On Saturday, February 2, 2013, Honorio “The Rock” Banario (7-1) will try to become the first-ever One FC featherweight champion against a fellow gifted Filipino fighter, Erick “The Natural” Kelly (9-0) at the highly-anticipated One FC 7 ‘Return of Warriors’ in Malaysia.
Banario trains at Team Lakay in Baguio City, Philippines alongside Eduard “Landslide” Folayang, Kevin “Silencer” Belingon, Geje “Gravity” Eustaquio, Rey “The Punisher” Docyogen, and some of the most talented MMA fighters in the Philippines under the tutelage of Mark “The Machine” Sangiao.
The 23-year-old Banario has a Bachelor’s Degree in Criminology and just like most of his teammates; he has never been involved in a street fight. He has two younger brothers who are also making their names in the fight business – Dario Banario, who has a 2-0 record as a pro is set to fight Joseph Mercado on February 16th at PXC 35. Their youngest brother, Harold Banario, also holds a 2-0 pro MMA record and expected to make his appearance in one of the biggest MMA promotions in the Philippines in the near future.
“The Rock”, before transitioning to MMA, is a well-accomplished Wushu Sanshou fighter. He has some local and national Wushu titles that made him as one of the most admired Sanshou fighters in the Philippines.
Banario made his pro MMA debut at URCC Baguio 2 ‘Tribal Wars’ on February of 2010 against a fellow striker in Romel Del-is. Banario made a quick work of Del-is as he submitted the much experienced fighter in just 2 minutes of the first round. Since then, Banario went on a tear winning five straight fights via impressive wins, including his RNC win over a well-respected fighter, Angelito “The Saint” Manguray, at URCC 19 where he became the youngest URCC lightweight champion at the age of 22.
In February of 2011, a year after he made his first-ever pro MMA fight, Banario made his first fight outside the Philippines against a very adept fighter in Bae Young Kwon. At the time, Kwon was considered as the no. 2 featherweight fighter in whole of South Korea, next to UFC featherweight fighter, “The Korean Zombie” Chan Sung Jung. It was Banario’s first fight as a featherweight and he accepted the fight on a short notice when Kwon’s original opponent, Eric Kelly, was not able to fight due to personal issues. He said that he made the cut from 155 lbs. to 145 lbs. in just a couple of weeks before fight night.
Banario admitted that he got very confident during the fight because he knew that he can beat Kwon in the striking department. But the tricky South Korean wasted no time and took the fight to the ground and showcased his grappling prowess against the Filipino Banario. Kwon defeated Banario in just 56 seconds of the first round via RNC.
It was a tough loss for Banario, but the most important thing is that he learned from it and doubled his time trying to improve his overall game as a mixed martial artist.
After 6 months since his loss to Kwon, Banario faced Andrew Benibe at One FC 5 ‘Pride of a Nation’ in the Philippines. We saw a much-improved game of Banario as he demolished Benibe from the first round until the 3:47 mark of the third round, where Benibe fell to the canvas after he absorbed a kick to the body which gave Banario the opportunity to finish the fight via TKO.
On Saturday, February 2, in Malaysia, Banario is facing a tough competition as he will try to beat a fellow talented fighter in Eric Kelly, who has been recognized by many as the best featherweight prospect in Asia.
It is indeed a tough task to beat the man who has previously defeated the former UFC lightweight champion, Jens Pulver. But Banario, as always, doesn’t pay attention to his opponent’s record; all he cares about is to beat him and become the One FC featherweight champion.
I think power-wise, Banario is has a lead over Kelly, but in the grappling department, there is no doubt that “The Natural” has the advantage against him.
I cannot wait to see these two warriors scrap. I’m predicting a very technical fight between Banario and Kelly because they very much know each other’s game as they trained and sparred together a couple of times in the past.
One FC 7 ‘Return of Warriors’ will also feature a flyweight contender match between Banario’s team mate, Rey “The Punisher” Docyogen and Shinichi “BJ” Kojima.