On August 31st, Asia’s premier Mixed Martial Arts promotion will head to Manilla, Philippines for the first time to host an event that’s titled ‘Pride of a Nation’. This will be ONE Fighting Championship’s 5th event, following successes in Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore. The Singapore-based promotion will showcase a myriad of famed international fighters, in front of an expected crowd of 16,500 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum – The exact venue that once showcased the epic ‘Thrilla in Manilla’ clash between legendary boxers Joe Frazier, and Muhammad Ali.
The Ali-Frazier fight undoubtedly changed the entire landscape of professional Boxing 37 years ago. ONE Fighting Championship is aiming to mirror the exact supreme value that ‘Thrilla in Manilla’ holds today, by putting out a fight card that will appeal to the taste-buds of all non-casual MMA fans, and ensuring that ‘Pride of Nation’ will be a stepping stone to future successes in the region.
The powerhouse of Asian MMA, that is ONE FC, rocked the MMA scene when they announced the signings of former UFC Champions Tim Sylvia, Andrei Arlovski, Jens Pulver along with former DREAM Bantamweight and Featherweight title-holder Bibiano Fernandes. The organization added more fuel to the fire by announcing that Sylvia and Arlovski will be facing for the fourth time, igniting a rivalry that has dated all the way back to the duo’s UFC days.
Former Strikeforce and DREAM veteran Shinya Aoki was also signed to an exclusive ONE FC contract, and is expected to compete on August 31st in Manilla. Although an opponent is yet to be named for the grappling maestro, the former DREAM Lightweight Champion will be looking to revive his career under the ONE FC banner, following a TKO loss at the hands of former Bellator Champion Eddie Alvarez at Bellator 66.
And while a deal between Australian Juggernaut Soa Palelei and ONE Fighting Championship failed to materialize, long-time fans of Phil Baroni will be pleased to know that ‘The New York Badass’ is back, and ready to open a can of whoop-ass on Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu World Champion, Rodrigo ‘Ximbica’ Ribeiro. The former failed to perform in his promotional debut back at the promotion’s ‘Champion vs. Champion’ event last year, and will be looking to snap his 2-fight losing streak in his second stint with the promotion.
Anyway, Mixed Martial Arts isn’t entirely about the stand-up game now, is it? Most MMA fighters would think twice before going to the ground with a ‘Gracie’. And at ONE FC 5: Pride of Nation, there will be 3 of them on the card, whowill be looking to display their finesse in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu should any of their fights hit the mat at any point of time.
With that said, enough of chit-chat and let’s get to the breakdown of the fight card:
1. Andrew Benibe vs. Honorio Banario
With a good ground game to accompany his powerful striking, Honorio Banario is a Lightweight that’s well-versed in every aspect of Mixed Martial Arts. At the age of just 21, Banario is the URCC’s reigning Lightweight Champion, and is unbeaten under the URCC banner thus far. With a professional MMA record of 6-1, Banario was a perfect 6-0 when he made his promotional ONE FC debut back at ONE FC 2: Battle of Heroes earlier this year. He faced a tough challenger in Bae Young Kwon, one of Asia’s fastest rising Mixed Martial Artists. Unfortunately though, Banario faced the agony of suffering the first set-back of his career, when Young Kwon submitted him in just 0:56s. The Filipino, however, is determined to bounce back, and given the training partners that he has back at Team Lakay, Banario will undoubtedly be strutting his stuff in the cage in no time.
Andrew Benibe (4-2-0), in the meantime, is a veteran in the URCC promotion, having spent his entire career there. A methodical and exacting fighter, Benibe opened his MMA career with record of 1-2-0(1). Now, however, the 30-year-old is riding high on a 3-fight winning streak, with all 3 wins coming via stoppage. Fighting out of Maics Gym, Benibe will have momentum in his corner when he makes his promotional debut on August 31st.
