Australia-born Reece McLaren aims to personify Filipino warrior’s heart in cage return

Sports
Reece-McLaren-ONE-Championship.jpg

Photo from ONE Championship

“Who is Reece McLaren?” That was the question of the night during the ONE: SPIRIT OF CHAMPIONS fight week in December 2015 when he surfaced as Jordan Lucas’ late replacement to face Filipino-American sensation Mark “Mugen” Striegl.

Striegl was supposed to have an easy night against a relatively-unknown Australian martial artist entering a high-profile bout on eight days notice, but McLaren begged to disagree and educated everyone about who he is and what he is capable of.

McLaren pulled off a major upset in his promotional debut by submitting Striegl with a rear-naked choke in the aforementioned event’s co-headliner.

Showcasing his never-say-die attitude, McLaren overcame a series of takedowns and a second-round knockdown against the highly-favored Striegl, but he methodically chipped away with stinging leg kicks.

As his counterpart appeared to lose steam in the final frame, McLaren countered a weary takedown attempt with solid elbows before he advanced to Striegl’s back to latch on the bout-ending choke at the 3:33 mark of the third round.

After his impressive conquest of Striegl, the thousands inside the state-of-the-art SM Mall of Asia Arena were instantly introduced to the name of Reece “Lighting” McLaren.

Folayang privileged to headline ONE’s 10th event in PH

Sports

folayang-one-championship.jpg

Although Eduard “Landslide” Folayang has been with ONE Championship since its inception in 2011, it marks the first time that he will be in the top bill of the organization’s live event in the Philippines.

The 33-year-old Baguio City native is set to lock horns with Malaysian-Kiwi sensation Ev “E.T.” Ting in the main event of ONE: KINGS OF DESTINY, which is ONE Championship’s tenth blockbuster show on Philippine shores.

Stacked card for ONE Championship’s Manila event on April 21

Sports
one-championship-kings-of-destiny-manila-april-21

Photo from ONE Championship

 

ONE Championship (ONE) recently announced a spectacular fight card for ONE: KINGS OF DESTINY, which takes place Friday, April 21 at the Mall of Asia Arena.

The action-packed evening promises to feature the absolute best in local and international mixed martial arts talent. In the main event, ONE Lightweight World Champion Eduard “Landslide” Folayang of Baguio City, Philippines, will make the first defense of his title against top contender Ev “E.T.” Ting of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

ONE lightweight champion Eduard Folayang to defend title against Ev Ting

Sports

one-fc-eduard-folayang-lightweight-champion-ev-ting.jpg

ONE Championship announced on Monday its return to Manila on April 21 to hold its tenth event on Philippine shores.

The 20,000-capacity SM Mall of Asia Arena will play host to ONE: KINGS OF DESTINY, which promises another evening of world-class mixed martial arts action that fans around the globe should not miss. Headlining the card will be ONE Lightweight World Champion Eduard “Landslide” Folayang of the Philippines, who will defend his belt for the first time against Malaysia’s Ev “E.T.” Ting.

2016: The year Filipino fighters stood tall

Sports

The Philippines has produced many notable boxers throughout the years, including Francisco “Pancho Villa” Guilledo, Gabriel “Flash” Elorde and eight-division world champion Manny Pacquiao.

Although the country has become a breeding ground of world-class boxers, it is quickly carving a niche in other combat sports, particularly in mixed martial arts (MMA).

The nation has been deeply involved with MMA since 1995 when Kung Fu practitioner Onassis Parungao made his professional debut in the United States, but it took seven years before the sport was formally introduced on local shores.

For over two decades, it has been a dizzying rollercoaster ride for Filipino fighters as they encountered a mix of sweet triumphs and heartbreaks.

However, it was a different story in 2016 as Filipino combatants glimmered like diamonds atop an international MMA stage.

Over the course of 14 events in ONE Championship’s 2016 calendar, Filipino competitors tallied 24 victories, including a successful title defense and a stunning championship-winning performance.

