If the wisdom of the founder and head coach of one of the most prolific martial arts outfits in Asia is to be followed, Kevin Belingon will have one more date with rival Bibiano Fernandes.
Mark Sangiao, also Team Lakay’s spiritual leader and a father-figure to many of its younger members, and their guide through the often convoluted world of mixed martial arts, felt the rivalry between his explosive ward and the legendary Brazilian is still far from over.
Sangiao would like the Belingon-Fernandes rivalry to play out like the legendary rivalry of Manny Pacquiao and Mexican Juan Manuel Marquez.
“Kevin and Bibiano have unfinished business. I just wasn’t convinced the last they fought. Knowing Kevin, he isn’t easy to submit. There were just some mistakes that we made that cost us the fight. But I know we can correct those mistakes,” said Sangiao.
Sangiao believes that as long as the two are in the same division, the threat of Belingon to Fernandes’ title reign will always be present.
“As long as Bibiano is still the champion at bantamweight, Kevin will always be a threat. He’s going to beat any man put in front of him, and he’s always going to be right there at the top as the number one contender.
Kevin Belingon won’t go away, and sooner or later, Bibiano’s going to have to face him again. That’s why I believe a fifth fight could happen.”, ended “The Machine”
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Belingon, the former ONE Bantamweight World Champion, is like Eduard Folayang, a Team Lakay former world champion who is on the hunt for redemption.
Belingon’s career MMA record of 11 abbreviated wins consisting of 8 knockouts and 3 submissions in a 20-7 win-loss record confirms he is a ferocious beast in the Circle, favored to decimate any man unlucky enough to get stuck in there with him.
His 6 KO/TKOs inside a ONE circle is tied for third most in ONE history.
The reigning bantamweight king Fernandes, however, remains the only man able to tame “The Silencer.”
In the previous four fights, the 40-year-old Fernandes registered three victories, two stoppages by submission and a disqualification.
On the other hand, Belingon has only one win. After splitting their first two bouts, Belingon lost two consecutive to fall behind their head-to-head battle.
In fact his latest 3 career losses were inflicted by Fernandes.
This might render a non-Cordillera fight fan not eager to see a fifth fight between the two in the immediate future as Fernandes appears to have Belingon’s number.
Although Fernandes’ disqualification victory is somewhat questionable, the two submission victories are nothing but legitimate. The latest victory did widen the gap between the two.
On the other hand, while Belingon’s only victory is viewed as a comprehensive win, it was still by split decision.
Nevertheless, these two fighters are truly like Pacquiao and Marquez in that the idea of a fifth showdown is not too far-fetched despite what their head-to-head record shows.
It will be recalled, Pacquiao had a distinctive edge, 2 wins, 0 loss, 1 draw, early in their head-to-head collision but a fourth fight was still held because they were evenly matched despite what their record says.
There are two main facets of the Belingon-Fernandes rivalry that resembles that of Pacquiao-Marquez: (1) difference of fighters’ fighting styles, and (2) fighters’ being evenly matched.
Belingon is clearly a knockout artist while Fernandes is the exact contrast. Of his 24 wins, 9 came via submissions and only 2 by KO/TKOs.
The head-to-head record also did very little to affect ONE’s bantamweight pecking order.
The voters of the recent ONE rankings still installed Belignon as the #1 contender in the division despite two consecutive losses to the champion, ahead of Shoko Sato; Yusup Saadulaev; Shuya Kamikubo; and Daichi Takenaka, who occupy 2nd to 5th spots.
However, expectations of an immediate rematch should be tempered. There are two probable paths towards the fifth match rather than an immediate rematch.
The first, ONE Championship pits another contender to take a crack at Fernandes and have him face Belingon in case he becomes the new champion.
In the event Belingon reclaims the crown, he then defends it against Fernandes in their fifth bout.
The second, Belingon moves on to other fights in order to shake off his losing streak. This will reestablish the closeness of the gap between the two.
If that happens, he could take on the spot of challenging for lightweight title if Fernandes is still holding the title.
Fernandes gave his nod to this route.
MMA Junkie quoted Fernandes saying his Filipino rival needs to go and knock over a few of his fellow contenders before he will accept a fifth fight with “The Silencer.”
“OK, if you want to see Bibiano-Kevin one more time, he has to at least go and fight against two or three more fighters out there, then come back for me,” he stated. “But fight me again (next)? I don’t think so. He’ll have to go fight two or three more times, and come back. If I’m still champion, for sure… no problem.”, says “Flash”.
Belingon was reported to have his eyes fixed on the bantamweight jewel and is willing to go through anybody to reclaim the title he once held.
Coming up with convincing victories over any of the top 5 bantamweight contenders in his next immediate fights is not a bad proposition for Belingon.
But if ONE is up for an explosive fight, a rematch with Martin Nguyen for the ONE featherweight title is the perfect match for Belingon.
Excluding Christian Lee, Belingon could be the person who could provide the best challenge for Nguyen’s title.
Belingon faced his fellow knockout artist in 2018 while waiting for Fernandes to heal and defend the world title. Belingon ousted Nguyen by unanimous decision for the interim ONE Bantamweight title that night.
Just look at the possibilities if Belingon pulls another victory over Nguyen and takes the featherweight title:
(1) Champion vs champion for the ONE bantamweight Word title, or (2) the two titles could be stake if Fernandes is willing that the fifth bout will be held at featherweight.
Regardless of what path takes place towards a fifth fight, a Belingon-Fernandes pentalogy is an event still delightful to MMA fan eyes.
Like Sangiao says.
By: ARMANDO M. BOLISLIS
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