MMASucka’s Prediction: Honorio Banario wins by TKO
2. Shannon Wiratchai vs. Mitch Chilson
Mitch ‘The Dragon’ Chilson (3-1) is a fan favorite in the Asian MMA scene. A professional MMA competitor since 2010, the 34-year-old American has made Singapore his home for the past couple of years. Chilson, a former 2x MCFC Champion, specializes in Muay Thai, although his ground work was also evident in his submission win over AJ ‘Pyro’ Lias Mansor at ONE FC 4: Destiny of Warriors. A member of Evolve MMA, Chilson held a record of 2-0, before suffering a submission loss in his promotional debut at the hands of URCC Champion Eric Kelly, at ONE FC 1: Champion vs. Champion.
Shannon Wiratchai, in the meantime, will bring a 2-0 resume to the ONE FC cage, following consecutive victories under the DARE banner. A Black-Belt in Judo, Wiratchai began his training camp for his upcoming fight at Tiger Muay Thai in Thailand, the home to UFC veterans Brian Ebersole and Roger Huerta. Unsurprisingly, the 23-year-old had some positive things to say about TMT too:
“I chose this place because they have many pro fighters here that can help me with my training,” Wiratchai explained. “Coming from Bangkok where different places have different training, it’s good that TMT has many classes in the same place which is good.”
The Thai fighter will undoubtedly be hoping that his undefeated record will be in tact when he makes his promotional debut on August 31st, so the hard work begins now with an expected fan-base watching on.
MMASucka’s Prediction: Mitch Chilson wins by TKO
3. Phil Baroni vs. Rodrigo Ribeiro
Who needs Chael Sonnen, when you have Phil Baroni?
Yes, Chael Sonnen may have hyped up his fight with Anderson Silva like none other, but he’s not the only fighter who’s capable of talking-the-talk.
Throughout the years, Phil Baroni has been known for his trash-talk, and he was no different when he spoke to Combat-Asia.com about his upcoming Welterweight showdown with BJJ maestro, Rodrigo Ribeiro. Suffice to say, ‘The New York Badass’ was feeling really confident too:
“If Ribeiro survives 15 minutes with me in a cage fight kudos to him but I highly doubt he will. Don’t be surprised if you see his ass saying ‘uncle‘.”
“Tell slow ass pony boy that I’m real fast. I’m really ****ing fast and I’m gonna light his slow ass up. His 1994 Jiu-Jitsu is no match for my wrestling and submission game, he has no chance and I’m gonna hurt him real bad.”
“Will Ribeiro be able to live with my stand-up? No! Don’t even ask me to elaborate. The answer is ‘no‘.”
We’ll see if Baroni is able to walk-the-walk on August 31st.
One of Evolve MMA’s BJJ coaches, Rodrigo Ribeiro is multi-time Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu champion, having medaled in countless national and regional competitions. A 3rd Degree Gracie Berra BJJ Black-Belt, Ribeiro is a veteran of over 15 Mixed Martial Arts fights, where he holds a record of 9-8. On August 31st, ‘Ximbica’ will be fighting for the 2nd time under the ONE FC banner, following a Unanimous Decision loss against Rustam Khabilov back at ONE FC 2: Battle of Heroes. The 36-year-old has competed in various promotions over the course of his career thus far, including Jungle Fights and DARE.
His opponent, Phil Baroni (14-15), needs no introductions to the MMA scene. Having competed at the highest level of Mixed Martial Arts competition, ‘The New York Badass’ was last seen at ONE FC 1: Champion vs. Champion, where he was decisioned by Yoshiyuki Yoshida. Known for his good Wrestling and Boxing skills, Baroni held a record of 4-2-0 in PRIDE, and a record of 3-7 in his stint with the UFC. Now training in the renowned AKA gym in San Jose, California, with the likes of former Strikeforce Champion Josh Thomson and UFC veteran Gray Maynard, the 36-year-old will be looking to get his first win under the ONE FC banner. The veteran fighter is 4-6 in his past 10 fights, and has not finished any of his opponents in the past 4 years. Furthermore, Baroni was initially scheduled to face Roger Huerta at ONE FC 4: Destiny of Warriors, but the latter fighter declined to fight him after Baroni suffered a TKO loss at the hands of Chris Holland at Ring of Fire 43.
