MANILA, Philippines – As an education graduate and former teacher, Filipino mixed martial arts warrior Eduard Folayang prepares for every match just like an exam.
“If you prepare very well then you pass the test, but if you don’t the result is predictable: failure,” noted the former multi-titled fighter of the Philippine wushu team.
Known for his powerful kicks and punches, the 29-year-old pride of Baguio City and Team Lakay won gold medals in the lightweight division of sanda (sparring) in the 2003 Vietnam, 2005 Manila and 2011 Indonesia Southeast Asian Games.
His impressive amateur resume also includes a silver medal in the 2006 Doha Asian Games and a pair of bronzes in the 2005 world championships and the 2002 Busan Asian Games.
On May 2 at the Mall of Asia Arena, Folayang faces his biggest test yet since he began his MMA career four years ago when he battles former Japanese-Korean flyweight champion Kotetsu “No Face” Boku.
The Folayang-Boku clash is the featured appetizer of One FC “Rise of Champions” headlined by the world bantamweight clash between unbeaten Masakatsu Ueda of Japan and Brazil’s Bibiano Fernandes.
Over lunch at the Sage Restaurant at the plush Shangri-la Hotel in Makati last Wednesday organized by One FC Phils., Folayang admitted that his ground game was his major weakness.
This was the main reason why he was caught off-guard and got taken down by Iranian UFC veteran Kamal Sholorus, whose forte is wrestling, last May 31, 2013, scuttling a potential title crack at Boku, who was then the reigning One FC lightweight champion.
Failing to hurdle a fighter with a wrestling background – his fourth loss in 17 bouts – Folayang was determined not let it happen again. He engaged former Iranian wrestler Ali Hibaradi, who reputedly coached the Cypriot Olympic team, to tutor him in the finer points of grappling.
“Hibaradi taught me how the techniques in controlling an opponent once you have taken him down until he is finally forced to tap out (yield or surrender),” said the solidly-built fighter who goes by the moniker “Landslide.”
Living with his Filipina wife in Cavite, Hibaradi would go up to Baguio for two to three weeks to teach the willing Filipino student, who absorbed all the lessons like a sponge.
Results of the rigorous training were on display when Folayang tackled cocky but one-dimensional Dutchman Vincent Latoel on Dec. 6, at the MOA Arena. Showcasing his new ground skills, the Filipino earned a decisive unanimous decision victory.
The triumph so impressed One FC organizers that they lined him up for his next bout with the Boku, who was dethroned by Japan’s Shinya Aoki by submission in the second round on April 5, 2013.
“Obviously Folayang’s ground skills have improved in his win over Latoel,” said Singapore One FC publicist Gerald Ng. “This new facet of his style makes him an even more dangerous fighter to go with his striking.”
Another convincing win similar to his dismantling of Latoel could pave the way for a title crack, at last, against Aoki, Ng said.
Folayang, however, is not looking beyond Boku, a grizzled 36-year-old MMA campaigner with a record of 21 wins (8 KOs) and nine losses, four of them, curiously, by submission.
A One FC press statement described the heavily-tatooed fighter as “having an iron chin with explosive punching power,” and who has never been knocked out.
Underscoring his striking prowess, Boku is coming off a first-round technical knockout victory over Frenchman Arnauld Lepont last March 14.
The Filipino fighter said that playing in front of his compatriots can work either way.
“You can either get pressured or be inspired in fighting before hometown fans. Nakakaba rin (You get nervous),” bared Folayang, confident, however, that he could more than hold his own in an all-out slugfest with the Japanese.
Armed with his newly-acquired wrestling mastery, “Landslide” vowed not to let his countrymen down and “ace” his test against Boku. – Rappler.com