Filipino MMA in 2013 – A Year in Review
SINGAPORE – The year of 2013 was filled with enough highs and lows for Filipino mixed martial arts to be considered arguably the best year in MMA yet for the three stars and a sun.
Looking back at the previous year, the joy of victory and the anguish of defeat sit on opposite sides of the spectrum. Regardless, Filipino fight fans have lots to be thankful for, as well as to look forward to this 2014.
Here are some of the highlights of Filipino MMA in the past year.
Filipino Redemption in ONE FC
The year began in a historical battle between Honorio “The Rock” Banario and Eric “The Natural” Kelly for the One FC Featherweight world championship held at the Stadium Putra in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in February, which saw Banario become the first ever Filipino to win an MMA world title. Sadly it came at the expense of one of Filipino MMA’s hottest young prospects in Kelly.
At One FC: Rise to Power, which took place at the Mall of Asia Arena in May, the Filipinos came up short, failing to notch a single win against foreign opponents whilst competing on Philippine soil.
It was a “black Friday” of sorts as Team Lakay members Eduard Folayang, Geje Eustaquio, Kevin Belingon and Rey Docyogen all figured in heart-breaking losses. Yet it was perhaps Banario’s loss to Japanese veteran Koji Oishi that stung the most. Banario surrendered the One FC title in his very first defense.
Things turned around quickly however, when the Filipino MMA contingency in the One FC came back furiously, registering some great wins over top quality opponents.
At “Moment of Truth” last November, Folayang, Eustaquio and Kevin Belingon all notched inspiring victories. Banario unfortunately, failed in his bid to reclaim the title in an immediate rematch with Oishi. Nevertheless, it was an astounding year for Filipinos, particularly for Team Lakay, who continued their great showing inside the One FC cage.
Mark Munoz Returns
After his loss to Chris Weidman and subsequent battles with depression in 2012, Japan-born Filipino-American Mark “The Filipino Wrecking Machine” Munoz began 2013 with a resounding victory over tough-as-nails Tim Boetsch.
Munoz put his far superior wrestling acumen on display with a total domination of Boetsch featuring overpowering takedowns and vicious ground-and-pound. Munoz secured a thorough victory via unanimous decision, setting up a much-awaited match with Michael “The Count” Bisping.
Unfortunately, Bisping pulled out due to an eye injury and was replaced by an even tougher opponent in Lyoto “The Dragon” Machida, a personal friend and former training partner of Munoz.
Machida was competing at middleweight for the first time after spending the majority of his career at light heavyweight. Utilizing the modified Shotokan-Karate style that had brought him success over the years, Machida put Munoz to sleep with a huge rear roundhouse kick in the very first round.
Munoz has since recovered from the loss and looks to redeem himself inside the Octagon in his next fight.
Brandon Vera Loses in Lone Bout, Fails to Impress
At one point, Brandon “The Truth” Vera was regarded as a very promising light heavyweight prospect.
The tall and lanky, 6-foot-2, 205 pound Pinoy behemoth was known for his devastating Muay Thai. Vera’s kicks were like lightning and his knees were like thunder from the clinch. He’s had an up-and-down MMA career however, with wins against Frank Mir and most recently Elliot Marshall.
Disappointingly though, Vera’s defeats have all been against the very best, when the spotlight had shone on him the brightest. In his career, Vera has dropped losses to Tim Sylvia, Fabricio Werdum, Keith Jardine, Randy Couture and even Jon “Bones” Jones – the current UFC light heavyweight champion.
In 2013, Vera met Ben Rothwell at UFC 164 in Milwaukee and started out strong in the first round, reminiscent of the early part of his career only to characteristically fade in the later rounds.
Rothwell put the pressure on in the third round and overwhelmed Vera with punches and knees to take the win by technical knockout (TKO). Vera seems to be done as an elite fighter. It’s inconceivable how he’d be able to fare well against today’s top contenders.
The Fire Burns Strong
Though 2014 kicked off with Team Lakay’s Dave “Scarecrow” Galera and Guam’s Jon “The Heat” Delos Reyes both losing in their UFC debuts at UFC Fight Night 34, the year looks to continue the path of fire laid out by Filipino MMA warriors in 2013.
With the UFC returning to Southeast Asia, kick-starting a campaign in Singapore and signing fighters from neighboring countries, you can be sure to catch plenty of talented Filipinos inside an MMA cage real soon.
And with One FC making the Philippines their home away from home, Filipino mixed martial arts is at its peak on this side of the world, with a bright and sunny future to look forward to. - Rappler.com