Filipino star Kevin Belingon hailed as ONE Championship’s 2018 Warrior of the Year

Santino Honasan on Dec 24, 2018 02:47 PM
Kevin Belingon hailed as ONE's 2018 Warrior of the Year
Filipino star Kevin Belingon shined as ONE Championship's brightest star in 2018

2018 has been nothing but spectacular for Philippine-based mixed martial arts stable Team Lakay.

The humble gym located in the La Trinidad, Benguet has, in 2018 alone, produced four world champions under the ONE Championship banner.

Veteran Geje “Gravity” Eustaquio became the undisputed ONE Flyweight World Champion in Macau, China back in June, while young star Joshua “The Passion” Pacio captured the ONE Strawweight World Championship in Jakarta, Indonesia back in September.

Arguably the biggest star in Philippine mixed martial arts today, Eduard “Landslide” Folayang, became a two-time ONE Lightweight World Champion after dominating Amir Khan in Manila,  Philippines back in early-December.

Rounding out the four world champions from Team Lakay is none other than Kevin “The Silencer” Belingon, who completed a long road to the ONE Bantamweight World Championship.

While Eustaquio, Pacio, and Folayang all had impressive runs in 2018, Belingon’s year was arguably the most dominant.

Already riding an impressive four-fight winning streak dating back to 2016, Belingon kicked 2018 off with a dominant performance over former world championship contender Andrew Leone, obliterating the American wrestler with a spinning back-kick heard ‘round the world.

Many believed that Belingon had already earned another crack at the world championship, then held by Brazilian submission ace Bibiano Fernandes.

Fernandes however, was still injured at the time and had no timetable for a return.

Belingon instead drew Vietnamese-Australian two-division world champion Martin Nguyen - who was hunting for a third world title in as many divisions - for the ONE Interim Bantamweight World Championship.

In July at the Mall of Asia Arena in Manila, Belingon and Nguyen squared off in an exciting five-round war and in the end, it was the faster Pinoy star who earned the unanimous decision nod.

The win finally secured Belingon a rematch with Fernandes and a shot at the ONE Bantamweight World Championship.

While Belingon has improved exponentially since their first encounter back in 2016, the Team Lakay star was considered an underdog.

Fernandes, after all, had not tasted defeat since 2010, and was riding a five year reign as the ONE bantamweight king.

Many have tried and all have failed to dethrone “The Flash” from his place atop the bantamweight division, Belingon included.

At ONE: Heart of the Lion in Singapore however, Belingon made sure that history would not repeat itself.

Banking on superior striking and a much-improved grappling skillset, Belingon survived multiple submission attempts and dictated the pace in the standup department for much of the five-round affair.

In the end, Belingon earned the split decision nod, and had accomplished what no one else has in ONE Championship, and that’s defeat Fernandes.

It was Belingon’s stellar 2018 campaign that earned him the nod for ONE Championship’s 2018 Warrior of the Year, beating out the likes of reigning ONE Middleweight and Light Heavyweight World Champion “The Burmese Python” Aung La N Sang of Myanmar, reigning ONE Women’s Strawweight World Champion “The Panda” Xiong Jing Nan, former ONE Lightweight World Champion Shinya “Tobikan Judan” Aoki, and Team Lakay stablemate and reigning ONE Lightweight World Champion Eduard Folayang.

Of the four ONE world champions from Team Lakay, only Belingon has yet to be scheduled for a title defense, with all three of his brothers set to put their titles up for grabs in 2019.

The smart money would be on a trilogy match with Fernandes for the title in 2019.

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