“You’re not the champion until you defend the belt.”
Eduard “The Landslide” Folayang just satisfied UFC Hall of Famer Matt Hughes’ requirement to be a true champion. The Filipino MMA hero claimed victory against a very intense foe in Kiwi-Malaysian Ev Ting in a five-round war of attrition at ONE: Kings of Destiny. Making the night sweeter is Lakay teammates Kevin Belingon, Honorio Banario, Danny Kingad, and Gina Iniong’s wins, leading to a 5-0 sweep for the mythical Baguio-based team.
We saw a familiar “Landslide” last night, unafraid to throw kicks and back fists against an opponent who similarly enjoys trading shots. “E.T.” was a bit gun shy at first, but things picked up within the round, eventually culminating in a five-round classic.
Folayang essentially relied on his striking and improved grappling to establish three layers of offense against the taller Ting. From the get go, he looked to keep his distance with straight side, roundhouse, and spinning wheel kicks. In contrast to Ev’s headhunting tendencies, Folayang tried to play an endurance game with leg and body kicks that typically pay dividends at the latter rounds. They are also more efficient in terms of output: Head kicks take more energy to execute, more so against a taller opponent.
The kicks bait Ting to charge in, where Eduard’s left hook and right overhand are ready to meet him. His hands are where Folayang really loads up his power on. Ting wore the damage on his face when we met him up close during the post-fighter presser. On the other hand, this is also the most dangerous range for “The Landslide”, as his swinging style leaves him open to Ev’s counters. The Malaysian was timing Folayang’s tendency to lunge while swinging, in particular, with left hooks, uppercuts, and leveled kicks. To compensate, Eduard would clinch then break off to reset his striking distance.
Inside the clinch, Folayang made use of his knees to target Ev’s midsection, again in hopes of reducing his opponent’s gas tank. Whereas “The Landslide” of old would either go for a takedown or be entirely focused on not getting dragged to the mat (depending on who he’s facing), this new version is embracing his identity as a striker with newfound confidence in his defensive grappling.
But Ev Ting is a resilient motherf*cker – scrappy, gritty, showing the hunger of a worthy challenger. I was very impressed with his boxing, clinch control, and ability to adapt his game plan in the latter rounds. He was even crazy enough to go for a flying scissors, which led to a heel hook attempt. Again, without Folayang’s technical knowledge in escaping and mindset in resetting on the feet, who would have known what that situation would have led to? The all-around fighter that “E.T.” is, I would not be surprised if he starts another title run right after this setback.
What’s next for Folayang? With Coach Mark Sangiao beside him, he says that the entire team is committed to helping him retain the title for as long as he can. Knowing Eduard, this is not said in pride or confidence, but in determination and an attitude of constant improvement as a martial artist. Folayang has tasted defeat. He has been knocked out. There is no aura of invincibility that shrouds Folayang. If anything, it is his vulnerability that keeps this Lakay grounded despite the belt resting on his shoulder. In Folayang’s words, “[After getting knocked out,] maybe some thought that my career was over. But I rose up, because that’s what it means to be a martial artist. You need to overcome the challenges of the past. You need to be persistent.”
As for teammate Honorio Banario being in the same division as Folayang is, Banario says, “Ang tingin ko sa team ko ay pamilya ko sila. Bakit mo kakalabanin ang pamilya mo, ‘di ba?” Banario, who left his opponent lying flat on the mat for an extended period with a straight right to body followed by a cracking left hook at the button, himself has faced consecutive defeats at the hands of ONE Championship’s best and is ecstatic to be back on the winning track.
Congratulations as well to Kevin Belingon, who did not allow Toni Tauru’s grappling to be a factor by clobbering him into verbal submission in the very first round; Danny Kingad, who ragdolled his opponent with superior wrestling; and Gina Iniong for edging British-Filipina Natalie Gonzales Hills. As Coach Mark says, “Everyone did their assignment, and [tonight’s results] were very good.”
John Hudson Go is the Editor-in-Chief of MMA Philippines.
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