Former ONE Featherweight World Champion Honorio “The Rock” Banario has completely turned his career around.
After a turbulent period that saw him fall to new depths in his career, the Team Lakay veteran pondered retiring from the sport altogether. But he was encouraged by friends and family to continue forging ahead.
With that in mind, Banario made a critical career change for his future. He moved up to the lightweight division, and has looked noticeably stronger and more confident every time he steps inside the ONE Championship cage.
The 28-year-old Filipino finds himself on a four-bout win streak, and will attempt to extend that number to five this Friday, 20 April, when he meets Adrian “The Hunter” Pang at ONE: HEROES OF HONOR in Manila.
Before we see him take on the toughest test of his career, we take a look back at all four of Banario’s amazing victories in his lightweight career resurgence.
Starting The Streak
The former featherweight world champ’s first match at lightweight came against well-rounded Filipino Vaughn “The Spawn” Donayre at ONE: GLOBAL RIVALS in April 2016. As soon as the opening bell rang, it was clear this was a different Banario than we had previously seen.
Banario looked crisper and more energized, and stunned Donayre with an overhand right. After “The Rock” quickly brought Donayre down, “The Spawn” immediately got back up, and a methodical slugfest ensued. The Team Lakay warrior kept connecting with punches as “The Spawn” came in, brought him to the canvas once more for some ground and pound, and threw a beautiful elbow in the clinch to end the frame.
Donayre momentarily stunned “The Rock” to open the second stanza. Banario quickly recovered, however, and kept hammering his opponent with rights and lefts before taking him to the canvas yet again. The Team Lakay veteran spent the most of the round looking for better positioning, and practically submitted Donayre with an armbar.
As the third round approached, “The Spawn” was breathing heavily. Banario noticed, and kept pushing the pace on his exhausted foe. He got the better of the stand-up exchanges, caught a Donayre kick, and grounded him again. Despite a forced stand-up halfway through the round, it was wash, rinse, and repeat for Banario, who grabbed the much-needed unanimous decision victory to start his resurgence.
Making A Statement
Following his first win in years, Banario looked to build some momentum later that August at ONE: HEROES OF THE WORLD in Macao, China. He clashed with Evolve MMA’s Eddie “The Magician” Ng, one of the most dynamic strikers in the division, and made quite a statement.
The bout initially started as a clinch battle for positioning, and Ng intended to lean on his superior wrestling to defeat Banario. It turned out to be ill-fated, as the Filipino defended well, and exchanged takedowns with “The Magician” in the early going.
Halfway through the opening round, Banario brought Ng down, and strategically dropped strikes. Although the Evolve MMA product returned to his feet in the final minute, “The Rock” left an impression when he kicked out his adversary’s legs.
Ng recommitted to his wrestling to start the second, but Banario continued to stuff the attempts, and turned the bout into a stand-up war. “The Magician” went head-hunting, but Banario retaliated with a devastating attack of punches, sidekicks to the midsection, and low kicks to the legs. Although Ng nearly locked in a rear-naked choke at one point, the Filipino defended well, and escaped as round two came to a close.
Entering the third, it was clear Banario was the fresher of the two, and he reminded Ng of that by easily defending the takedown, and peppering him with strikes in the clinch. That would be the theme of the final frame, with “The Rock” shining in the last 30 seconds. When Ng fell backwards, Banario capitalized with some ground and pound before confidently raising his arms into the air. Apparently, the judges agreed with his sentiment, giving Banario the unanimous decision.
Submitting An Indian Knockout Artist
The Team Lakay veteran continued his meteoric rise up the lightweight ranks at home in Manila at ONE: AGE OF DOMINATION in December 2016.
He faced former SFL Lightweight Champion Rajinder Singh Meena in a contest that was expected to be a stand-up war. But instead, “The Rock” grounded the Indian striker, and was determined to submit him.
Seconds following the opening bell, Banario ducked a looping overhand right, and easily brought Meena down. He transitioned to side control, dropped some ground strikes, and attempted a kimura. The Filipino tried securing an armbar, but the Indian slid out, and both men found themselves standing up.
Meena threw some kicks and big overhands, but yet again, the Team Lakay hero brought him down. This time, Banario kept him on the canvas, worked back to side control, and trapped one of the Indian’s arms with a crucifix. He strategically landed some ground strikes, but returned to the kimura, and then spun into an armbar to force the tap.
While “The Rock” is renowned for his world-class striking, he reminded fans he was well-versed on the ground, and could also tap out an adversary inside a single round.
A True Highlight Reel Knockout
Banario was due for a highlight reel knockout.
It had been four and a half years since “The Rock” put down the hammer in a decisive manner, but he finally did so against Czech striker Jaroslav Jartim at ONE: KINGS OF DESTINY in Manila back in April 2017.
Following a first round that was full of clinch-striking, takedowns, and submission attempts, Banario mixed it up much more in the second frame.
He connected with shots to the head and midsection, brought Jartim to the mat once again, where he softened him up with punches to the head. The Czech was able to reverse the position, but the Team Lakay warrior scrambled away, and both competitors were back on their feet. That soon led to the climax.
“The Rock” stepped forward, guarded his face, and ate a kick to the ribs. Then he exploded with a body cross, and followed it up with a blistering left hook to the chin, which dropped Jartim like a pile of bricks. The match was immediately called off at the 1:31 mark of round two, giving Banario a highlight reel knockout, and his fourth consecutive victory.
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