Preview: One FC: Warrior’s Way

Ernest Hernandez, contributor - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines – From Rich Franklin signing as the new Vice President for Operations, the acquisition of Brandon Vera, Manny Pacquiao becoming a stockholder to eight events since their last one in Manila, One FC grew tremendously with the help of their Filipino fan base.

One FC chief Victor Cui knows how to reward Filipino MMA fans with the most stacked fight card to hit the country, giving seven Filipino MMA fighters a chance to showcase their talent.

Whether you will be watching live or through Fox Sports, let us break down each bout in the One Fighting Championship: The Warrior’s Way at the Mall of Asia Arena Friday.

Jujeath Nagaowa vs Taroth Sam

After making her debut in One FC: Rise of Heroes, Nagaowa will now take on another undefeated fighter in Taroth Sam.

Sam, whose wins all came from submissions, will give Nagaowa a tougher challenge than before. On the other hand, Nagaowa, a former boxer, was training under Goat Locker Gym for the past months. He will be relying on her boxing and experience.

For those who have followed MMA since its birth years in the 90s, Nagaowa will have MMA legend Dan “The Beast” Severn in her corner for a unique form of inspiration.

Ana Julaton vs Walaa Abas Mohamed Kamaly

“There is no way that Ana should lose this fight. No way,” said Angelo Reyes, Julaton’s MMA trainer.

Once again, the former boxing champion will be the darling of the 20,000 Filipino fight crowd at the MOA Arena. Coming off from a debateable loss against Ann Osman, Team Julaton is doing whatever it takes to get a rematch and this fight will be a step closer to achieving that.

Julaton’s opponent will not be a pushover. Kamaly, on paper, is the more experienced fighter. Fighting out of the Egyptian Top Team stable, she promises to give Ana the challenge that she needs and a win could get her a rematch with Osman.

The last time Julaton fought in Manila, she had NBA player Ronny Turiaf on her corner and this time, Ginebra cager Japeth Aguilar, who visited and trained boxing with Ana in the United States, will be walking with her as her cornerman.

Rene Catalan vs Dejdamron Sor Ammnuaysirichoke

A well-known fighter in the Philippines, Catalan has been in the martial arts scene longer than any fighter in the card. With over 200 Muay Thai fights and a very extensive experience in Wushu, Catalan seems to be inclined to take this fight standing up.

Catalan will be going head-to-head with an undefeated fighter from Evolve MMA and like him, he loves to fight standing up.

Now having his own MMA gym with the Catalan Fighting System, he has been focusing on MMA and a surprise takedown from him is something his opponent should watch out for.

Sylvain Potard vs Jake Butler

One of the three matches that doesn’t feature a Filipino fighter, this is a rematch from One FC 11 with Potard stopping Butler in the second round with his punches.

After a very convincing win against Mohamed Ali in One FC: War of Dragons, Butler had his wish for a rematch with Potard granted. Butler, who has shown significant improvement, is unlikely to make the same mistake and will probably rely on his wrestling more than his stand-up fighting.

On the other hand, Potard is out to prove that he is still one of the top light heavyweights in the ONE FC roster despite not having fought for more than a year.

Honorio Banario vs Herbert Burns

A name that already made a mark during the early years of One FC, Banario, the former featherweight champion, is more determined to get back on the winning track. A win over Burns could earn him another rematch and a title shot against Jadambaa.

Banario will be facing a fighter who has not experienced any defeat in his MMA Career – the Brazilian Herbert Burns from Evolve MMA. Burns, an up and coming fighter, is seeking to prove that he is worthy of a title shot.

Burns, who has a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, will be determined to put this match on the ground while Banario would rely on his expertise on striking and will keep the fight standing up as much as possible.

Kevin Belingon vs Koetsu Okazaki

Belingon is one of the three fighters of Team Lakay alongside Folayang and Banario, and just like his stable mates, his striking is well known and likely to be his advantage on this fight.

He will have his hands full as he faces a very complete fighter in Koetsu Okazaki, and the Japanese fighter will take advantage of every mistake that Belingon will make.

Despite the hometown advantage, Belingon will have to play this match carefully and needs to bring a perfect game to defeat Okazaki.

A win for both fighters could mean a bantamweight championship match against the winner of the main event against Bibiano Fernandes and Dae Hwan Kim.

James McSweeney vs Roger Gracie

Yes folks, the epic name of royalty in MMA world, the Gracie family has blessed the stacked Manila fight card.

The grandson of Carlos Gracie, founder of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu, Roger will be representing his family in the One FC roster and will make his debut against James “The Hammer” McSweeney.

The name does not scare “The Hammer,” who promised to claim the One FC as his territory. We expect McSweeney to capitalize on his stand-up game, but his ground fighting is very underrated and it could surprise Gracie if he is not careful.

Eduard Folayang vs Timofer Nastyukhin

Considered as the Manny Pacquiao of Filipino MMA, Eduard Folayang is once again expected to thrill the home crowd at the Mall of Asia Arena.

Folayang was supposed to have a title fight before but due to circumstances, he lost the chance. But with a third straight victory over Timofer Nastyukhin, he badly wants a shot at the championship belt.

Nastyukhin will be a huge threat to Folayang’s championship hopes as he won his past seven fights, all in the first round. There is doubt on his chances of winning if he goes more than ten minutes with “The Landslide”, and it will be something that Folayang would love to exploit.

Brandon Vera vs Igor Subora

Vera’s return fight to Manila has headlined a lot of news for the past couple of months, and his homecoming has been long awaited by his local fans.

The crowd will surely be on Vera’s side. And while his opponent may not be a big name in the MMA world, he is known in the Philippine MMA scene. Subora made the Philippines his home since 2008, and he brings with him a remarkable striking attack and a very respectable ground game. This is a chance of a lifetime for Subora to get his name well known in the world, and to say that he doesn’t have a chance against Vera is absurd.

Vera brings in to the table his extensive experience in MMA. In his career, he had the chance to face the likes of Jon “Bones” Jones, Shogun Rua and Randy Couture in his career with UFC. His experience will play a huge part in his match against Subora.

Bibiano Fernandes vs Dae Hwan Kim

Once again, Bibiano Fernandes defends his championship in the Philippines, and Thursday’s intense weigh-in – which almost triggered a fight – thickens the plot for both fighters.

Kim will be bringing his intensity in the fight and will look for an early stoppage. On the other hand, Bibiano will bring his championship experience in lasting five whole rounds and will look to wear down his opponent with a very systematic style.

There has always been a debate on who can defeat Fernades in the One FC roster but Dae Hwan Kim proved to be a proper opponent, which carries an undefeated record and will bring that “never-say-die” attitude in to the match. Submitting Kim would be a tough task, as the fighter would rather have his body broken rather than giving up. Well, that makes the match really exciting and something to look forward to.

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