What We Learned from ONE: Reign of Kings

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ONE: Reign of Kings Lived Up to Its Billing

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Last night’s ONE: Reign of Kings delivered one of the promotion’s most action-packed events with a stacked card that did not disappoint.

From epic finishes to crisp displays of technique to a legendary return (with a rare appearance of the yellow card) – Reign of Kings was as good as advertised.

However, Reign of Kings isn’t only a showcase of some of MMA’s brightest stars. It also served as an instrument to help us better understand where the sport is heading and how the Philippines is keeping up with its evolution.

With that, here are three takeaways from last night’s ONE: Reign of Kings:

Renzo’s Still Got Game

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After an eight-year hiatus from professional fighting, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) blue-blood Renzo Gracie had a successful comeback fight against fellow PRIDE vet Yuki Kondo.

Gracie – whose clan introduced “the gentle art” into the world – did what his family “have been doing for over 100 years: choking people.”

Round one between the 51-year-old Gracie and the 45-year-old Kondo, however, was off to a very sluggish start which prompted the referee to issue a yellow card to both fighters.

Gracie later revealed that he was studying Kondo during the opening round while trying to avoid getting hit.

“It’s funny because the ref comes to me [and said]: ‘If you’re not gonna fight, I’m gonna punish you.’ I say I was studying him the first round; you will have nothing to complain about on the second round, watch. Then I got him,” said Gracie.

BJJ is Not a Specialty…It’s a Requirement

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It’s only fitting that a card featuring a member of the legendary Gracie family concluded with a handful of submission victories.

Back in Renzo’s heyday, BJJ is just one of the disciplines fighters can choose to utilize during a mixed martial arts bout. But in today’s landscape, the lack of BJJ training is a hole in a fighter’s game that a lot of guys can easily exploit.

Joshua Pacio’s show-stealing submission win – with a modified kimura – only proved that a striker with limited ground game could easily be conquered.

It’s worth noting that Xie Bin and Garry Tonon also picked up victories by making their opponents tap.

Shinya Aoki of Japan, meanwhile, was victorious in the classic grappler vs. striker match-up against Thailand’s Shannon Wiratchai in the co-main event. While Aoki did not ace a submission victory, he utilized his superior ground game to put away Wiratchai by way of technical knockout (TKO).

Team Lakay is a Dynasty-in-the-Making

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With Kevin Belingon’s coronation in the main event, Team Lakay’s 2018 just got sweeter as they now possess a pair of ONE Championship titles.

Belingon acknowledged that wrestling and grappling were perceived as a Lakay fighter’s Achilles heel, which is why they made an effort to improve on those departments.

“Iyon yung iniimprove talaga namin, yung wresling at grappling. Sa preparation pa lang namin, iyon ang tinutukan namin kaya noong laban na iyon, lumabas yung result ng training namin, kaya nadepensahan namin yung takedown attempts niya,” said Belingon.

(We improved on our wrestling and grappling. During the preparation those are what we focused on. That’s why during the fight, we got good results and I was able to defend his takedown attempts.)

Team Lakay patriarch Mark Sangiao recounted the times when his squad was the promotion’s doormat. He could not help but smile as his club achieves massive success in MMA.

Now housing two champions, two former titleholders, and a promising young stalwart, Team Lakay’s future is as bright as the championship belts they carry around.

Team Lakay’s future could be expressed with a comment Belingon made regarding his upcoming unification fight with Bibiano Fernandes: “Marami pa kaming surpresa.” (We have a lot more surprises.)

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Manila Bulletin sports writer 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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