Let us explore the moments that left an indelible mark in 2016, courtesy of the gallant warriors from the Philippines.

Eduard Folayang attains long-sought title

Eduard Folayang’s long journey to a world title in MMA had an epic conclusion as the renowned Filipino fighter became the first to defeat Japanese MMA legend Shinya Aoki in nearly five years.

The 33-year-old Baguio City native captured the ONE Lightweight World Championship belt by beating Aoki via third-round technical knockout in the main event of ONE: DEFENDING HONOR last November.

With his astonishing conquest of Aoki, Folayang joined Team Lakay comrade Honorio Banario and international MMA sensation Brandon Vera as Filipinos to win world titles in ONE Championship.

Names of possible lightweight contenders to challenge Folayang for his gold-plated strap have surfaced, but there is nothing set in stone at the moment.

Folayang is willing to face any deserving fighter on ONE Championship’s lightweight roster and seeks to have his first title defense in front of his countrymen.

Brandon Vera defends ONE Heavyweight World Championship crown

As an age-old adage of prizefighting goes, a fighter is simply not considered a real champion until he or she defends his or her title successfully.

Brandon Vera proved worthy to be called ONE Heavyweight World Champion by defeating Japanese challenger Hideki Sekine in the headliner of ONE: AGE OF DOMINATION this December.

Vera made easy work of the previously-unbeaten Japanese stalwart, winning by technical knockout just minutes into the first round.

From the opening bell, Vera began to land a series of solid blows on Sekine, who surprisingly took his foe’s best shots quite well.

Moments later, a thudding body kick connected for Vera, sending Sekine crashing to the canvas clutching his midsection. Vera then put on the finishing touches with punishing strikes from the top to get the win.

The 39-year-old ONE Heavyweight World Champion is eying a more active fight calendar in 2017.

Team Lakay’s 16-fight winning streak

Team Lakay has become an instantly recognizable name in the Philippine MMA scene because of the big number of successful homegrown talents that it has produced since its inception in 2003.

Headquartered at an elevation of 4,300 feet above sea level in the mountains of La Trinidad, Benguet, Team Lakay has been recognized as one of Asia’s elite MMA groups, spawning remarkable Filipino fighters such as Eduard Folayang and Honorio Banario. The team also includes members Geje Eustaquio, Kevin Belingon, Edward Kelly, Joshua Pacio, Danny Kingad and April Osenio.

In 2016, the Philippines’ premiere MMA stable embarked on an incredible winning streak, showcasing a magnificently-improved ground game to thwart several top opponents. Team Lakay piled 16-straight victories, including five wins by way of submission.

Team Lakay also accomplished a clean sweep at ONE: GLOBAL RIVALS this past April. The celebrated MMA group won five fights out of five with all of its representatives emerging victorious after impressive performances.

In addition, three members of the fabled Team Lakay accomplished a breakout year after coming off disappointing setbacks.

Banario, the former ONE Featherweight World Champion, broke his losing spell in 2016 and is currently riding high on a three-bout victory parade.

Meanwhile, Kelly attained a come-from-behind submission victory over Jordan Lucas in March and then picked up imposing knockout wins over Vincent Latoel and Sunoto.

Folayang authored an ultimate comeback story by edging high-profile counterparts Tetsuya Yamada and Adrian Pang to earn a date with Shinya Aoki for the ONE Lightweight World Championship in November.

Widely regarded as the face of Philippine MMA, Folayang capped off his year with a shocking triumph over Aoki.

Eustaquio started 2016 with a bang by scoring a one-punch knockout of Saiful Merican in January before furnishing with a lopsided decision victory over Gianni Subba last April.

Belingon might have stumbled in his meeting with ONE Bantamweight World Champion Bibiano Fernandes in January, but he made up for it by outpointing Tajik standout Muin Gafurov this past October.

On the other hand, Osenio pulled off a major upset triumph in September by submitting Malaysian superstar Ann Osman with a first-round guillotine choke.

