Martin Nguyen has Nothing but Brotherly Love for Eduard Folayang
With just 2 minutes and 20 seconds remaining in the second round, Martin Nguyen found the opening he was anticipating for six weeks. Coming his way was a strike synonymous to his opponent, Eduard Folayang – the spinning wheel kick.
Unlike other fighters who simulate bad blood to draw more publicity, Folayang and Nguyen weren’t shy in professing their friendship. “Eduard’s not only a very good fighter. What inspires me about Eduard is that he inspires the younger generation,” Nguyen said about Folayang several days before the fight.
However, a fight is still a fight, and the only way to come out on the winning end is by inflicting damage to the person opposite you. Once fighters enter the cage, whatever relationship they have developed is put on hold. In those few minutes, they go to war.
Asked about the motivation to challenge for his buddy’s title, Nguyen replied, “In terms of why I’m fighting [Folayang], the aim is to make history in ONE Championship. It’s very rare that these opportunities come.”
And make history he did. Nguyen landed a perfect right overhand counter to the jaw of the Filipino hero right when Folayang was completing another spinning attack. Unfortunately for the Team Lakay leader, his challenger did his homework.
“You know what; I timed that perfectly with that right hand. It was supposed to be a takedown, but I threw a right hand out of instinct.” And just like that, Eduard Folayang lived and died by his signature move.
Filipino fight fans turned silent as they witnessed the fall of the Igorot mixed martial arts champion. Nguyen’s overhand counter drained the spirit of the once-electric Manila crowd as it drained the consciousness out of Folayang.
Right after the referee called for the stoppage, Nguyen’s instincts told him to check on the fallen fighter from Baguio. In an instant, Nguyen switched back to being a friend more concerned about the well being of Folayang rather than a prize fighter celebrating the historic feat he achieved.
During a bitter-sweet celebration, “The Situ-Asian” expressed sympathy for his opponent. “I still love you as a brother. I hope you’re alright,” Nguyen uttered during his coronation as ONE Championship’s first ever two-division king. “I hope you come back from this stronger,” Nguyen continued.
“Look, honestly I’m really hurt. I never ever, ever, ever wanna see someone I like or someone I know go through that,” Nguyen told reporters during the post-fight press conference. “When you have that emotional connection with someone, it’s very tough,” the double champion added.
Back to the Drawing Board
For Folayang to once again raise the coveted ONE Championship lightweight title, he will need to prove that he deserves another shot.
“You know, I think Eduard has to go back to the drawing board. He has to have a few wins under his belt to even consider [a rematch] because of the way the fight ended,” ONE Championship president Chatri Sityodtong stated. “If it was a five-round war that went to a decision, then I can say that a rematch is deserved, but this case was a clear win. So I think, Eduard, let him rest, let him recuperate,” the ONE Championship president added.
Sityodtong, however, reminded MMA fans to expect a bounce back from the overthrown lightweight king. “He has everything. He has the skills, he has character, he has the courage, and he has the warrior spirit. He’ll be back.”
Folayang must retool and reinvent. The 33-year-old warrior should use this experience to become a better-rounded fighter. This opinion might be unpopular, but this writer thinks that Folayang needs to rebalance his spinning attacks with a less risky arsenal.
Yes, having a flashy move set arguably makes a fighter more exciting to watch, but spinning attacks are often utilized to be unpredictable. Making it a signature move takes away the element of surprise, allowing the defensive to pounce on an undefended jaw just like Nguyen proved.
As the sports maxim goes: Reaching the top is easy, what’s difficult is staying on top. And for the Team Lakay leader, the road to redemption starts. Folayang needs to come back hungrier. He should suck it up and look at this loss as motivation rather than a cloud of doubt.
A more focused and determined Folayang could come out of this tragedy. Folayang’s road to recovery would not be easy, but there is no reason to believe that “Landslide” Folayang is done. He is a champion with or without a belt. And we better believe that he’ll be gunning once again for the lightweight gold.
Rafael Bandayrel is a self-confessed nerd who happens to love MMA. Yes, nerds watch sports these days. What a time to be alive.
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