The future was revealed and fates were sealed on Friday Night, 21 April, when ONE Championship hosted its latest blockbuster card, ONE: KINGS OF DESTINY.
It was a memorable night of action from the Mall Of Asia Arena in Manila, Philippines, where the nation’s inspirational icon, Eduard “Landslide” Folayang, successfully retained his coveted ONE Lightweight World Championship against Malaysian challenger Ev Ting.
However, there was much more to the card than that stellar headlining attraction. All of Team Lakay’s members had incredible showings to go 5-0 on the night, Christian “The Warrior” Lee displayed a calm aggression in his victory, and new contenders such as Michelle Nicolini and Gina Iniong emerged in a major way.
Although this event was truly unforgettable, some moments from ONE: KINGS OF DESTINY stood out just a little bit more. Here are the top five highlights from this magical night.
#1 The Thrilling Main Event
For two months, the bout was heavily promoted around the world. As expected, the two combatants delivered. Eduard Folayang made his highly-anticipated return to the cage five months after defeating the Japanese legend Shinya Aoki at ONE: DEFENDING HONOR for the belt.
Team Lakay’s crown jewel battled the durable Ev Ting in the blockbuster main event, and after five grueling rounds, he kept his World Champion status intact. Folayang held the man known as “E.T.” at range, got the better of the strikes, and always seemed to be just a hair ahead of the challenger.
Perhaps the icing on the cake was when boxing legend and ONE stakeholder Manny Pacquiao awarded ‘Landslide’ with the belt at the end of the contest. Just catching a glimpse of two of the most beloved Filipino combat sports heroes in history sharing the cage is a moment that will last a lifetime.
Although Ting failed to win for the first time in two years, he put forth a valiant effort. Even in defeat, the Malaysian proved to be the elite martial artist we all knew he was. He can, and he will, bounce back. Still only 27, he has not even reached his prime. If he gets a couple more wins under his belt, he could conceivably earn another crack at the belt in the years to come.
#2 Honorio Banario’s Sensational Knockout
Honorio Banario truly looks like a new fighter. It is remarkable and mind-boggling that the former ONE Featherweight World Champion went from a five-fight skid, to moving up a weight class and going on a four-fight tear against quality opposition.
This past weekend, he was at his best yet, as he decimated Jaroslav Jartim. Having outclassed the Czech Republic’s top lightweight in the opening frame, “The Rock” continued to frustrate his European foe until he floored Jartim with a clean left hook on the chin, which will undoubtedly be played on highlight reels for years to come.
Despite the loss, there is a tremendous amount of respect for Jartim, who successfully fought in Slovakia just two weeks ago. That is what led to the invitation to fill in for “Ruthless” Rob Lisita on short notice to fight Banario. It will be interesting to see what the proud Czech can do with a full training camp.
#3 Kevin Belingon’s Shutdown of Toni Tauru
Kevin “The Silencer” Belingon and Toni “Dynamite” Tauru both desperately wanted a title rematch against ONE Bantamweight World Champion Bibiano “The Flash” Fernandes. In the end, it seemed the Team Lakay wushu warrior wanted it much more than his Finnish counterpart.
When the two bantamweight contenders went toe-to-toe, it was “The Silencer” who dictated the pace. He relentlessly stalked Tauru with chopping leg kicks and heavy hands. Even when the Finn caught his opponent’s leg, Belingon managed to escape the takedown, and pummelled his rival with a blistering flurry of punches that led to an inevitable verbal tap out nearly a minute later.
Simply put, Belingon’s power is for real. If he connects with anyone in the division, it could be all over. The Filipino has made tremendous strides since his title fight in January 2016, and he has re-emerged as a top contender alongside Reece McLaren.
#4 Muhammad Aiman And Danny Kingad Nearly Stealing The Show
Consider this the flyweight version of the main event. Folayang’s teammate, Danny Kingad, got the better of Ev Ting’s fellow Malaysian and training partner, “Jungle Cat” Muhammad Aiman, in an energetic three-round bonanza.
Kingad appeared to the the stronger of the two, and displayed a superior grappling game in the first two frames. However, Aiman, who landed some of the “crazy” strikes and combos he previously hinted at, nearly spoiled the Team Lakay’s homecoming in the final stanza with a triangle choke/armbar attempt.
While Kingad earned the victory, both warriors gave each other everything they had, and still seemed to have much more fuel in the tank. These guys could duel again and again, and quite frankly, it would be entertaining every single time they threw down. King and Aiman have plenty of promise, and hopefully they will clash again in the not-so-distant future with more on the line.
#5 The Fiery Prelims
It is fortunate ONE live streamed their preliminary card on Facebook, because all three of those matches were full of fireworks.
The prelims featured the long-awaited arrival of Gina “Conviction” Iniong, who absolutely pummeled Natalie “The Kilapino” Gonzales Hill from bell-to-bell, while local Muay Thai champ Robin Catalan returned from a one-year-absence and edged out newcomer and fellow countryman Jeremy “The Jaguar” Miado with his improved wrestling prowess in the thrilling three-round opener.
Also, eight-time BJJ World Champion Michelle Nicolini submitted ever-so dangerous five-time wushu champion Irina Mazepa, and pleaded for the inauguration of the ONE Women’s Strawweight World Championship. Without a doubt, the three big winners set the tone for the rest of the event, and proved they had what it took to compete on the big stage.