Someone asked me how my blog and newspaper column came to be titled "Bleachers Brew". It's like this, it's an amalgam of sorts of two things: The bleachers area in the stadium/arena where I used to sit when I would watch baseball, football, and basketball games and Miles Davis' great jazz album Bitches Brew. That's how it got culled together. I originally planned on calling it "The View from the Big Chair" that is a nod to Tears For Fear's second album, Songs from the Big Chair. So there.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

One FC: Moment of Truth --- Redemption and a half

This appears in the Monday December 9, 2013 edition of the Business Mirror.

Redemption and a half
by rick olivares

Six a half months ago at One FC: Rise to Power, it didn’t look good for Philippine Mixed Martial Arts when all five fighters in the cards lost; some of them very badly. The saving grace but still unable to compensate for a bummer of an evening was the Manila-debut of One FC ring girl, Fil-Australian Christine Hallauer, who is our answer to the UFC’s Arianny Celeste.

Last December 6, in an event dubbed, “Moment of Truth”, a measure of redemption was gained. Not much when main eventer Honorio Banario was kayoed for the second consecutive time by Koji Oishi in even more devastating fashion.

It was a bookend bummer of an evening as the first fight (in the undercards) featured Edward Kelly, younger brother of Eric Kelly, who went up against last minute replacement for Major Overall in Brazilian submission specialist, Herbert Burns. 

I had barely began to jot down my notes when the bell sounded calling an end to the – well, it wasn’t a fight now, was it – live textbook demonstration on a rear naked choke in 44 seconds! Gasp! What the!

It was Kelly’s return to MMA after long spell and he looked terrible. His only consolation is that his loss isn’t the fastest in One FC history. His loss to Burns is the tenth fastest in Asia’s largest MMA production. That dubious record belongs to belongs South African Daniel Mashamaite who was felled by Thai fighter Yodsanan Sityodtong with a lying knee felled in 14 seconds!

And Kelly’s loss isn’t even Burns’ fastest win. He got another Asian opponent to tap out in 27 seconds in a fight last 2012.

I shook my head and prayed for better results as Moment of Truth got going (and hoped that Christine Hallauer and co-ring girl, Maya would not be the only saving graces of another promotion gone wrong).

I didn’t have to wait long as the next preliminary fight, Ruel Catalan chalked up the first win for the home side when he stopped Cambodian Khim Dima with a technical knockout due to strikes at the 3:35 mark of the first round. Ruel gained revenge for the beating Dima inflicted on brother, Rene, at One FC: Total Domination in Singapore last October. During that bout, Dima thought that he had won but the decision was declared a no contest due to the number of illegal elbows he landed on Rene during the fight’s finish. This time around, Ruel Catalan made sure the result was beyond reproach.

Next up was the flyweight bout between Geje Eustaquio and Eugene Toquero. Toquero had been a standout for One FC-rival Pacific X-treme with four wins to his name. Two of his wins were due to doctor stoppage while the other two have been because of punches (TKOs).

As Toquero made his way in, he kept fixing his puffed dome and hamming it for the cameras. Yes, showmanship is a part of the game but you gotta back it up. And Geje Eustaquio knows all about that.

In Eustaquio’s One FC debut at Rise to Power, he played to the cameras during the fight by repeatedly smiling and flashing the thumbs up sign in the middle of a fight against Andrew Leone. Leone punished him and came away with a unanimous decision.

When I visited Eustaquio in Baguio two months ago, he spoke of the lessons learned. “All business lang tayo next time,” he promised. He may have not flashed that winning smile during the fight but he sure planted one on every face after he turned the tables on Toquero with strikes, kicks, and takedowns for a unanimous decision victory.

Two-one. Now it was Eduard “Landslide” Folayang’s turn. Landslide was once one of the country’s most promising fighters as he went 11-1 from June 2007 to January 2012. Then he lost three of his next four fights including two to fighters with a strong wrestling base. The onus was on Folayang to pull out a win or else his career would be in doubt.

Against Dutch-Indonesian Vincent Latoel who made an impressive One FC debut in last September’s Jakarta promotion, Champions and Warriors, where he got Willy Ni to submit on a guillotine, Folayang looked to be in remarkable shape. Even his muscles had muscles. And when the fight began, Folayang laid the smackdown on Latoel with powerful strikes and kicks while mixing his game with some thunderous takedowns. Latoel looked bewildered; his only consolation was surviving the punishment after three rounds. Folayang chalked up a unanimous decision win; his 13th.

Kevin Belingon made it four-one for the home side when he knocked out a woefully overmatched David Aranda with a vicious left hook to the temple. Aranda crumpled to the canvas out cold. I suddenly thought of Ricky Hatton getting laid out by Manny Pacquiao.

Like Folayang, Belingon looked to be in freefall with three losses in his last five matches. His last time in a One FC cage, he lost via unanimous decision to Masakatsu Ueda. This time, he was all over Aranda who lacked in the power game.

So it was on to Banario to cap off a night of thunderous wins and sensational knockouts.

Unfortunately, it was mostly boring as both Oishi and Banario measured each other more than they mixed it up.

Banario looked to be ahead on strikes until he got rocked in the second round. When the third round started, he looked to have shaken off the effects of Oishi’s punches. But a right hook to the jaw and a straightaway punch to the face knocked out Banario cold and with it any title aspirations. I suddenly thought of Pacquiao being sent to dreamland by Juan Manuel Marquez (that was the infinite bummer and it still is).

It was a disappoint end to what was shaping up as a great evening for Philippine MMA. After Rise to Power, I was disconsolate with buddies Bob Guerrero and Franco Mabanta. We cussed, spat, and recited a litany of woes. For people very passionate about sports and Philippine sports in general, we endured a sleepless night perhaps just like our vanquished fighters.

Christine Hallauer and Maya, as well as the boisterous crowd at the MOA Arena (the crowd at Rise to Power was lousy) weren’t the only saving graces to fight, but the generally good result for Philippine fighters.

The Moment of Truth is, Philippine MMA is alive and kicking.

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