On the weekend of February 2, three Pinoy athletes top billed a big sporting event held at Putra Stadium in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Honorio Banario, Eric Kelly and Rey Docyogen fought in the MMA event promoted by the most prestigious organization in Asia, the One Fighting Championship. From my base here in Singapore I traveled to Kuala Lumpur over the weekend and had the privilege to shoot at cage-side. It was an amazing first time experience for me to go to a foreign country, meet our Pinoy athletes as well as other incredible fighters from other nations, and personalities in the Asian MMA scene.
I attended the event, mainly for the photo coverage for mmaorient.net, my blog ritratozilvidu.com and pinoystaronline.com. Being able to witness the weigh-in drama before the actual event night, witnessed some of the interview sessions, shoot behind-the-scene photos, and had brief chat with some of the amazing athletes that were in the event – were all part of an extraordinary weekend that I’ve been waiting for, two months prior.
Me and my sister, who also traveled with me to KL to watch the event, arrived at KL airport in the morning of February 1, a day before the actual fight night. From the airport we took the Skybus to KL Sentral, and from there we took a taxi ride to Mines Wellness Hotel and arrived just in time to catch the weigh-ins of the fighters in the main card.
At the weigh-ins, the two Pinoy fighters who fought in the main event Eric Kelly and Honorio Banario both weighed over the 145lbs (66kgs) upper limit for Featherweight competitors and had to shed those extra pounds on weigh-in day itself. They had to go through rapid weight reduction technique (i.e. dehydration) in-order to make weight.
After sitting in the sauna for a few hours or so, and after a couple of re-weigh-ins, both fighters finally made weight on the day before they stepped into the cage. The weigh-ins itself has its fair share of drama.
The following day, February 2nd, I was very excited at fight night that instead of taking the free shuttle ride packaged by one of One FC’s event partners, I hailed a taxi from my hotel to Putra Stadium. I arrived at the stadium about an hour and a half before the first match took place. There were already a lot of early birds lining up at the entrance waiting for the gates to open, while others were very busy buying MMA merchandise or promo items from the sponsors’ booths outside the venue.
I went inside the Stadium before the organizers opened the gates to the Public. When the gates opened, fans who were able to come in early saw a wedding proposal happen right inside the One FC Cage!
The Show started at 7:00PM all fighters came out from the locker room one-by-one, in a very exciting introduction that is complete with pyrotechnics and confetti. It was immediately followed by the first match which started at about 7:15pm.
I honestly believe that all the matches were exciting, but would like to highlight three from the main-card.
Lowens Tynanes defeated Vuyisile Colossa via Submission
Lowen Tynanes the Hawaiian who has 1/4 of Filipino blood running through his veins, won against a very good striker in South African Vuyisile Colossa. Tynanes’ face was covered with blood after getting hit hard by Vuyisile’s elbow strikes from the bottom. Tynanes was successful with his takedown attempts, and I think it was obvious that he worked on his ground game, as he attempted submission moves each time the fight went to the ground. In the stand-up game however, the advantage goes to the South-African kickboxer who connected on some kicks, elbows and punches. Somehow, Tynanes grinded a win by constantly going back to his wrestling strength, and again on the 3rd round he was able to takedown Colossa. He then showed his MMA skills by winning via rear naked choke. This is my pick for the “Fight-of-the-Night” award.
Shinichi “BJ” Kojima defeated Rey “The Punisher” Docyogen via Submission
The co-main event of the evening was an exciting match and one that I was looking forward to seeing eversince it was officially announced by One FC. The match between undefeated Filipino and URCC (Universal Reality Combat Championship, Filipino MMA Organization) flyweight champion Rey Docyogen against MMA veteran and former SHOOTO (Japanese MMA organization) champion Shinichi “BJ” Kojima. It was a match that would determine the contender for the One FC Flyweight Belt.
The Filipino was winning the stand-up battle for the most part of the fight, and was able to tag the Japanese with good punches and kicks. Rey Docyogen capitalized on his strength in the striking department, and was doing well in the first and a half part of the fight. With only a few seconds left in the 2nd round however, the veteran savvy of Shinichi Kojima won the fight for him as he finished the fight via grappling technique, he pulled off a guillotine choke from the clinch and pulled guard to win via submission. It was the first loss in the Pinoy fighter’s MMA career.
