Philippine martial arts pioneer Mark “The Machine” Sangiao likes the matchup between one of the plethora of the country’s top mixed martial arts stars today, Lito “Thunder Kid” Adiwang, against another Japanese foe in Namiki Kawahara at ONE: UNBREAKABLE, which broadcasts live on Friday, 22 January at the Singapore Indoor Stadium in Singapore.
The 31-year-old Kawahara from Osaka prefecture, however, is standing pat on his belief that he has the tools to end one of the most prized pupils of the famed Team Lakay gym inside the distance in any manner possible.
Sangiao shared his thoughts on the matchup and how Adiwang has prepared himself to resume his tremendous run through the ranks following a close split decision loss to Japan’s Hiroba Minowa late last year.
“Lito Adiwang versus Namiki Kawahara is going to be another exciting fight. That’s for sure. Lito is never in a boring fight. He always comes to win and he’s always explosive. We like this matchup,” said Sangiao.
“Both fighters have good skills, technique, and attitude. Anything can happen in a fight, so we have to be prepared for everything. That involves a lot of drilling and sparring in different scenarios, and of course, honing our techniques in all areas of martial arts. I will say this, Lito is absolutely ripped and ready for this fight. He’s fired up and ready to go.”
Kawahara steps in as a late replacement for China’s Hexigetu. The Team Alpha Male proponent doesn’t have much experience, but is considered by Sangiao on all accounts to be another dangerous challenge for the “Thunder Kid.”
“We always consider every opponent to be the toughest, and there will be no difference with that here. We never say we are better or lesser than any athlete. There is no tougher or weaker. Everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses. The key to victory is imposing your will, and playing to your strengths,” said Sangiao.
“Namiki has a good training background. His skill set is impressive. But we are not at all threatened. We are not worried and we are all out embracing this matchup. I think the two fighters will be fairly evenly matched. We don’t want to underestimate him. He’s going to come out with a lot of energy and motivation to win, and so will Lito. As always, it’s going to be a fun fight with Lito.”
Sangiao is fully confident his ward has enough to overcome his next challenge. And if he can get through this one, the Team Lakay head honcho wants to give fans what they want, an Adiwang-Minowa rematch to settle the score once and for all.
“I sat down in the gym with Lito and we went through the book. We went over everything about this fight and Lito’s career moving forward. He’s constantly evolving and getting better at a fast rate. I believe we have the table set for the Lito-Namiki match. Of course, everybody will say they’re going to win, given any contest, and we’re no exception. We’re gunning for the victory in any way,” said Sangiao.
“But mind you, fans in the Philippines in general are clamoring for a Lito Adiwang versus Hiroba Minowa rematch. That’s the fight fans want to see. We feel there is unfinished business there that they need to take care of.”
Meanwhile, Kawahara is entering his bout against hard-hitting Filipino Lito “Thunder Kid” Adiwang of Team Lakay full of confidence despite the short notice.
“I admit that Lito is a great fighter. That shows in his previous performances. But it doesn’t matter who he’s fought in the past, he’s never faced me. I’m a dangerous fighter. I’ll prove it in the Circle,” Kawahara told reporters at the ONE: UNBREAKABLE Virtual Media Day.
“All I’m thinking about right now is finishing him. That’s my goal. If it’s a standup fight, I’m going to knock him out. If it goes to the ground, I’m going to submit him. It’s as simple as that.”
Kawahara’s supreme confidence stems from Adiwang’s recent performance against his Japanese countryman, former Shooto champion Hiroba Minowa. Adiwang dropped a three-round split decision loss to Minowa last November. It was a close match that could have gone either way.
Kawahara was the least bit impressed, however, and believes Adiwang is just not on his level.
“Hiroba Minowa did beat Lito in their last fight, but to be honest, it wasn’t an interesting fight. I’m going to show you a better way to beat Lito, and that’s to knock him out and finish him. I think that will be enough to crack into the Top Five, and after that it’s going to be a world championship,” a confident Kawahara said.
“I think if Lito faces a Shooto-level fighter, he is not that explosive. I don’t think he will be as explosive against me. It’s hard to predict, but I’m ready to just outwork him and beat him up. I’m just going to enjoy the bout and win.
“Fans can all depend on a big knockout. We are both aggressive and we both win by finish. We’re the first bout of the night, and it’s going to be a knockout. Only one guy will be left standing,” he added.
Kawahara is fully fixated on beating Adiwang this Friday night. If he wins, it will no doubt bring him a step closer to his ultimate goal, which is to become a ONE World Champion.
“I joined ONE Championship to become a world champion. Whoever my opponent is, it doesn’t matter. I just have to win and beat him up. I want to thank ONE that my first opponent is Lito and he’s very dangerous. If I beat him, it’s going to be a big win. I’m excited,” said Kawahara.
“Lito is a good fighter, a dangerous one. If I beat him, I’ll be closer to becoming a ONE World Champion. That’s the reason I took this bout. Although Lito might be dangerous, I’m also dangerous, so be careful.”
ONE: UNBREAKABLE is ONE Championship’s first live event in 2021. The main event features a ONE Super Series showdown between ONE Bantamweight Kickboxing World Champion Alaverdi “Babyface Killer” Ramazanov of Russia, who defends his world title against #2-ranked bantamweight kickboxing contender Capitan Petchyindee Academy of Thailand.
By Armando M. Bolislis