In addition to a blockbuster main event featuring newly-crowned ONE Lightweight World Champion Eduard “Landslide” Folayang and top lightweight contender Ev “E.T.” Ting of Malaysia, ONE Championship recently announced eight bouts to solidify a spectacular fight card in Manila. The event takes place at the 20,000-seater Mall of Asia Arena on 21 April.
Added to the card are Folayang’s veteran Team Lakay stablemates Kevin “The Silencer” Belingon (14-5), Danny “The King” Kingad, and the debuting Gina “Conviction” Iniong (4-2).
Belingon, a wushu striking specialist, is coming off a hard-fought unanimous decision victory over Tajikistan prospect Muin Gafurov last October, and is set to take on Finnish grappling sensation Toni “Dynamite” Tauru (11-4-1). Tauru submitted Belingon’s Team Lakay teammate Geje Eustaquio last December, and Belingon has been wanting a piece of Tauru ever since.
Following Eustaquio’s loss, Filipino fight fans took to social media to demand a Belingon-Tauru matchup, to which the 29-year-old Belingon promptly agreed. Now, Belingon gets exactly what he had asked for. Tauru is certainly no slouch however, and is as dangerous as a fighter as they come. The stylistic matchup should be an entertaining affair for however long it lasts.
Making her highly-anticipated ONE Championship debut is Team Lakay female atomweight athlete Gina “Conviction” Iniong. She will go head-to-head with Filipino-English star, “The Kilapino” Natalie Gonzales Hills (1-4).
Iniong is one fighter Filipino fans have been yearning to see inside the ONE Championship cage. She already holds a victory over former atomweight title challenger Mei Yamaguchi in another promotion, and is said to be a legitimate candidate for a run at “Unstoppable” Angela Lee’s ONE Women’s Atomweight World Championship.
If Iniong can get past Hills, who has been working hard to improve her skills training in the United States over the past couple of months, it could set up a possible date with higher-tier opponents later this year.
Making his return to the ONE Championship cage is high-flying young star Danny “The King” Kingad. Kingad, one of the most promising prospects to come out of the Philippines in recent memory, is undefeated so far in his professional career. His last two fights with ONE have ended in spectacular finishes. He’ll take on Malaysian prospect Muhammad Aiman (2-1).
The man Kingad defeated in his last outing, the enigmatic Eugene Toquero (8-4) will also be making an appearance in Manila, this time against unbeaten Indonesian fighter Stefer Rahardian (5-0).
Aside from the incredible showcase of top local talent from the Philippines, a handful of international ONE superstars are also scheduled to see action, with the main card featuring a bout between Cambodia’s Chan Rothana (4-2) and China’s Xie Bin (2-2).
What’s more, Christian “The Warrior” Lee (5-1), a top featherweight prospect representing Singapore by way of Waipahu, Hawaii, is ready to make his return to the ONE Championship cage.
Lee, who was put to sleep courtesy of a Martin Nguyen guillotine choke last August, took some time away from competition to work on sharpening his skills for an inevitable comeback. The 18-year-old will finally get to face long-time divisional rival and fellow top prospect Keanu Subba (5-2) of Malaysia.
The pair have long been on somewhat of a collision course as two of the top young talents in the promotion. They get the chance to settle the score once and for all in Manila.
Also on the card is Evolve MMA female stalwart and women’s Brazilian jiu-jitsu legend Michelle Nicolini (3-1). Nicolini made her ONE Championship promotional debut last November, winning by submission over Mona Samir. This time, the eight-time BJJ world champion is set to clash with unbeaten 33-year-old Russian fighter Irina Mazepa (2-0).
Mazepa is one of the top contenders at strawweight, having already defeated Malaysian standout Ann Osman and former women’s boxing world champion Ana Julaton in her first two appearances inside the ONE Championship cage. It will be a tremendous test for Nicolini, who gets the opportunity to prove her mettle against a top-tier foe.
Kicking off the preliminary portion of the night is Filipino wushu specialist Robin Catalan (5-2) who takes on compatriot Jeremy “The Jaguar” Miado (6-0).
All in all, ONE: KINGS OF DESTINY is certainly one of the most stacked fight cards of the year. Filipino fight fans have on their hands an evening that they just cannot afford to miss. Additional bouts will be announced at a later date.