Stories that shaped MMA in 2017
2017 saw the rise and fall of Eduard 'The Landslide' Folayang (FILE PHOTO)
Take a look back at some of the stories and personalities that shaped MMA in 2017!
Back to the Drawing Board for Team Lakay
Following a massive 2016, Filipino mixed martial arts was riding high as Benguet-based stable Team Lakay looked to carry into 2017 the momentum they had from the previous year.
Unfortunately, the year became a mixed bag of big wins and painful losses, which included a stinging four-fight slide to end the year.
The biggest loss for Team Lakay however, was now-former ONE lightweight king Eduard Folayang’s stunning KO defeat to new two-division champion Martin Ngyuen.
It’s back to the drawing board for the Philippines’ premiere MMA stable as they look to bounce back in 2018.
The Rise and Fall of The Landslide
Following his knockout win over MMA legend Shinya Aoki in 2016, Eduard ‘The Landslide’ Folayang was on top of the world. He had become the face of Filipino mixed martial arts.
Folayang rode his Landslide-esque (see what I did there?) momentum into a successful first title defense in front of a partisan Pinoy crowd at the Mall of Asia Arena in Manila against Ev Ting in April, which became the most-watched MMA event in Philippine history.
Unfortunately, the fairy tale would come crashing down just seven months later, as Folayang’s title reign was ended by a right hand from Martin Nguyen, also in Manila.
While indeed a setback for the Team Lakay star, it’s times like these that have propelled Folayang to the heights he reached back in 2016.
2018 could once again be a big year for ‘The Landslide’.
Putting the PH on the Map
ONE Championship wasn’t the only promotion that saw the emergence of Filipinos in the MMA world in 2017.
Homegrown Pinoy talents such as former PXC stars Jenel Lausa and Rolando Dy, as well as former URCC champion CJ De Tomas all saw action inside the UFC Octagon.
Over in the Middle East, Team Lakay products also left their marks as Jeremy Pacatiw and Stephen Loman both shine in the up-and-coming Brave Combat Federation promotion, with Loman becoming their first ever bantamweight world champion.
With a ton of talent and a massive following, MMA is no doubt blowing up in the Philippines.
What’s The Situ-Asian?
Making definitely the biggest impact in ONE Championship in 2017 was Martin Nguyen.
The Vietnamese-Australian shocked the world not just once, but twice in 2017, as he dethroned former long-time ONE featherweight king Marat Gafurov.
Weeks later, Nguyen sent the Mall of Asia Arena in Manila into a stunned silence after knocking out hometown hero and then reigning ONE lightweight world champion Eduard Folayang to become ONE’s first and only two-division world champion.
In 2018, Nguyen has a chance to shock the world once again, as he challenges ONE’s most dominant titleholder, bantamweight ruler Bibiano Fernandes, in an attempt to make even more history by becoming a three-division world champion.
(AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
Save for the heavyweight, welterweight, lightweight, and women’s bantamweight titles, the UFC saw a changing of the guard in their ranks, which included some new blood as well as some established greats.
Obviously, it was the middleweight strap that made the most buzz when it changed hands. After four years off, former welterweight king Georges St-Pierre came back and dethroned Michael Bisping for the UFC middleweight world championship. 33 days later, St-Pierre vacated the title after being diagnosed with colitis, making interim champ Robert Whitaker the new undisputed UFC middleweight king.
Speaking of comebacks, former light heavyweight great Jon Jones also made a highly-publicised and highly-emotional comeback, as the once again stopped bitter rival Daniel Cormier to regain the UFC light heavyweight world championship following a tumultuous couple of years in and out of the Octagon. The controversy wouldn’t stop there however, as Jones would once again test positive for banned substances and be subsequently stripped of the title, again. Cormier was promoted as the champion and will be defending it against up-and-coming Volkan Oezdemir in January 2018.
Max Holloway and Rose Namajunas also managed to shock the world after dethroning dominant champions in former featherweight king Jose Aldo and former women’s strawweight queen Joanna Jedrzejczyk.
The Absence of Conor McGregor
(AP Photo/Julio Cortez, File)
In 2015 and 2016, Conor McGregor was no doubt the biggest name in combat sports.
The brash Irishman took the UFC by storm, rose up the featherweight ranks and smashed long-time champion Jose Aldo in just 13 seconds. He followed that up with a blockbuster couple of matches with Nate Diaz at welterweight.
He capped 2016 off by destroying Eddie Alvarez to become the UFC’s third two-division world champion, and the only man to hold two UFC belts simultaneously.
And then, in 2017, he was everywhere, except the UFC.
The only time McGregor fought in 2017 was against Floyd Mayweather Jr. in what was the biggest story in boxing of 2017.
Still, McGregor was arguably the most wanted man in combat sports, having been called out by boxers and UFC lightweight contenders, who are still waiting to see when McGregor will defend his title.