2018 brought great success for Team Lakay, the Philippines’ premier mixed martial arts group, as its fighters won four major ONE Championship titles in a span of 11 months, but so far in 2019, the team has been put on a roller coaster ride, ridden with triumphs and setbacks.
Keeping the aforementioned in mind, have opponents figured out the Team Lakay formula?
Coming into 2019, Baguio City’s stable paraded the ONE Strawweight title (Joshua Pacio), ONE Flyweight title (Geje Eustaquio), ONE Bantamweight title (Kevin Bellingon), and ONE Lightweight title (Eduard Folayang), with every intention of keeping those belts. However, the year has already witnessed Team Lakay’s dominance take a dip thus far, with many of its titleholders walking in the opposite direction.
Just in January alone, both Joshua Pacio and Geje Eustaquio lost their crowns to Yosuke Saruta and Adriano Moraes respectively. Fast forward two months later, and Kevin Belingon found himself on the losing end to Bibiano Fernandes. In that trilogy bout, referee Olivier Coste issued a controversial red card against the then Bantamweight champion for an illegal blow against his challenger, prompting many to call for a potential fourth fight between the two rivals.
The swift vanishing of Team Lakay’s titles didn’t stop there as Lightweight Champion Eduard Folayang was put to sleep by Shinya Aoki later that same night in the event’s main showcase. Folayang’s defeat officially marked the end to the stable’s 11-month reign in Asia’s biggest sporting property, leaving the Mark Sangiao-led group without a golden strap around any of his fighters’ waists.
However, a ray of redemption was on its way, as they usually are with Team Lakay fighters, especially in rematches coming off losses. Joshua Pacio would go on to knock out Yosuke Saruta come April in a rematch in front of his home crowd to reclaim the pinnacle of the Strawweight division.
Geje Eustaquio then followed up his teammate’s belt reclamation with his own victory one month later at ONE: Enter the Dragon when he masterfully defeated Korean foe Kyu Sung Kim via unanimous decision.
When it looked as if Team Lakay was ready to embark on yet another dominating run, the group of Filipino warriors suffered yet another backbreaking setback at ONE: Dawn of Heroes. The stage had been set for a historic night in Manila, but only Danny Kingad was able to come out victorious in a tight split decision win as he narrowly squeaked by Reece McLaren.
His teammates absorbed separate defeats in their assignments.
Former ONE Lightweight Champion Honorio ‘The Rock’ Banario lost to Dae Song Park by unanimous decision; Geje Eustaquio, coming off his impressive performance in May, was knocked out by Yuya Wakamatsu; Edward ‘The Ferocious’ Kelly bowed out to Xie Bin in a technical decision; and Eduard Folayang, in one of the night’s top billings, was submitted by Eddie Alvarez.
We are now more than halfway into the year, but despite this difficult period for Team Lakay, there is still much more in store for the team as it is still in a strong position to reassert itself as one of Asia’s best stables.
For one, Danny Kingad is set to meet perennial pound-for-pound king Demetrious Johnson in the finale of the ONE Flyweight World Grand Prix, in what will surely be his toughest assignment to date. Additionally, Kevin Bellingon could close out his rivalry with a win and the Bantamweight World Championship belt against Bibiano Fernandes in the pair’s fourth meeting in October for ONE Championship’s 100th event in Tokyo.
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