Filipino star Kevin “The Silencer” Belingon scored the biggest win of his mixed martial arts career on home soil as he captured the ONE Interim Bantamweight Title at ONE: REIGN OF KINGS.
Belingon defeated two-weight ONE World Champion Martin “The Situ-Asian” Nguyen in Manila, the Philippines, in an electric atmosphere at the Mall of Asia Arena.
He beat the Vietnamese-Australian with an irresistible combination of speed and power in a thrilling main-event contest that went all the way to the scorecards.
Nguyen started by looking to wrestle, but Belingon easily evaded the Australian’s takedown attempts as the Filipino looked more composed in the early stages.
Belingon threw powerful leg kicks and punches when Nguyen came within range, and then had the crowd on its feet when he countered another takedown attempt with a spinning back-elbow that found its mark.
Roared on by a passionate Filipino crowd, Belingon poured on the pressure as the opening round came to a close, firing salvos of strikes – though the Vietnamese-Australian calmly avoided the majority of them.
The second round brought more Belingon pressure as the Filipino challenger threw everything into his strikes in a bid to claim a stoppage win.
However, while some of Belingon’s strikes landed, none seemed to unduly trouble Nguyen, who also made the Filipino miss regularly during rounds one and two.
The pace noticeably dropped in the third round, but both men still had their successes. A big overhand right from Nguyen found its mark, while a spinning wheel kick and leaping left hook from Belingon prompted roars from the Filipino fans once again.
Belingon was the faster, snappier, more active athlete, but his momentum was abruptly halted just before the end of the third round when a big right hand from Nguyen hit the Filipino below the belt.
After a period of time to recover, the bout went into the championship rounds, and Belingon pulled out all the stops once again.
A spectacular jumping roundhouse kick forced Nguyen back against the cage as the Filipino bantamweight came storming forward.
Nguyen looked to hold the middle of the cage and stay composed, but his attempts to take his opponent to the mat were stuffed at every turn, and the Australian was forced to take evasive action to avoid some blitzing attacks.
The final round saw Belingon go all-out for victory, and he stunned Nguyen with a big right hand, then scored big with a kick to the body. Then, after another failed takedown attempt, Nguyen fired back with big shots of his own as both men looked to take the judges out of the equation.
It was a competitive contest, but when the final bell sounded, both athletes seemed sure of the outcome. Belingon wheeled away in elation, while Nguyen stood, head bowed, in the centre of the cage.
When the unanimous verdict was confirmed, the Mall of Asia Arena exploded with joy as the humble man from Baguio City became the latest World Champion from the remarkable Team Lakay.
After the bout, Belingon said: “It was an honour to fight Martin. He’s a great fighter, and he’s still a champion.”
The modest Filipino had a twinkle in his eye when asked by Mitch Chilson if he had a message for reigning ONE Bantamweight World Champion, Bibiano Fernandes, who came into the cage to greet the new interim titleholder after the contest.
“I respect him as a champion, but we’re in the same weight class and I’m the top contender, so there’s no escape, my friend!” he said.
Their World Champion versus Wold Champion rematch will be must-see bout.