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MANILA, Philippines – After 15 months on the sidelines due to a contract dispute with Asia’s largest mixed martial arts, Filipino fighter Eric Kelly made a successful return inside the ONE Championship cage by pulling off a controversial victory over Japan’s Hiroshige Tanaka on the undercard of the promotion’s “Tigers of Asia” event on Friday, October 9 at the 16,000-capacity Stadium Putra in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Even though Tanaka was in the driver’s seat in the last two rounds by pacifying his opponent’s leverage in the stand-up trade, Kelly managed to walk away with a debatable unanimous decision.
The featherweight contest was scored in its entirety, and not round-by-round as is the standard.
Kelly stepped on the gas pedal in the first round, where he utilized his striking arsenal from heavy high kicks to lunging right straights.
As Tanaka tried to close the distance, Kelly was able to convert a takedown courtesy of Judo hip toss after losing the grip on his Japanese foe’s head for a guillotine choke.
However, Tanaka was able to position himself on the back of Kelly, where he consistently wrapped his arms around the Pinoy stalwart’s waist to prevent him from engaging in a toe-to-toe exchange.
In the second period, Tanaka caught Kelly’s body kick and countered with a solid right hook that completely rocked his counterpart before attaining a belly-to-belly takedown.
While Tanaka was having a rear view of the Filipino fighter once more, Kelly sneakily pummeled pointed elbows that created a gory gash on the Japanese’s right eyebrow.
The 33-year-old native of Baguio City was looking for a significant blow to start the third frame when Tanaka ran through him to hamper his plans and stayed behind him by grabbing his midriff.
Tanaka punctuated the final round by getting another takedown and quickly sinking in hooks for a rear-naked choke, but Kelly was saved by the bell.
With the debatable decision win over Tanaka, Kelly improves his professional record to 12-1 and is now riding high on a two-fight winning streak.
On the other hand, Tanaka downgrades to a 10-3 standing and suffers his second-straight setback under the ONE banner.
Although Kelly had his hand raised in triumph, two of his compatriots failed to hoist the Philippine flag aloft on the same fight card.
Banario, Toquero lose fights
Former ONE featherweight titleholder Honorio Banario (8-6) yielded to Malaysian-Kiwi combatant Ev Ting (10-3) via first-round submission.
Ting only needed 56 seconds to get the job done when he defended Banario’s single-leg takedown attempt with a guillotine choke to compel the Team Lakay representative to tap.
Meanwhile, one-time flyweight title challenger Asuka “Riku Shibuya” Mikami (12-3-2) overwhelmed Eugene Toquero (7-2) with his grappling pedigree to claim a unanimous decision victory.
Mikami’s takedowns and superb top control neutralized Toquero in three rounds as the 34-year-old Filipino striker had no answers to the Japanese’s forearm strikes and elbow shots. – Rappler.com