Here’s what you need to know ahead of Stephen Loman’s fight against Elias Boudegzdame at Brave 22
At the close of 2018, Team Lakay had five world champions. But unlike Folayang, Belingon, Eustaquio, and Pacio, BRAVE bantamweight champion Mark Stephen Loman has never had the bright lights of the SM Mall of Asia Arena shine on him in his two championship fights.
Loman wrested the BRAVE bantamweight title from Frans Mlambo on June 9, 2018 in hostile Belfast, Northern Ireland. He defended his belt against Brazilian Felipe Efrain on November 16, 2018 in Bahrain. It was after his successful defense that BRAVE’s top brass promised Loman the opportunity to showcase his skill set on Philippine soil. And on March 15, they’re making good on their promise.
We’ve seen Loman fight before under the PXC banner. His most impressive victory under the Guam-based promotion was against KO machine Mark Abelardo. He was scheduled to challenge PXC bantamweight champ Trevin Jones; the fight never materialized following weight cut complications on the American’s end.
Loman’s potential next challenger Jose “Shorty” Torres describes the Lakay as someone who “always comes back from adversity.” “He’s a slow starter and almost always loses the first round,” observes the former UFC fighter. “Even in his last fight, we thought Felipe Efrain would put him away, but then he came back stronger each round and was able to stay the champion.”
Five of Loman’s last six victories have gone the distance. His last loss (personally the first time I saw Loman fight live) was care of a flash KO by Rex de Lara. Not one to have a granite chin, Loman’s measured pace could very well be his way to make sure that he doesn’t get caught twice. “In the first round, I’m feeling out the power of my opponents, always [finding] my range to land clean shots,” Loman defended against Torres’ critique. “There were times I was hit hard, but I managed to come back and make adjustments in the fight.”
Team Lakay coach Mark Sangiao identifies Loman’s striking as his main strength, which is complemented by his ever-improving ground game. With title challenger Elias Boudegzdame winning 13 of his 15 wins via submission, we wondered how Loman will approach this fight with the dangerous grappler. According to Loman, he will bank on his strengths to make the French challenger uncomfortable in all angles. “I’m comfortable in my striking and on the ground when I’m on top and controlling my opponent by ground and pound,” says the Lakay champion, “so I’ll mix it all, whether the fight be on the feet or on the ground. For now, I’m developing my striking combinations so I can be confident in them.”
Loman, however, is not blind to Elias’ aggressive guard. Elias is good in his jiu-jitsu and can submit his opponent when he is in the bottom by triangle choke,” says the Lakay. Loman does have faith that his striking and top game would be more than what Boudegzdame could handle. “I will avoid being taken down and move around in order not to get caught. If there is a chance, I will take him down and do some ground and pound in order to prevent him from setting up his submission,” concluded Loman.
“The Sniper” would benefit from staying true to his namesake, especially during the initial rounds. The three-inch height advantage the French enjoys could be an uphill battle for the Lakay to stay on his feet the entire five rounds however. His take down defense should be on point, and whatever ground and pound he plans to implement should be used precisely, mainly to keep Elias guessing and adjusting so the French cannot implement his game. While going for a take down leaves unnecessary openings for Elias to capitalize, I’m expecting the Lakay camp to be drilling Stephen like hell against chokes and locks in his transitions. Elias’ BJJ would be unlike anything Loman has faced however, so everything has to be according to plan if Stephen wants to come out on top. In other words, this is no give-me fight for our Lakay champion in his homecoming. That said, “Shorty” Torres believes that if Stephen can weather the initial storm, then the Lakay has this in the bag. “I know Elias has a very interesting submission game, but he has to beat Loman in the first round, or else I see the champ taking over and winning again,” predicts “Shorty”.
Expect Loman and the other Filipino fighters to defend the home turf with all their might. To us his countrymen, Stephen says, “I feel happy and excited to fight here in my country for the first time to show our kababayans how their champion fights. To all my kababayans, fans, and supporters, for my third title defense, I will do all my best in the fight.”
On March 15, let’s all welcome Stephen Loman home.
John Hudson Go is the Editor-in-Chief of MMA Philippines.
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