Team Lakay Proves They’re Still on Top of Their Game
Last year was devastating for Filipino MMA fans as Team Lakay’s leader Eduard ‘Landslide’ Folayang lost his ONE lightweight strap to heavy-handed Martin Nguyen. Coming out of ONE: Global Superheroes, however, Team Lakay showed us that Folayang’s reign was just the tip of the iceberg.
Inheriting the top spot as the face of Team Lakay is Geje ‘Gravity’ Eustaquio, who opened 2018 with a pleasant gift for the Filipino fight nation – the ONE interim flyweight championship.
January 26 was indeed a sweet night for Eustaquio. He snagged the gold after taking the unanimous decision victory over Kairat Akhmetov – a man who, in many people’s opinion, stole one from Eustaquio the last time they met inside the cage in Jakarta, Indonesia.
In that fight, Eustaquio seemingly had Akhmetov beat when the Kazakh was stunned by a series of up kicks. But the fight was inexplicably paused by referee Yuji Shimada, which allowed Akhmetov to recover and escape with a narrow split-decision victory.
During the rematch, Eustaquio made sure to hurt Akhmetov even more by cancelling his date with his long-time rival and current champion, Adriano Moraes.
Eustaquio’s key to victory was his grappling defense. Ironically, ‘Gravity’ needed to avoid getting pulled down by gravity to overcome his opponent. Akhmetov proved once again that he is the superior wrestler as he successfully completed three takedowns. Eustaquio, however, did not allow the Kazakh to inflict damage once the fight shifted to the ground.
After five grueling rounds, Eustquio claimed the right to be called a world champion and be hailed as Team Lakay’s new franchise guy. If we will pay close attention, however, Team Lakay is not defined by franchise guys and breakout stars. They are defined by their culture of winning and excellence.
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.
“The Silencer” Seeks to Cement Claim to Title Opportunity
ONE Championship was six months old when Kevin Belingon first stepped inside its cage in 2012. That makes him one of the OG’s of Asia’s largest MMA promotion.
His journey is a series of ups and downs, facing a who’s who of ONE’s bantamweight division. To date, the highest point he’s reached was a championship bout against Bibiano Fernandes in January 2016, which unfortunately ended with a first round submission loss.
While “The Silencer” may have faltered against the champ, Belingon bounced back with three straight victories, including two KO wins over former title challengers in Toni Tauru and Reece McLaren.
The Lakay KO artist has long established that he belongs to the upper tier of ONE’s 135-lbs division, and when he finished McLaren in last August’s ONE: Quest for Greatness, a rematch with Fernandes seemed to be the next logical scenario.