MMASucka’s Prediction: Phil Baroni wins by Decision
4. Nicholas Mann vs. Gregor Gracie
A 3rd Dan Black-Belt in Taekwondo, Nicholas ‘The Apprentice’ Mann is the reigning Light Heavyweight Champion of the Filipino-based URCC promotion. A native of Australia, Mann is a veteran in the URCC, having competed 5 times in the organization. With a professional record of 4-1, Mann was last seen at URCC 21 – Warpath in a Superfight, where he secured a hard-fought Unanimous Decision victory over Froilan Sarenas. The Australian, who trains out of Hybrid Yaw Yan, is on a tear with a 4-fight winning streak following a TKO loss against Igor Subora at URCC 16 – Reckoning.
Gregor Gracie (6-2), in the meantime, will be looking to improve his professional record to 7-2, following a disappointing Unanimous Decision loss against Adam ‘Shogun’ Kayoom at ONE FC 4: Destiny of Warriors. That set-back also snapped a 4-fight winning streak that Gracie had prior to the fight, which included a win over Seok Mo Kim in his promotional debut at ONE FC 1: Champion vs. Champion. Fighting out of the renowned Renzo Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Academy that’s situated in New York city, Gregor Gracie is a Black-Belt in BJJ, and is a former Pan American Champion. In his upcoming tilt with Nicholas Mann, the 25-year-old will be looking to make it 2-1 under the ONE Fighting Championship banner.
MMASucka’s Prediction: Gregor Gracie wins by Decision
5. Soo Chul Kim vs. Kevin Belingon
With a record of 4-1 in the first 5 fights of his professional Mixed Martial Arts career, Soo Chul Kim (5-4) went through a rough patch in late 2011 and early 2012, suffering 3 straight defeats in a row. The South-Korean fighter, however, recently snapped his losing streak with a much needed TKO win over Shoko Sato at ROAD FC 008: Bitter Rivals. Winless in his past 2 appearances under the ONE FC banner, Chul Kim will be looking for his first win in Asia’s most prestigious MMA event, following back-to-back losses against Leandro Issa and Gustavo Falciroli at ONE FC 1: Champion vs. Champion, and ONE FC 2: Battle of Heroes respectively. The former RisingOn Champion will be taking on Kevin Belingon at Bantamweight.
Speaking of Kevin Belingon (9-1), the 24-year-old recently suffered the first set-back of his professional MMA career, after succumbing to a vintage Reverse Heel-Hook applied by Japanese superstar, Masakazu Imanari. Prior to that defeat, Belingon was on a tear with a 9-fight winning streak and was considered as one of the top 10 Flyweights in the world. Fighting out of the famed Team Lakay camp in the Philippines, with fellow Filipino stars Honorio Banario and Eduard Folayang, the 24-year-old has only gone the distance twice in his Mixed Martial Arts career. Known for his excellent conditioning and powerful striking ability, the reigning URCC Flyweight Champion is a well-rounded fighter with a huge future set in front of him.
MMASucka’s Prediction: Kevin Belingon wins by Submission
6. Jung Hwan Cha vs. Igor Gracie
As the bearer of the famed ‘Gracie’ sir-name, non-casual MMA fanatics do not have to wonder what Brazilian-born Igor Gracie specializes in. A 2nd Degree Gracie Berra Black-Belt, Igor has competed in numerous Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Championships, and is well-versed in the grappling and submission aspect of Mixed Martial Arts. With a professional record of 5-2, Igor Gracie has faced the likes of UFC veteran Vagner Rocha in his MMA career thus far. Fighting out of Renzo Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Academy, along with his brothers Gregor and Rolles, the 32-year-old is currently riding high on a 4-fight winning streak, submitting the likes of John Salgado and Manuelo Morales. Igor has also competed in Bellator and Strikeforce.
