After the conclusion of ONE: X, words declared by Angela Lee on separate occasions rang in my ears and reminded me of a Kevin Belingon bout sometime 2018.
Flashback to Belingon first: “The Silencer” got a surprise moments before he obliterated Andrew Leone in April 2018. He has a standing offer for a rematch against then ONE Bantamweight World Champion Bibiano Fernandes that was all but guaranteed before that bout.
All Belingon had to do was wait for the then injured Fernandes to recover for the bout to happen.
ONE then threw a curve ball, announcing Belingon will go up against Martin Nguyen for the ONE Interim Bantamweight World Championship before it could happen.
Nguyen was a twin ONE title holder, bagging the featherweight title against Marat Gafurov on August 2017 and annexing the lightweight crown from Eduard Folayang on November 2017.
Some Cordillera fight fans were up in arms as they were seeking ONE to put at least one of Nguyen’s titles on the line. Their point is Nguyen was at a favorable situation and Belingon is taking all the risk.
I was, however, at the opinion, and had a feeling that, Belignon should still take on that fight because it was an opportunity for him raise his stock by showing he can take on all comers in a fair fight, regardless of what is at stake.
Stopping a red-hot, two-division champion Nguyen will definitely elevate Belingon to the elite of the elites and should make him one of the most distinguished faces of the promotion,.
Belingon took on the fight as I expected and put a stop to Nguyen’s winning streak. He made Nguyen retire from taking any bantamweight fights in the future. This performance is the second-best in the career of Belingon, only second to his dethroning Fernandes, in my opinion.
He did became one of the recognizable faces in ONE even until now despite experiencing a horrible slump.
Fast-forwand to Angela Lee: she commented this just after ONE:X: “I’m glad that she’s [Seo Hee Ham] able to get the win over Denice [Zamboanga]. She fought hard and yeah, I think she’s deserving of a title shot.”
During her word war with Zamboanga while in hiatus due to her pregnancy, she also said this: “Denice is the so-called number one contender” sometime August, 2021. Zamboanga was then the top ranked contender in the ONE Official rankings.
The champ’s ire was caught by Zamboanga’s passionate chase for the ONE Atomweight belt put her at odds with Lee since she gave birth. “The Unstoppable” was hardly impressed by the Filipina’s credentials and refuses to give respect to her rival.
Zamboanga had been insisting Lee should voluntarily give up the title while being in the sidelines so she can have a chance to fight for it.
“She made her choice to become a mother. However, she has to do the respectable thing and vacate the championship belt. She shouldn’t wait for the organization to ask her. Fighters will become discouraged because they won’t be able to compete for the title. Be the respectable champion as I’ve always known her to be. When she’s ready to come back, I will be waiting for her.” were some of the words by Zamboanga then.
Those were bold words to say indeed, even from a worthy challenger.
While I was one of those who were wishing Zamboanga a title shot because her momentum was at a career-high, saying those words to a long-time, proven champion of the organization had to be backed up with ring accomplishments, which Lee pointed out as well.
Lee had been very vocal about how the former # 1 contender was talking smack without proving her worth. “Honestly, I just feel like she [Zamboanga] is coming off as entitled. She’s telling everyone that she was the number one contender. Really, that’s because she beat Mei [Yamaguchi]. But honestly, besides that she hasn’t beaten anyone else.”
Harsh but true. She may have been undefeated in her first eight fights but the ONE rivals she took down before Yamaguchi were not among the elite list.
Zamboanga’s victories came against fellow rising star Jihin Radzuan, who was 5-1 before they faced, and Watsapinya Kaewkhong, who was making her MMA debut fight. Yamaguchi was 21-11-1 when she faced Zamboaga.
I hope Zamboanga doesn’t fall in the trap of chasing the title with blanks in her guns so to speak. A hard look at Belingon’s acceptance of the Nguyen’s match and learning a thing or two from it is desirable.
The twin losses to Ham sent her crashing back to earth and stepping back and re-calibrating her strategies may not be a bad thing. A few more fights against any of the top draws of the stacked atomweight division before chasing another title shot might do her some good.
Her setbacks were devastating for the moment but not career-defining either. She definitely has the tools to make a come back and fight for the title sometime down the road.
Earlier that night, Stephen Loman made a statement that was in complete opposition of the route Zamboanga took. “I think I need to get one or two fights before a title shot to test myself where I’m at. I need to prove more”, he said.
Wait, can we repeat that again!
If there was a ONE batntamweight contender other than Fernandes who is worthy enough to have every right to call out for a title shot, it is Loman.
He has done enough to prove he is ripe for one.
He departed BRAVE Combat Federation as its undisputed legendary star. He was undefeated in six bantamweight bouts with the promotion since 2016 and his reign has been active for 1,177 days as of February 5, 2021, a few days after his transfer to ONE had been announced.
He quickly took out former #3-ranked contender, Yusup Saadulaev on his ONE debut fight and followed it up with his recent victory over expense of Shoko Sato.
Come on, Loman has enough credentials in his resume and title shots don’t grow on pine trees. Didn’t we just saw how things could go south quickly from unforeseen events like Lito Adiwang’s injury? Noticed how former UFC mainstay Jarred Brooks is coming hard for Joshua Pacio’s belt?
Loman should chase the title while he’s hot. I think that’s what Zamboanga realized when she campaigned hard for Lee’s belt.
Putting this and everything else aside, Loman’s points are well taken.
Kwon Won Il and Fabricio Andrade are not patsies or pushovers to be just set aside. Let’s not forget, Fernandes is still the #1 contender for the division.
To overlook all of them because of past accomplishments are a total disrespect of their abilities and capabilities of vie for the title as well.
Further, John Lineker is a champion who can scalp anyone’s head if he is challenged unprepared.
Engaging in a bout with Fernades, Kwon or Andrade could provide more experience and insights in engaging a formidable champion.
Just like the Nguyen bout was for Belingon in preparation for Fernandes.
By Armando M. Bolislis