It has definitely been a banner year for the Philippines’ premier MMA team. According to Team Lakay head coach Mark Sangiao, numerous heartbreaking setbacks in previous years fueled their desire to get better.

Highlight-reel knockouts of Burn Soriano and Jimmy Yabo

Burn “The Hitman” Soriano is relatively new to the promotion, having just made his debut last April in a loss to Indonesian fighter Sunoto. In his second trip to the ONE Championship cage, Soriano made sure that he would leave a lasting impression.

Soriano notched a highlight-reel knockout triumph over Indonesian prospect Mario Satya Wirawan in their bantamweight encounter at ONE: TITLES & TITANS in August.

The 30-year-old Filipino standout finished the job in just 15 seconds by delivering a well-executed spinning backfist that instantly turned the lights out on Wirawan.

It was a great win for Soriano, and one that he would look back upon for years to come as part of his career highlights.

Aside from Soriano, Jimmy “The Silencer” Yabo likewise recorded a scintillating knockout victory against Pakistan’s Bashir Ahmad at ONE: TRIBE OF WARRIORS in February.

Yabo uncorked a solid right hook while moving backward that laid Ahmad out cold, adding a hammerfist on the ground for good measure.

Filipino prospects shined in 2016

The Philippine MMA scene has a promising future as 2016 witnessed the emergence of Team Lakay’s young guns Joshua Pacio and Danny Kingad.

Pacio had three fights under the ONE Championship banner in 2016, winning his first two assignments in impressive fashion. He made his successful ONE Championship debut in April by scoring a second-round technical knockout of compatriot Rabin Catalan before he submitted Thailand’s Kritsada Kongsrichai with a first-round rear-naked choke last August.

His two-fight winning streak inside the ONE Championship cage earned him a date with ONE Strawweight World Champion Yoshitaka Naito this past October.

Pacio was close to becoming the youngest Filipino fighter to claim a world title in MMA but made a crucial mistake in the bout, derailing his championship aspirations as Naito secured a rear-naked choke in the third round.

Pacio might have fallen short in the first world title fight of his budding career, but he managed to silence his critics. Even at a tender age of 20, he has already reached championship-caliber status.

Meanwhile, Kingad had his fair share of spectacular moments as part of ONE Championship’s exciting flyweight bracket.

In his first promotional appearance last April, he stopped Malaysian fighter Muhamad Haidar just a little over two minutes into the first round.

At ONE: AGE OF DOMINATION this December, Kingad mustered a huge victory by submitting veteran and compatriot Eugene Toquero with a first-round armbar.

Even with the influx of fledgling combatants from all corners of the archipelago, Pacio and Kingad will most likely to lead the way for the new breed of Filipino talents in ONE Championship.

Photo from ONE Championship

Top 10 sports media properties in Asia

Sports

As sports and digital content continue to rise in Asia, sports media properties are increasing in value and marketing potential. With the Chinese market set to potentially reach a staggering US $724 billion by 2025, more focus and efforts have been placed in the region.

Asia is exploding with sports content and the people have begun to pay attention to sports more than ever. It’s certainly a great time to be a fan. As the region further develops its infrastructure, the demand for sporting content is poised to reach an all-time high.

Let’s take a look at the top 10 sports media properties in Asia.

ONE Championship

When billionaire Chatri Sityodtong conjured up the idea for ONE Championship, he envisioned the entire Asia united under a single sport. The entrepreneur has long harped on the fact that martial arts has been ingrained in Asian culture for over 5,000 years. He believes the evolution of the sport into mixed martial arts opens up limitless potential in Asia.

ONE Championship has achieved tremendous success since its establishment in 2011. MMA is considered a Pan-Asian sport and for the first time in Asian history, it is a sport that has transcended regional and cultural boundaries. This has proven to be a huge factor in attracting various Fortune 500 companies.

ONE Championship is currently the largest sports media property in Asian history. Today, the sport is broadcast to over one billion viewers in over 118 countries across the globe. It’s the fastest rising sport in the world, and has become a household name in recent years.

