A Filipino vs. Filipino World Title Fight is in the Horizon
On April 12, 2019, Joshua Pacio became a two-time ONE Championship world champion after knocking out Yosuke Saruta with a head kick in the fourth round of their strawweight title bout at ONE Championship: Roots of Honor at the SM Mall of Asia Arena. More importantly, the victory laid to rest the controversy of his split decision loss to the Japanese three months prior.
With an emphatic victory against Saruta, the question begs: Who’s next for “The Passion”?
Enter Rene Catalan. After starting his MMA career with back-to-back losses to eventual champions Alex Silva and Dejdamrong Sor Amnuaysirichoke (DSA), “D’ Challenger” has stringed an impressive six-fight win streak in the competitive strawweight division of ONE, highlighted by his TKO victory over former champion Yoshitaka Naito. Prior to Naito, Catalan bested then undefeated Stefer Rahardian, a ONE national tournament champion who was himself poised to become a contender in the stacked strawweight division.
I’ve said before that I wouldn’t mind seeing Pacio, Naito, and Silva compete for the strawweight crown over and over again due to how technical and evenly matched these fighters are. Silva, in particular, has yet to compete against Pacio – an interesting prospect should Silva string a couple of wins to get him back into title contention. At this point in time, however, having Naito or Silva as the next challenger does not make sense: Naito is 0-2 after back-to-back losses to Pacio and Catalan; Silva is likewise on a two-loss skid against Naito and Saruta.
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.”