Buntan adds more Pinoy flavor to ONE on TNT IV, thankful to Filipino supporters

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Eduard Folayang won’t be the only Filipino featured during “ONE on TNT IV”. Jackielou Buntan also makes an appearance by returning to the Circle to take on Ekaterina Vandaryeva in a 3-round strawweight Muay Thai bout on the lead card scheduled April 29.

Buntan,  a full-blooded Filipino who has dual citizenship because she was born in the US where her family migrated, made her ONE Championship a grand entrance with an explosive performance as she floored rival Wonder Girl Fairtex in the first round before deciding not to be reckless and brilliantly finished strong for a unanimous decision victory.

See related story: Buntan floors Wonder Girl in 1st, wins ONE debut by unanimous decision

Buntan displayed speed and quickness to go along with her promised high fight IQ in subduing Nat Jaroonsak of Thailand in their strawweight Muay Thai bout during ONE: FISTS OF FURY at the Singapore Indoor Stadium in Singapore on February 26, 2021.

The 23-year-old Filipino-American Muay Thai fighter was tactically sound in choosing the right timing to pick the right spots and fire the right shots in dominated the three-round fight.

Buntan, who clearly got Wonder Girl’s number this night, did not give her adversary any chance to recover from the knockdown as she keep the pressure on and ran circles around her while continuing to press her attacks for the rest of the fight, eventually resulting to a swollen left eye for the 21-year old Thai.

The Fil-am star impressed ONE commentators, who compared her game to that of ONE Atomweight Kickboxing World Champion, Janet “JT” Todd., which was kind of expected, being her teammate and having trained with her majority of the time.

Buntan sports a 21-5 win-loss record in her Muay Thai career.

The rising ONE Super Series star is excited to continue representing both the United States and the Philippines.

She is especially grateful for all the support she has received in the Philippines, despite having yet to visit the country of her heritage.

“Being a Filipina-American born and raised in the U.S., and having never even visited the country yet, it’s insane to have this much coverage coming from the Philippines. My whole family is originally from the Philippines. I was the only one to be born in the U.S. I’m very proud of my heritage. I’m thankful for all the support. It shows me that people believe in me and that athlete that I am,” said Buntan.

“Both my mom and my dad are really proud to hear that their family and friends from back home know about me and have watched my fight.”

Buntan’s whole family migrated to the United States before she was born. But despite being born an American, the 23-year-old says she was raised with Filipino values, in a predominantly Filipino household.

After her ONE Super Series debut back in February, Buntan returned home to California, where her parents proudly welcomed their daughter.

“When I got home from Singapore, my parents expressed how proud and excited they were for me. I think they were more excited than I was at the time. They said I looked like a completely different fighter and athlete in that fight. The last time they saw me compete was in 2019, as an amateur, so I definitely had a huge amount of time for growth as an athlete from then to now,” said Buntan.

“My family said it was something special for them to witness my professional debut on such a grand stage like ONE Championship. They’ve witnessed me train since I was an 11-year-old girl with dreams to make this a career. Lots of doubt came on my end when I was younger and having a debut like that really solidified the fact that I can take this chapter in my life seriously. My parents are nothing but proud.”

Now, with the chance to make her family and country proud once again, Buntan is looking for another spectacular performance.

“I’d like to thank all my fans and supporters in the Philippines for believing in me,” said Buntan.

“Knowing I have an entire nation behind me only motivates me to push myself hard to achieve my goals and dreams. This is just the beginning, and the journey ahead is long. I am grateful for the support everyone has shown, and I’m glad I can bring you all along for the ride.”

Breaking down Vandaryeva fight

The 23-year-old from California is ecstatic she can return to action so quickly, and have an opportunity to fight on American prime-time television.

“Being in line for such a quick turnaround after my debut with ONE Championship on TNT is a surreal opportunity. I can’t thank ONE enough for the belief in me,” Buntan told ONE Championship in a recent interview.

“Winning my ONE debut absolutely added to my confidence as a fighter and as a person. I like to always be confident as an athlete and person, but that win against Wondergirl solidified the fact that I’m a serious contender in the strawweight division.”

Against Vandaryeva, Buntan faces a multiple-time Muay Thai World Champion and all-around dangerous test. “Barbie” also holds the distinction of having defeated feared striker Joanna Jędrzejczyk early in her career.

But one advantage Buntan has over Vandaryeva is that she has reigning ONE Atomweight Kickboxing World Champion Janet “JT” Todd helping her out in camp. Todd, who is Buntan’s chief training partner, defeated Vandaryeva in 2019 by second-round knockout.

“Janet has given me some little pieces of what she remembers from their fight. Janet is always a ton of help. She gave me little instances she remembered from their fight and what she did in those instances. Besides that, it’s just being able to do what I do,” said Buntan.

“I don’t watch too much of my opponents’ past fights. Maybe just a couple of rounds to get ideas. I’ve watched her and Janet’s fight, and I believe that was her most recent fight. I thought it was good.”

Buntan is heading into this fight with a lot of momentum. As such, she’s confident of victory and confident in her strategy. She fully expects to get her hands raised at the end of the night.

“I believe it will work to my advantage to get in and throw my strikes. She likes to kind of stay stagnant from what I last saw of her and in her fight with Janet [Todd]. I believe my footwork and speed will be the greater factor, so I don’t fall into the trap of rushing into her range,” said Buntan.

“There’s a game plan for this fight, just as any other fight. I’m looking to deliver my best self, as always. I’m going in there to be the calm and technical Jackie. I plan to use my best abilities, speed, footwork, and you’ll have to tune in to find out the rest.”

Buntan believes she’s developing at a rapid pace, and that fans will get to witness her improvements since her last outing.

“I never like to underestimate my opponents. I know Ekaterina will come ready to give a fight, so I prepare just the same as I do for every fight. Ekaterina has a greater height and reach advantage over me. She has a good left kick as well,” said Buntan.

“After watching footage from my last fight, however, I believe I have improved in my footwork and movement, and how I cover distance. But you know how it goes, there’s always room for improvement.”

“ONE on TNT IV” is the fourth and final installment of the “ONE on TNT” event series for the month of April. In the main event of “ONE on TNT IV,” reigning ONE Light Heavyweight World Champion “The Burmese Python” Aung La N Sang will defend his title against reigning ONE Middleweight World Champion “The Dutch Knight” Reinier De Ridder.

Also appearing on the card are Folayang and Shinya Aoki who will reprise their face-off for the third and probably final time and Eddie “The Underground King” Alvarez, who makes his return.

By Armando M. Bolislis