Singapore Grand Prix

Formula One, also known as Formula 1 or simply as F1, is the highest class of single-seater international auto-racing tournament in the world. Held in different variations depending on the region, the races are held regularly on an annual basis on purpose-built F1 circuits or public roads.

The most popular variation in Asia is the Singapore Grand Prix, which normally takes place on the Marina Bay Street Circuit. The Singapore Grand Prix was first held in 1966. It is the first of its kind in Asia.

Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB)

Baseball is immensely popular in Japan, where it is almost considered a national sport. NPB is the highest level of baseball in Japan. Locally, it is often called Puro Yakyu. The roots of the league can be traced back to the formation of the “Greater Japan Tokyo Baseball Club” in 1934 and the original Japanese Baseball League. NPB was formed when that league reorganized in 1950.

NPB currently consists of two six-team circuits, the Central League and the Pacific League. Each season the winning clubs from the two leagues compete in the Japan Series, the championship series of NPB.

The Japanese baseball is wound more tightly and is harder than an American baseball as technical elements are slightly different. NPB uses a smaller baseball, strike zone, and playing field. NPB is described and rated by players, scouts, and sabermetricians as “AAAA” due to the league’s competitiveness.

Vivo Indian Premier League

The IPL is a professional Twenty20 cricket league established in India, which is held every April and May of every year. Cricket is by far the most popular sport in India. Although a relatively new organization, having been established as recently as 2008, the IPL is one of the fastest growing sports media properties in Asia.

Currently valued at US$1.6 billion, which is a monumental achievement for such a young property.

Chinese Basketball Association (CBA)

CBA is regarded by a number of pundits and fans as the preeminent men’s professional basketball league in Asia due to its outstanding standard of play. The organization was founded in 1995.

A few Chinese players who competed in the CBA in the early stages of their careers have also played in the NBA, including Wang Zhizhi, Mengke Bateer, Yao Ming, Yi Jianlian, and Sun Yue.

Philippine Basketball Association (PBA)

PBA is the first men’s professional basketball league in Asia and the second oldest continuously existing in the world after the NBA. It was founded on April 9, 1975. Since its inauguration, it has gone for 42 seasons.

Unlike other basketball leagues, there is no season champion in the PBA. Instead, the season is divided into three conferences, wherein the teams compete for a conference cup. The winners of the conference cups do not face each other at the end of the season. All conference champions are league champions, with the Philippine Cup being the most prestigious conference of the season.

The league is composed of twelve company-branded franchised teams, with Barangay Ginebra San Miguel owing the distinction of being the most popular team in the PBA.

AFF Suzuki Cup

The AFF Suzuki Cup is a biennial international association football competition that is organized by the ASEAN Football Federation. It is contested by the national teams of the Southeast Asian region.

It was founded as the Tiger Cup after Singapore-based Asia Pacific Breweries sponsored the competition from its inauguration in 1996 until the 2004 edition. After Asia Pacific Breweries withdrew as title sponsors, the competition was known as the AFF Championship for the 2007 edition. From 2008, Japanese auto-company Suzuki bought the naming rights for the competition to rename the tourney as the AFF Suzuki Cup for sponsorship reasons.

Thailand is the most successful team in the league by copping five AFF Suzuki Cup titles. Singapore comes in at second with four championships.

Asia League Ice Hockey (ALIH)

ALIH is an association, which operates a professional ice hockey league based in the Far East, with nine teams from Japan, China, Russia and South Korea. It was formed in 2003 due to declining popularity in the Japan Ice Hockey League and the folding of the Korea Ice Hockey League.

The league was formed with the goal of promoting hockey and developing players’ skills. It initially comprised of five teams in two countries, but it expanded to highs of four countries in its 2004–05 season and nine teams in the 2005–06 season.

However, it comprised of eight teams from three countries in the 2013–14 season. Prior to the 2014–15 season, a team from Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, HC Sakhalin, was affiliated to the league.

