When ONE Championship returns to Manila on 2 August, they’ll be bringing with them some of the biggest stars on their roster.
ONE: DAWN OF HEROES at the Mall of Asia Arena will feature Vietnamese-Australian superstar Martin “The Situ-Asian” Nguyen defending his ONE Featherweight World Championship against Japanese challenger Koyomi Matsushima in the main event, while British striker Jonathan Haggerty defends his ONE Flyweight Muay Thai World Championship against Thailand’s Rodtang Jitmuangnon.
Also on the card will be martial arts heroes and world champions Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson, former ONE Flyweight World Champion Geje “Gravity” Eustaquio, former ONE Featherweight World Champion Honorio “The Rock” Banario, Japanese veteran Yushin “Thunder” Okami, and many others.
The biggest bout that won’t have a world championship up for grabs, however, is undoubtedly the lightweight clash between former two-time ONE Lightweight World Champion Eduard “Landslide” Folayang of the Philippines and multiple-time world champion Eddie “The Underground King” Alvarez of the United States.
Folayang versus Alvarez, in any other card, would definitely be the marquee matchup. Nevermind that it was recently elevated to become the last semi-final bout of the ONE Lightweight World Grand Prix following an injury to Timofey Nastyukhin.
The Folayang-Alvarez bout is nothing short of a dream match, something that people have been waiting to see since Alvarez inked a massive deal with the Asia-based martial arts promotion back in 2018.
On 2 August, that dream match becomes a reality, and at this moment, it is the most important bout in the careers of both men.
Folayang, a two-time king in his division, is coming off a submission loss to Japanese legend and fellow former ONE Lightweight World Champion Shinya “Tobikan Judan” Aoki in Japan last March. It was his second time to surrender the lightweight throne, which Aoki also quickly lost to current reigning champion Christian Lee.
Now, Folayang, the Baguio City, Philippines-native and Team Lakay product, is looking to return to glory, and standing in his way is one of the biggest names he will ever face in his storied mixed martial arts career.
All the hype that surrounded Alvarez when he signed with ONE quickly dispersed when he found himself on the receiving end of a first-round TKO courtesy of Timofey Nastyukhin also in Japan back in March.
The Philadelphia-made “Underground King” has been a champion in just about every promotion he has been in, and he was expected to do the same in ONE. Alvarez was supposed to run through the ONE Lightweight World Grand Prix and become the tournament champion, and then run through whoever was the lightweight titleholder at the time and become the first man to hold world championships in three major promotions.
That was until a hard-hitting Russian had other plans.
Now, Folayang and Alvarez find themselves in similar positions in their careers.
Both are coming off losses, and both likely cannot afford another consecutive defeat, especially at this point in their careers. A win, however, pushes them back into the title picture and moves them another step closer to ONE glory.
As important as this match is for both Folayang and Alvarez, this must-see lightweight matchup is also slowly shaping up to be the most important bouts that ONE Championship will be putting on in terms of pitting the East versus the West.
On one end, you have Folayang, who has become one of ONE’s biggest stars and is a hero in the Philippines. The soft-spoken 35-year old is the epitome of a success story and embodies the values of martial arts.
On the other, you have Alvarez, who was made for mixed martial arts. Alvarez was born and bred to compete inside a cage and has done very well for himself in that field. For Alvarez, mixed martial arts is a job, and business has been very good.
A win for Folayang not only moves him closer to another run at the gold, but it also solidifies his place as a world-class mixed martial artist. It raises his credibility and the credibility of ONE as a hotbed for untapped talent in Asia.
A win for Alvarez proves that whatever happened to him in his debut was a fluke and that he is destined for greatness wherever he goes. It strengthens ONE’s status as the home of the best martial artists in the world.
Whatever happens inside the cage come 2 August, one thing is for sure: you should not miss this one.