Filipino star Kevin “The Silencer” Belingon’s stunning run of form has taken him all the way to the ONE Interim Bantamweight Title, and a World Title unification bout with the last man to defeat him.
Belingon will take on reigning ONE Bantamweight World Champion Bibiano “The Flash” Fernandes at ONE: HEART OF THE LION in Singapore on Friday, 9 November. And the 31-year-old interim champion says he is in a much better position, both mentally and physically, to take on Fernandes second time around.
Since his submission loss to Fernandes in their first meeting back in January 2016, Belingon has been on a tear.
Six consecutive victories have powered him back into contention for the top prize once again, with his most recent outing – a unanimous decision defeat of Martin “The Situ-Asian” Nguyen – earning him the ONE Interim Bantamweight World Title.
However, it is his victory over American Andrew Leone at ONE: HEROES OF HONOR in April 2018 that stands out as the bout that convinced Belingon he was ready to contend for the belt once again.
“There was a lot on the line for that bout, and because I was going to compete in front of my hometown crowd in Manila, I felt extra pressure to give a good performance,” he says.
“I never let the nerves get to me though. I am always composed, and once I stepped through those ropes, in my mind, it was just me and [Leone]. It was like tunnel vision.”
Belingon wasted no time at the start of the contest and closed the distance on his opponent instantly, letting fly a succession of heavy-handed strikes that found their mark.
“Every time I hit him, I heard his grunts and saw him wince,” Belingon says.
“It was then that I knew I had to keep on the attack.”
Determined to keep the bout in the stand-up realm against the seasoned grappler, Belingon showcased his hugely-improved takedown defence and footwork as he kept the contest in his comfort zone.
And his wushu-based striking proved to be decisive, as he increased the frequency, and intensity, of his attack.
“I kept pounding him with my hardest punches. I was surprised he was still standing after some of the shots he took. He is a real warrior,” Belingon says.
“At this point, I was really feeling it. The crowd was cheering for me. I couldn’t miss. It was an awesome feeling. I even scored a takedown of my own.”
The first round was a dominant one for Belingon, while Leone looked worse for wear as he headed back to his stool.
Nonetheless, the American came back out for the second round – a decision that earned Belingon’s respect.
“I have so much respect for Andrew Leone because he didn’t just come to play it safe and survive. He came to fight. That deserves my respect,” he admits.
But Belingon’s respect would not prevent him from completing the job, and he produced a highlight-reel moment to end the contest shortly after the restart.
A spectacular spinning back-kick landed perfectly to Leone’s body, sending him flying across the cage and down the canvas. Belingon saw his chance and closed in for the finish, ending the contest with powerful ground strikes and knees.
It was a sensational finish and a statement performance by “The Silencer,” who celebrated his win in front of a huge Manila crowd.
“This win is my favourite because it showed exactly what I am capable of as a fighter. I am proud to be able to showcase my skills in front of the entire world,” Belingon says.
“To be able to execute that move to perfection, hear the crowd roar and chant my name, it was an awesome feeling that I will never forget.”
It will take quite some performance to top Belingon’s stunning display in Manila that night. But thanks to that performance, the Filipino star knows he has the skills required to take on and defeat Fernandes and achieve his dream of becoming the ONE Bantamweight World Champion.
“We’ll see what happens,” he says.
“I’m definitely looking to put on a show and get the finish for my team, my family, and my country.”