Jung Hwan Cha (8-6-1), on the other hand, is a South-Korean fighter with over 15 fights under his belt. After Knocking-Out former UFC and PRIDE veteran Ryo Chonan in the regional circuit, Hwan Cha signed with the South Korea-based ROAD FC, where he held a record 1-1 in his stint with the promotion. And with ROAD FC’s affiliation with the ONE FC Network, the South Korean was allowed to make the switch and compete in Asia’s no.1 promotion. With a resume that includes fights with the likes of UFC veterans Dong Hyun Kim and George Sotiropoulos, Jung Hwan Cha is certainly no slouch, and a fighter that should be taken seriously.
MMASucka’s Prediction: Igor Gracie wins by Submission
7. Tony Bonello vs. Rolles Gracie
Arguably one of the best match-ups on the ONE FC 5: Pride of a Nation fight card, this is a fight that I am certainly intrigued for.
In his stint with the King of the Cage promotion, Owner Terry Trebilcock stated that Tony Bonello was ‘the highest paid professional MMA fighter’ to have ever fought in KOTC. A 2nd Degree Black-Belt in Gracie Jiu-Jitsu, Bonello is the first Australian fighter to ever win a professional MMA Championship strap on American Soil. He has also medaled in various BJJ World Championships over the years and will bring a 16-1-1(1) resume to the ONE FC cage. After holding a record of 15-0-1(1) and staying undefeated for more than half a decade, Bonello suffered the first set-back of his career in a fight with PRIDE veteran Murilo Rua, the brother of former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua, at EliteXC: The Return of the King. However, the Australian rebounded with a Submission win over Mike Bourke at King of the Cage: Vengeance, where he was crowned the KOTC Cruiserweight Champion as well. 14 of Bonello’s 16 wins have come via submission.
And welcoming Tony Bonello to ONE Fighting Championship will be Rolles Gracie (6-1), the 3rd and final ‘Gracie’ on the August 31st fight card. A multi-time Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu World Champion in his own right, and training out of Renzo Gracie’s Jiu-Jitsu Academy, the 34-year-old is on a 3-fight winning streak after his 1-fight stint with the UFC, where he was TKO’ed by Joey Beltran at UFC 109. Prior to that lone defeat of his MMA career, Rolles was undefeated, and held wins over the likes Sam Holloway, Baga Agaev and Peter Graham. The Brazilian fighter recently marked his promotional ONE FC debut with a win over Bob Sapp at ONE FC 2: Battle of Heroes. Rolles has finished all of his 6 wins as well, and has never made it to the 3rd round in his Mixed Martial Arts career.
MMASucka’s Prediction: Tony Bonello wins by Decision
8. Jens Pulver vs. Eric Kelly
One of only two men to have ever defeated former UFC Champion BJ Penn at Lightweight, Jens Pulver has proven to MMA fans worldwide that he’s a Legend in the sport, given all that he has achieved and accomplished throughout the years. After submitting Cub Swanson at WEC 31, Pulver’s career took a turn for the worst as he suffered 6 straight defeats from 2008 to 2010. The former PRIDE veteran will be bringing a 26-16-1 resume to the ONE FC cage, having faced the likes of Urijah Faber, Leonard Garcia, Joe Lauzon and Takanori Gomi. Following his stints with the UFC and WEC, the former UFC Lightweight Champion is 4-3 in regional competition. Known for his great Boxing and tough resolve, the Southpaw has always shown toughness in his fights, and has a powerful left-hand. He was last seen at Operation: Fight Night, where he decisioned Jesse Thorton in a 3-round affair. Pulver has been competing in professional Mixed Martial Arts for over 12 years.
