A compelling bantamweight contest as seen by ONE Championship lead commentator and Fox Sports Presenter Steve Dawson
In the ONE Championship bantamweight division, Filipino Geje Eustaquio takes on Toni Tauru of Finland this Friday in Manila at ONE: AGE OF DOMINATION.
The contest at the Mall of Asia Arena could mark Eustaquio’s final steps towards a world title challenge in the bantamweight division. Two years ago, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, the Team Lakay fighter put on a highly-focused effort against Adriano Moraes for the flyweight title, only to succumb to a second-round guillotine choke.
Since then, Eustaquio has strung impressive 2016 wins together against Saiful Merican and Gianni Subba.
Eustaquio’s opponent, Tauru, currently holds a record of 10-4-1. Three of those losses have come in his last three fights, where he has unquestionably stepped up in class, even once challenging Bibiano Fernandes for the ONE Bantamweight World Championship belt.
For Tauru, the aim is clear: get back to winning ways against an established ONE Championship veteran who is of genuine title-challenging stock. For Eustaquio, the path seems similarly uncluttered. If he is to challenge Fernandes in 2017, the best statement he can make is to overcome Tauru in a manner similar to the way the Champion beat the Scandinavian 31-year old.
Tauru lacks the fast-twitch explosion that knocks opponents out. He relies instead on submission moves and outlasting his foes. When you consider that Eustaquio has never fallen to strikes, that seems like a fight-ending scenario that can be eliminated.
On the other hand, the Filipino has stopped two of his opponents via KO, and that is a finish to which Tauru is vulnerable. At a time when I was publicly becoming critical of Bibiano Fernandes’ striking arsenal, it was against Tauru that the Brazilian emphatically addressed the issue with his first KO win in almost four years.
Eustaquio’s wushu-based attacks are one likely way in which he can win this one. Moraes is the only man to submit Eustaquio, but that is the way Tauru has nailed 70 per cent of his wins, and this is where he will be looking for the advantage.
While submission defense used to be an area of weakness for Team Lakay fighters, they’ve made giant steps in recent times to improve this, notably in the way Eduard Folayang fought off the legendary Shinya Aoki’s grappling assault just a few weeks ago in Singapore.
I see a number of ways for the Filipino to win in front of his home fans. Dropping his opponent with strikes or maintaining the upper hand to land a unanimous decision seem the most likely.
Steve Dawson is ONE Championship’s lead commentator, a Fox Sports presenter and an author of sporting biographies. He can be found on Twitter & Instagram as @Gulasahi and on Facebook as Steve Dawson.