The competition draws most of its players from the home countries of its teams. But to help build skill and raise the level of competitiveness, the league allows each team a certain number of foreign imports on their roster.

ASEAN Basketball League (ABL)

ABL is a men’s professional basketball league in Southeast Asia, Hong Kong and Taiwan. It was inaugurated in October 2009 after basketball officials from six ASEAN nations gathered in Metro Manila to officially launch the new league.

Mirroring the Euroleague in the west, the ABL has its own set of rules in terms of its roster makeup and salary caps. Teams are permitted two imports of non-ASEAN citizenship, three ASEAN imports, one player with one Southeast Asian parent, and seven local players.

As of the 2015–16 season, it is held via a quadruple home-and-away format, where each team faces each other four times during regular season.

V.Premier league

Originally known as V.League (Japan), V.Premier League is the top-level volleyball competition for both men and women in Japan. It was founded in 1994 as a response to the growing popularity of volleyball in the country.

Both male and female brackets have eight marquee teams competing for the respective championship. JT Thunders are the defending champions in the men’s division, while the NEC Red Rockets are the ruling squad in the women’s category.

 

Photo from ONE Championship

PHOTOS: Homecoming parade of ONE champion Folayang

Events, Sports

Baguio City officials organized a parade for newly crowned ONE Lightweight World Champion Eduard “Landslide” Folayang last December 9.

Folayang won the title at ONE: DEFENDING HONOR which took place November 11 at the Singapore Indoor Stadium in Singapore. The Filipino mixed martial arts (MMA) veteran defeated former champion, Japanese MMA legend Shinya “Tobikan Judan” Aoki via third round technical knockout.

Folayang received a Hero’s Welcome Parade in Baguio City with his cousin, three-time World Wushu Champion Divine Masadao Wally. The parade was launched from Luneta Hill at SM Baguio, proceeding to Session Road and Magsaysay Ave., and ending at Baguio City Hall.

The parade featured performers in traditional Igorot garb native to the Benguet region and the Philippine mountain province as they trailed the float bearing a mock display of the ONE Lightweight World Championship belt attached to the bullbar of a pick-up truck.

Locals lined the streets to catch a glimpse of the newly crowned champion Folayang with the ONE Lightweight World Championship belt draped over his shoulder. Filipino fight fans love MMA and have a rich martial arts culture particularly in Baguio City, where some of the Philippines’ finest warriors have originated.

Baguio City Mayor Mauricio Domogan received Folayang and Wally at Baguio City Hall with a program commemorating their congratulatory city resolution for their recent sports achievements.

 

Photo from ONE Championship

Brandon Vera and the legacy he wants to leave

Sports

ONE Championship held a press lunch on Tuesday for their upcoming event Age of Domination at the Mall of Asia Arena.

One of the fighters present at the event was current ONE heavyweight champion Brandon Vera, who is set to defend his belt against Hideki Sekine.

It will be his third fight with ONE. He won his first two fights via first-round knockouts.

Vera is already 39 years old and has been fighting professionally for around 14 years, with a career record of 14 wins and seven losses. But he assured the media that this bout against Sekine won’t be his last.

He did say that he is approaching every match as if it were his final performance.

“I try to perform now that every fight is my last,” he said.

If he does step away from the fighting arena for good, Vera said he would want people to remember him as “a gentle giant who would kill you if you do wrong.”

Asked what kind of legacy he would want to leave, the 6-2 fighter said it would mean more than just possibly being the first and last heavyweight Filipino titlist.

“I take pride in that, but part of my legacy is to create more heavyweight Filipino champions.”

Photo by Jamil Buergo

Mixing work and leisure in Macau

Lifestyle, Sports

One of the perks of being a sports journalist is getting the privilege to cover sporting events that take place in different countries.

In August, I did just that when I was invited to take a trip to Macau for a ONE Championship event.

It was my first time to fly to Macau, so I was pretty excited. What made it more exciting was having my wife accompany me throughout the trip. I bought her a ticket as well so we could go both on a short vacation and take a break from work.