Eric ‘The Natural’ Kelly, in the meantime, is an undefeated Filipino prospect with a professional MMA record of 7-0. Known for his superb conditioning, Kelly has already competed twice in ONE Fighting Championship, submitting Mitch Chilson in his promotional debut at ONE FC 1: Champion vs. Champion, and defeating top South Korean prospect Bae Young Kwon at ONE FC 4: Destiny of Warriors. Fighting out of Team Muayfit in Malaysia, Kelly has been rampant in his chase for MMA supremacy thus far, proving to fans and critics that he belongs at the top with Asia’s elite. In his stint with the URCC, the 30-year-old fighter became the URCC Featherweight Champion after submitting Nate Flores at URCC 18: Relentless. Jens Pulver will undoubtedly be Kelly’s toughest challenge to date, but a win will help him cement a place in the upper echelon of the ONE FC’s Featherweight division.
MMASucka’s Prediction: Eric Kelly wins by Decision
9. Tim Sylvia vs. Andrei Arlovski
It’s no secret that Tim Sylvia (31-7) and Andrei Arlovski (17-9) despise each other. It’s been well documented over the past couple of years.
Former 2x UFC Heavyweight Champion Tim Sylvia is doing everything possible to make it back to the UFC again. And he plans to do so, by putting on an impressive winning streak here in the Singapore-based ONE Fighting Championship. In July, reports indicated that Sylvia was set to make his return to Zuffa, with a fight scheduled against AKA’s Daniel Cormier in Strikeforce. However, a day later, UFC President Dana White rubbished reports of Sylvia’s return, and stated that Frank Mir would be the guy to head over to Strikeforce and face Cormier on Showtime.
Well, Sylvia would be pleased to know that he was at least ‘considered’. Now that the matter’s been put to rest, Sylvia has some unfinished business to take care of. After signing a 3-fight contract with ONE FC, it was announced that Sylvia would be facing Andrei Arlovski for the 4th time. A rivalry that has dated all the way back to the duo’s UFC days, Sylvia leads 2-1 in this series, and plans to make it 3. Speaking with MMAJunkie.com, Sylvia was very confident in getting a win:
“I’m going out there to KO him,” Sylvia said. “If it happens great, if it doesn’t, whatever. I would like to be done with our beef, but we’ll see what happens.”
With a good reach to go along with good takedown defense, Sylvia is currently riding high on a 3-fight winning streak, that includes victories over Randy Smith, Andreas Kraniotakes and Patrick Barrentine.
Andrei Arlovski, in the meantime, snapped his 4-fight losing streak by going 2-0 under the ProElite banner. The 33-year-old Belarusian, who trains out of Jackson’s MMA in Albuquerque, New Mexico, is a former UFC Heavyweight Champion in his own right, capturing the strap against Tim Sylvia in their first meeting back at UFC 51. However, Sylvia avenged that loss by defeating Arlovski at UFC 59, and UFC 61 respectively. A well-respected veteran in the sport, and a dangerous striker, Arlovski has also competed in Strikeforce. He was originally slated to face Australian fighter Soa Palelei, but the match-up was scrapped after a deal failed to materialize between Palelei and ONE FC. With wins over the likes of Fabricio Werdum and Vladimir Matyushenko, Arlovski is the only man to ever gain a KO stoppage victory over UFC veteran Roy Nelson.
MMASucka’s Prediction: Andrei Arlovski wins by Decision
10. Felipe Enomoto vs. Eduard Folayang
Also known as the ‘Manny Pacquiao’ of Filipino MMA, Eduard Folayang (11-2) is one of Asia’s brightest MMA prospects, who has competed primarily in the URCC. After capturing the URCC Welterweight strap in just his first professional MMA bout, Folayang went on to win 4 more fights before facing the first set-back of his career in a quick TKO loss at the hands of former The Ultimate Fighter: Live try-out, John Tuck. Folayang has already competed twice in the ONE FC cage, and holds a record of 1-1 in the organization. After a decision victory over A Swol Kwon in his promotional debut, the flamboyant striker dropped a controversial decision to Ole ‘Iron Fist’ Laursen, in a fight that won ‘Fight of the Night’ honors. A re-match was expected to be in the works for ONE FC 5: Pride of a Nation, but Laursen was scrapped from the card. Fighting out Team Lakay, Eduard Folayang is 6-0 in his stint with the URCC.
