By Jun Ray Navarres
Roads to be taken
Team Lakay’s fights coach Mark “The Machine” Sangiao laid out the blueprint for potential matchups of his wards in ONE Championship.
Sangiao, a pioneer of Philippine martial arts is not just the head coach and founder of the famed Team Lakay but is also the team’s spiritual leader, a father-figure to many of its younger members, and a guide through the often convoluted world of mixed martial arts.
“The Machine” recently dished out his thoughts on the best possible move Team Lakay’s fighters must take.
First up in his list is Former ONE Lightweight World Champion Eduard “The Landslide” Folayang who is currently on the comeback trail after a dismal 2019, wherein he dropped two out of three matches.
Folayang also dropped out in the top five list of ONE Championship’s Athlete Ranking so in order to regain himself, he must take on a big gun.
Sangiao likes the odds of Folayang taking on the reigning ONE Lightweight World Champion, 22-year-old Christian Lee.
“The lightweight division is one of the deepest in ONE Championship. There are so many great talents, and anybody can beat anybody on any given day. But Eduard Folayang is the best of the best,” said Sangiao.
“There are a lot of great matchups to be made at lightweight for Eduard, but the one man he wants most is Christian Lee. Eduard is out for redemption, and he’s training very hard to achieve his goals.”
Next up is former ONE Bantamweight World Champion Kevin “The Silencer” Belingon who is also on a comeback bid after losing his belt to Bibiano “The Flash” Fernandes last year.
Despite having the capability of silencing “The Silencer”, 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.
“I just wasn’t convinced the last [time] 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.
“Kevin and Bibiano have unfinished business.”
In spite of sitting at the top 1 of ONE Championship’s Athlete Ranking, Belingon may have to defeat another top contender before he earns another shot at Fernandes.
Being at the top means that everyone will be coming to haunt you down and this mindset is etched in Reigning ONE Strawweight World Champion Joshua “The Passion” Pacio’s mind.
In one of ONE Championship’s richest weight classes in terms of talent, Pacio has established himself as a legitimate and dominant champion.
Thinking about Pacio’s weight class, there are only two fighters who Sangiao believes Pacio should rematch — former strawweight titleholders Yosuke Saruta and Yoshitaka Naito.
“I think he needs to complete trilogies with Saruta and Naito. A lot of people weren’t convinced with his victories over either, which is why I think rematches would work well in favor of Joshua closing the book on these adversaries,” said Sangiao.
“Strawweight is stacked with world-class fighters from top to bottom. The competition is very close. But Joshua is so good, that he can really hang with the best of them. He’s at the top now, and this young man is working very hard to keep his spot.”
Saruta has expressed his intention of facing Pacio if he can get past Naito this September in Tokyo’s “Road to ONE: 3rd TOKYO FIGHT NIGHT” event organized by Abema TV in partnership with ONE, and his opponent should be thinking the same.
The bitter nightmare of Danny “The King” Kingad’s fall in his first shot at ONE Flyweight World Champion against Adriano Moraes late in 2017 has left him an experience that will stick with him for as long as he competes.
Sangiao believes Kingad learned more in that loss than he did in any of his wins and as a result, the Filipino star is developing at an exponential rate, and Sangiao is simply amazed at what he sees.
“Danny has improved so much in just the span of three years. He’s used this time off wisely to refocus and rededicate himself to proving himself as one of the best in the world at his weight class,” said Sangiao.
Moraes is expected to defend his title next against ONE Flyweight Grand Prix World Champion and 12-time former UFC Flyweight Champion Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson and Sangiao is confident Kingad would destroy Moraes now, regardless of whether or not the Brazilian remains champion after the Johnson bout.
“I think Danny learned so much from the first fight with Adriano, and now he’s a completely different fighter. He has so much more experience. I know Danny will beat Adriano the next time they meet in the Circle,” Sangiao concluded.
Known as one of the most prolific martial arts outfits in Asia, Team Lakay is home to many great athletes and World Champions, many of whom trust Sangiao with their lives so it certainly comes as no surprise that Sangiao has a pretty good idea of what could be next for some of his most prized pupils.
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