ONE FC Heavyweight Championship.

From the opening bell, Vera began to land a series of solid blows on Sekine, who surprisingly took his foe’s best shots quite well.

Moments later, a thudding body kick connected for Vera, sending Sekine crashing to the canvas clutching his midsection. Vera then put on the finishing touches with punishing strikes from the top to get the win.

Vera is also pushing for technical improvements in the game of Filipinos by bringing in a well renowned foreign instructor.

Burn “The Hitman” Soriano is relatively new to the promotion, having just made his debut last April in a loss to Indonesian fighter Sunoto. In his second trip to the ONE Championship cage, Soriano made sure that he would leave a lasting impression.

Soriano notched a highlight-reel knockout triumph over Indonesian prospect Mario Satya Wirawan in their bantamweight encounter at ONE: TITLES & TITANS in August.

The 30-year-old Filipino standout finished the job in just 15 seconds by delivering a well-executed spinning backfist that instantly turned the lights out on Wirawan.

It was a great win for Soriano, and one that he would look back upon for years to come as part of his career highlights.

Jimmy “The Silencer” Yabo likewise recorded a scintillating knockout victory against Pakistan’s Bashir Ahmad at ONE: TRIBE OF WARRIORS in February.

Yabo uncorked a solid right hook while moving backward that laid Ahmad out cold, adding a hammerfist on the ground for good measure.

BY: ARMANDO M. BOLISLIS.

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