Just like his opponent, Felipe Enomoto in the meantime, is also 1-1 in his stint with the Singapore-based promotion. With a record of 6-4-0(1), Enomoto is 2-3 in his past 5 fights. In his promotional ONE FC debut at ONE FC 2: Battle of Heroes, Enomoto managed to submit Ole Laursen via Rear-Naked Choke in the 2nd round, but fell short against Evolve MMA’s Zorobabel Moreira at ONE FC 3: War of the Lions. A professional Mixed Martial Artist since 2006, Enomoto has faced the likes of Rich Clementi and TUF Alumni Akira Corassani in his MMA career thus far.
MMASucka’s Prediction: Eduard Folayang wins by TKO
11. Gustavo Falciroli vs. Bibiano Fernandes
None of Gustavo Falciroli’s (12-3-2) 17 opponents have managed to finish the Brazilian-born Australian fighter in his professional MMA career thus far. The 29-year-old has competed mainly in Shooto – Australia, where he holds a record of 7-2-0(1) in the promotion. On December 3rd 2010, Falciroli gained MMA gold for the 1st time in his career, after he defeated Richie Vaculik via Unanimous Decision to be crowned the new CFC Bantamweight Champion. He made his promotional ONE FC debut on February 11th at ONE FC 2: Battle of Heroes, submitting Soo Chul Kim via Rear-Naked Choke in the 1st round. Bibiano Fernandes will undoubtedly be Falciroli’s toughest challenge to date.
Why? Because the Brazilian fighter is one of the top Bantamweights in the world. Prior to signing with ONE Fighting Championship, rumors were circulating around the internet that Fernandes had penned a deal with the UFC. The UFC even made an announcement stating that Fernandes will be taking on Roland Delorme at UFC 149. However, Fernandes clarified that even though negotiations had indeed taken place between the two parties, a contract was never signed. The 32-year-old opted to sign for ONE Fighting Championship instead, after a more lucrative contract was offered on the table. A Black-Belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Bibiano Fernandes (11-3) has won multiple titles in the now defunct DREAM promotion, including the DREAM Featherweight strap and DREAM Bantamweight strap. Along with his MMA credentials, the Brazilian has medaled in numerous BJJ Championships, and is a seasoned grappler. He has faced the likes of Urijah Faber, Joachim Hansen, Masakazu Imanari and Antonio Banuelos in professional MMA competition.
MMASucka’s Prediction: Bibiano Fernandes wins by Decision
12. Shinya Aoki vs. TBA
(Stay tuned for the full write-up)
With that said, ONE FC 5: Pride of a Nation is an event that you absolutely can’t miss. Just by looking at the amount of talent, this fight card is guaranteed to impress casual and non-casual MMA fans alike.
This is the strongest fight card that ONE FC has ever showcased, and fans in Manilla will undoubtedly remember this MMA event in years to come. The Singapore-based promotion is set to make history in front of a capacity crowd of 16,500, when it heads to the Philippines for the first time on August 31st.
Will undefeated records be blemished? Will new stars emerge, or will the old greats take the younger fighters to school? Whatever it is, blood will be shed, old rivalries will be ignited and careers will be defined.
Stay tuned Ladies and Gentleman, as ONE Fighting Championship brings you ONE FC 5: Pride of a Nation on August 31st!
Here’s a re-cap of the entire fight card:
- Andrew Benibe vs. Honorio Banario
- Mitch Chilson vs. Shannon Wiratchai
- Phil Baroni vs. Rodrigo Ribeiro
- Nicholas Mann vs. Gregor Gracie
- Soo Chul Kim vs. Kevin Belingon
- Jung Hwan Cha vs. Igor Gracie
- Tony Bonello vs. Rolles Gracie
- Jens Pulver vs. Eric Kelly
- Tim Sylvia vs. Andrei Arlovski
- Felipe Enomoto vs. Eduard Folayang
- Gustavo Falciroli vs. Bibiano Fernandes
- TBA vs. Shinya Aoki
Get more great MMA news and analysis over at MMA Sucka.