All roads come to an end. At today’s ONE: Heart of the Lion, Bibiano Fernandes, the most dominant champion in ONE Championship was forced to relinquish his throne to Team Lakay’s Kevin Belingon.
The split decision result only underscored how much of a see-saw affair the evening’s main event was. Belingon came out of the gate in the first round looking to take the fight to the Brazilian. A series of spectacular spinning back kicks gave notice to Fernandes that if he were going to win this fight, then he would need to call upon his much-vaunted ground game.
After forcing Belingon back against the cage, Fernandes finally got the takedown he was seeking but was unable to cause any damage or attempt any submissions before Belingon powered his way out of Fernandes’s clutches and returned to his feet. It was in the second round where the 38-year-old Fernandes came closest to finishing the fight. Fernandes got the early takedown but was again unable to capitalize on his success.
The mid stages of the round saw Fernandes fending off more spinning assaults from the Filipino wushu champion before, with just over a minute left in the round, Fernandes mounted a sustained ground assault on Belingon. An attempted rear-naked choke fell just short of success as did two armbar attempts and the round ended with Belingon on his feet raining shots down on Fernandes.
By now, both fighters were looking fatigued, but Belingon appeared worse off, perhaps due to the energy exerted getting back to his feet in the opening rounds. Fernandes sensing the tide was turning in his favor began walking done his younger opponent and eventually earned himself a double leg takedown. The round ended, almost the exact mirror opposite of the second with Fernandes on top delivering heavy shots to his grounded opponent.
It can be argued that it was in the penultimate round where this fight was won and lost on the judge’s scorecards. Fernandes continued his excellent form from the fourth and again trapped Belingon on the ground. However, while he maintained control, he was not inflicting any damage, and ONE scores fights based on total damage inflicted and not on a round-by-round basis.
At the tail end of the round, Belingon got back to his feet and with only seconds left before the bell delivered a stunning right hand that dropped Fernandes. Belingon rushed in looking for the finish, and while Fernandes recovered in time, the tide had turned. A rejuvenated Belingon faced battered and bruised, emerged from his corner aware he was only minutes away from claiming the unified bantamweight title.
The fifth and final round remained standing, and when the final bell sounded, and the judge’s decision was made, ONE Championship found themselves with a new bantamweight champion for the first time in five years.
It was a close call and fans may argue the pros and cons of the decision, but this was a fight that was won in the margins with both fighters having moments of dominance and neither having it all their own way.
The night itself was an overall success for ONE Championship. The card began with a bang with Anthony Engelen knocking out Meas Meul with less than a minute on the clock. The local Singapore fans still had plenty to cheer about despite the absence of Angela Lee. Tiffany Teo showcased her striking abilities as she claimed a unanimous decision win over BJJ legend Michelle Nicolini.
In the co-main event, Christian Lee made short work of Japan’s Kazuki Tokudome. After getting his hand raised following his first-round TKO victory, Lee called for a featherweight interim title fight with Mongolian Narantungalag Jadambaa.
Current champion Martin Nguyen is out injured for the foreseeable future, and an interim title fight is an idea not without merit. Amercian grappling sensation Garry Tonon continued his undefeated start to his mixed martial arts career when he submitted Sung Jong Lee in the second round.
ONE now take the show on the road and travel to Indonesia next week, with ONE: Warrior’s Dream scheduled to take place next Friday (local time) in Jakarta.
The event will be headlined by a clash for the vacant welterweight strap between hard-hitting Sweedish striker Zebaztian Kadestam and the undefeated American submission artist Tyler McGuire.
ONE: Heart of the Lion Full Results:
Kevin Belingon def. Bibiano Fernandes via split decision to become unified ONE Bantamweight World Champion
Christian Lee def. Kazuki Tokudome via first-round TK
Giorgio Petrosyan def. Sorgraw Petchyindee Academy via unanimous decision (ONE Super Series Kickboxing)
Tiffany Teo def. Michelle Nicolini via unanimous decision
Adrian Pang def. Kota Shimoishi via first-round TKO (doctor’s stoppage)
Jo Nattawut def. George Mann via unanimous decision
Alaverdi Ramazanov def. Andrew Miller via first-round KO
Garry Tonon def. Sung Jong Lee via second-round submission
Dejdamrong Sor Amnuaysirichoke def. Himanshu Kaushik via second-round submission
Muangthai P.K.Saenchaimuaythaigym def. Panicos Yusuf via unanimous decision
Shuya Kamikubo def. Muhammad Aiman via unanimous decision
Xie Bin def. Hisyam Samsudin via first-round submission
Anthony Engelen defeated Meas Meul via first-round KO