For me as a Pinoy MMA fan, it should prove to be a very good learning experience for Docyogen, fighting BJ Kojima who is regarded as arguably, one of the top flyweight prospects in the world. Rey gave his opponent all he could handle before eventually losing the fight. In fact, on the day after the fight, I bumped into BJ Kojima at the Kuala Lumpur airport. I congratulated him for his win and I noticed his left eye was still swelling from the strikes he received from Docyogen.
Honorio Banario defeated Eric Kelly via TKO
In the main event of the evening, the All-Filipino battle between two warriors Eric Kelly and Honorio Banario started as a feeling out process in the first round. Both fighters gauged each other early and paced themselves for their Five, 5-minute round fight. In my “unofficial score-card” I had my compatriot from Mankayan, Benguet, Honorio Banario winning the first 3 rounds. As they went back and forth in the striking battle, Kelly’s highlights strikes were a solid overhand right that connected, a few front kicks and liver kicks. As for Honorio, he dictated the pace, and was the first to initiate the action for the most part. He connected with leg kicks and scored on a takedown and ground and pound as he briefly mounted Kelly’s back. The fight ended in the Fourth round when Honorio landed a big left hook that immediately opened up a cut on Eric Kelly’s right eye. Kelly was staggered and slowly went down to the mat with both eyes closed , his hand signalling a stop. Referee Yuji Shimada stepped in to stop the fight and award the inaugural One Fighting Championship Featherweight belt to Team Lakay’s Honorio “The Rock” Banario.
All-in-all, I am glad that I made this trip to Kuala Lumpur. I am very proud of the performances of my compatriots from the Philippines. They performed well in front of a foreign audience. Read their stories, heard about their personal struggles, the sacrifices they had to make in order to get to this point in their careers and being recognized as the regions best. I have nothing but RESPECT to to these fighters. I respect all fighters regardless of their nationality. I’m pretty sure that each one of them have their own inspiring stories to tell, interesting stories that go beyond their tough guy, warrior image and celebrity status.
As for our Pinoy Fighters, I believe that they’re making a case for more recognition from our kababayan in the Philippines and abroad. These fighters are always proud to raise our flag, no matter where they go and no matter what the odds are. As I was shooting photos at cageside, I felt a sense of pride each time I heard some random cheers from Filipinos in the crowd, cheering for Rey, Honorio and Eric.
To the newly crowned Featherweight Champion Honorio Banario, had he not pushed himself to his mental and physical limits in order to make weight, there shouldn’t have been a title fight and nobody would be celebrating a Filipino crowned champion in One FC today. As for Eric Kelly, his stories can be found in almost every Asian MMA publication, and followers of Asian MMA now know he has sacrificed a lot to come this close to becoming a world Champion. He has found a “second home” and have very supportive training partners, gym mates and students at Muayfit gym in Malaysia which means he has everything he needs to come back strong and make another run for the title. There is no shame in gettting the first career loss to a worthy opponent. As cliche as it may sound, character is not measured by how one handles success, but instead, it is measured by how one handles failure. Honorio is a case in point, he has tasted defeat in the past, and look where he is right now.
The same is true for Rey Docyogen, there is no shame in losing to a world class athlete like BJ Kojima. Everytime a fighter from Japan is in the cage, it’s almost a guarantee that we’ll be seeing great action. I enjoyed this fight between Rey and BJ, both are awesome fighters. I am particularly proud that Docyogen showed he can hang and bang with one of the world’s best flyweights, I hope to see him come back stronger and learn from this set-back.
The best thing to remember now is that, winning isn’t always a victory, and losing isn’t always a defeat. While I am proud of our new champion Honorio Banario, I am still very proud and still believe in Rey Docyogen and Eric Kelly. MABUHAY!
Other Fight Results at One FC Return of Warriors:
Adam Shahir Kayoom def. Zuli Silawanto via Submission (RNC)
Peter Davis def. Leo Krishna via Doctor’s Stoppage
Thanh Vu def. Mohd Fouzein via TKO (Strikes)
Melvin Yeoh def. Raymond Tiew via Submission (triangle choke)
Jian Kai Chee def. Aj Pyro via Unanimous Decision
Jake Butler def. Antoni Romulo via TKO (Strikes)
Gianni Subba def. Saiful Merican via Submission (Armbar)