Eduard Folayang pulled off possibly the greatest upset in the history of Asian MMA, defeating Shinya Aoki and winning the ONE Championship lightweight title in Singapore on Friday. The Filipino fan favorite stopped the champion early in the third round.
The lightweight title fight headlined ONE: Defending Honor at the Singapore Indoor Stadium. Things got off to a bad start for Folayang, who was taken down in the opening round. He spent the first five minutes in defensive mode, but despite enjoying positional dominance, Aoki never really threatened with submission attempts.
In the second stanza, Folayang started to take more risks and narrowly missed with a head kick followed by a spinning backfist. Aoki still looked in control, but the Filipino began to pick up the pace towards the end of the round, targeting his opponent’s midsection with punches and a side kick.
At the start of round three, Aoki shot for an immediate double-leg takedown, but Folayang countered with a knee that stunned the Japanese submission specialist. Once he realized his opponent was hurt, the Filipino launched an incessant onslaught of punches.
None of the shots seemed particularly damaging, but Aoki was trapped against the cage and making no effort to escape or retaliate. With Folayang attacking relentlessly, referee Yuji Shimada decided he’d seen enough and stepped in to save his opponent from further punishment.
Aoki stormed out of the cage, while Folayang was left to celebrate an achievement that few outside the Philippines had expected him to ever reach. He was a huge underdog with the bookmakers, but overcame the odds to snap the nine-fight, four-year winning streak of the former champion.
Folayang dedicated the win to his Team Lakay coaches and training partners and wrapped the belt around the waist of the camp’s founder, Mark Sangiao. His record improves to 17-5, while Aoki drops to 39-7-0-1 after suffering his first defeat since 2012, when Eddie Alvarez stopped him in a rematch.
The co-main event finished in much more predictable fashion. Marat Gafurov won by rear-naked choke for the sixth time in a row and finished Narantungalag Jadambaa for the second time to successfully defend his ONE Championship featherweight title.
Jadambaa looked threatening in the early exchanges, narrowly missing with a couple of big right hands. The tide turned when Gafurov timed a kick to sweep out the standing leg of the Mongolian, putting him on the ground and quickly taking his back.
From there, Gafurov started to work for one of his trademark rear-naked chokes, sinking in a body lock and looking to slip his forearm under Jadambaa’s chin. The 40-year-old needed all his experience to escape, but the Russian simply moved from side control into mount and started to score with downward elbows.
With less than a minute left until the bell, Jadambaa gave up his back in order to escape the onslaught, but this time there would be no escaping the submission, as the champion put him to sleep with a rear-naked choke. There was no tap, but the referee called off the contest with nine seconds remaining in the round when he realized the Mongolian was out.
Gafurov improved to 15-0 with the win and afterwards announced he would be interested in moving up in weight to face Aoki. Those plans are presumably on hold now, but there are plenty of interesting fights for him at lightweight. Jadambaa drops to 12-5.
Two of the biggest names in the lightweight division were in action earlier in the night. Roger Huerta looked refreshed and revitalized after a couple of disappointing defeats. He and Adrian Pang stayed in the pocked and exchanged strikes throughout an entertaining first round.
At the start of the second stanza, Huerta took Pang down and kept him there for the remainder of the round. The Australian knew he was behind going into the third and started to come forward and throw heavy leather, while Huerta’s output dropped dramatically.
It gave the judges something to think about and one of them felt Pang’s efforts in the last five minutes had been enough to win the fight, but the other two voted in favor of Huerta. The Bellator and UFC veteran moves up to 23-9-1-1, while Pang drops to 22-10-2.
ONE: Defending Honor Official Results:
- Eduard Folayang defeats Shinya Aoki by TKO (Strikes) at 0:41 minutes of round 3
- Marat Gafurov defeats Narantungalag Jadambaa by Submission (Rear Naked Choke) at 4:50 minutes of round 1
- Amir Khan defeats Vaughn Donayre by Submission (Rear Naked Choke) at 2:22 minutes of round 3
- Michelle Nicolini defeats Mona Samir by Submission (Rear Naked Choke) at 2:16 minutes of round 1
- Roger Huerta defeats Adrian Pang by Split Decision (SD) after 3 rounds
- Kotetsu Boku defeats Timofey Nastyukhin by TKO (Injury) at 5:00 minutes of round 1
- Tiffany Teo defeats Walaa Abbas by Submission (Rear Naked Choke) at 4:15 minutes of round 2
- Ahmed Mujtaba defeats Benedict Ang by Unanimous Decision (UD) after 3 rounds
- Niko Soe defeats Muhamad Haidar by Submission (Armbar) at 1:17 minutes of round 1
(Follow @JamesGoyder on Twitter | Photos courtesy of ONE Championship)