The odds are against Kevin Belingon at ONE: Reign of Kings this Friday. The Filipino is fighting a much bigger and much more successful opponent at the MOA Arena.
Belingon has won plenty of fights for ONE Championship, nine to date. But he is 0-1 in title fights for the promotion, although that quest for an elusive belt could reach a conclusion of sorts in Manila this week.
That’s because the interim bantamweight title is on the line, but standing opposite Belingon is Martin Nguyen. The Australian has already won two ONE Championship titles and is 3-1 in championship bouts for the promotion, with the sole loss a razor-thin split decision.
Nguyen has several other factors in his favor. He fought at lightweight as recently as 2017, knocking out Belingon’s Team Lakay training partner Eduard Folayang, and is bigger and taller than the Filipino.
However, Belingon feels he has one major advantage.
“I have a different fighting style compared to Eduard. For starters, I rely on my speed much more. I believe it is one of my greatest assets as a martial artist.”
Folayang found himself on the receiving end of one of Nguyen’s famous right hands. He was knocked out cold in the MOA Arena, a defeat that was devastating not just for his team, but for the entire MMA community in the Philippines.
It’s not a fight which Belingon will forget in a hurry and he is determined not to repeat Folayang’s mistake.
“It was tough to watch. That one hit the team very hard. Now, I have the chance to erase that memory. I am doing everything I can so that victory can once again be ours.”
Folayang attempted to land a spinning back kick against Nguyen, but spun straight into his opponent’s right hand. For Belingon, this is a particularly dangerous fight because, giving away so much in height and reach, he will need to be explosive with his movement.
Launching yourself towards Nguyen at speed is like stepping into the lion’s den. He only needs to connect cleanly once and the fight will be over, something that Belingon needs no reminding of.
“Martin is no doubt a very powerful puncher and anybody who gets caught with one of his right hands is surely going down. I know I am not invincible, but with a sound game plan that me and the team have come up with, hopefully we can avoid getting hit by those powerful right hands.”
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Nguyen also holds a win over Edward Kelly who has been training with Team Lakay in the latter part of his career. Having two wins over Belingon’s training partners might be a psychological boost for the two division champion but the Filipino feels it could work in his favour,
‘Both Edward and Eduard have shared many of their observations with me, and I am grateful. This fight is going to come down to execution. I have to stick to the plan that me and my coach have come up with. Martin is a very intelligent fighter, and it will be a tough match-up for sure.’
The interim bantamweight title is on the line. But for Belingon beating arguably the promotions top fighter would mean just as much as winning the belt,
“If I can beat Martin, then I have beaten a two-division world champion. That would be an amazing accomplishment.”
Belingon won’t be the favorite. The list of opponent’s Nguyen has beaten and the gulf in physical stature between the men accounts for that. But the 30-year-old does have one advantage and he intends to exploit it.
“His wrestling is very strong, and so is his boxing. He is aggressive, and he punches with power. There is no underestimating this guy. But I think his biggest weakness is his speed, especially in this fight. He is not faster than me. I think this will come down to who gets there first.”