ONE FC 5 concluded Friday night in Manila, Philippines, delivering top notch action and a fun night of fights. BloodyElbow.com was on deck at the Araneta Coliseum and here are some immediate thoughts and tidbits from the venue that may or may not have reached their online broadcast:
- Eric Kelly and Jens Pulver put on a show, and while it wasn’t announced publicly, it took Fight of the Night honors. As a fan of both guys, it was the type of bout which I didn’t want to see either guy lose, but luckily both men delivered on fight night. The former UFC champ brought it to the younger Kelly in the first, dropping him and even getting close to a north-south choke at one point.
- Pulver looked like he did his homework and came prepared, trying to counter Kelly’s tendencies to throw mostly single power strikes. Following the fight, I asked Kelly if he felt the same way, and the Filipino fighter told me after the first round, he really felt that Jens knew the shots he usually loves to throw. This included his favorite front kick which Pulver routinely blocked by closing his guard and letting the kick land at the elbow. He said he had to adjust his game plan on the second, and only then was able to land some power shots, which eventually led to the liver kick which stopped Pulver.
- Kelly, who has never been dropped even in the other sports he competed at like boxing, Muay Thai, and Wushu, said Jens was definitely the hardest puncher he has ever faced.
- Following the fight, it was announced that they’re planning on putting Eric Kelly on a featherweight title fight against Honorio Banario, who also impressed on ONE FC 5 the undercard. Back in the hotel, Kelly told me he’d fight anyone, but honestly prefers to test his skills against Tatsuya Kawajiri for the belt instead of having to face a close friend and former training partner in Banario. Either way, if the fight pushes through, it’s going to be a very quick turn around for them as the next event is in 5 weeks.
- It was also announced that Jens Pulver will be dropping back down to bantamweight, and possibly joining a planned ONE FC Bantamweight GP.
- I told everyone that would listen that Bibiano Fernandes vs. Gustavo Falciroli would be much closer than people thought it would be. Fernandes was very explosive, and for the most part, that won him most of the earlier exchanges on the ground. Falricoli then started landing very well standing with nice kicks and very good elbows as the fight went on. Ultimately it wasn’t enough to earn him the decision, but it was a very fun and very competitive fight.
- I don’t think it was heard on the broadcast, but one of the more interesting things that happened on the fight was Gustavo Falciroli complaining to the referee that Bibiano Fernandes was biting him. A few minutes later, Fernandes complained about the same exact thing.
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- A lot of the more casual audience didn’t understand or enjoy it, but to me, it was very entertaining to see 2 very high-level BJJ guys go at it on the ground. All those transitions and sweeps were very fun to watch.
- Eduard Folayang won an entertaining decision against the gritty Swiss-Japanese fighter in Felipe Enomoto. Much like the Eric Kelly fight, the crowd was on their feet for the most of the bout, and it was deafening every time either Filipinos landed with big power shots.
- Following the fight, it was announced that they’re planning on putting Folayang vs. Zorobabel Moreira for the inaugural LW championship at ONE FC 6. Again, it might also be very tough for Folayang (and Kelly) to have a fight in 5 weeks after having a very tough fight a night before. It’s a good match up, but honestly, I would’ve preferred seeing Ole Laursen take on the Evolve MMA product for the belt. That fight also removes the problem of having Folayang fight again so soon after just having a long training camp and a tough fight.
- Jung Hwan Cha impressed by defeating Igor Gracie, and even having him on a crucifix twice during the fight. Even more interesting though, is him walking out to the massively popular ‘Gangnam Style’ song. To the delight of everyone in the crowd, the Korean ring girls suddenly started dancing to it, with a Road FC cornerman even joining in during the chorus.
- Kevin Belingon landed a few spectacular Wushu kicks and other well timed strikes standing up, but unfortunately for him, Soo Chul Kim didn’t even want to bother striking with him, and just decided to control him on the ground. He wasn’t able to do much damage, but hey, a win is a win and Kim was able to get the nod from the judges. That was my early pick for FOTN, as I never imagined either guy could be on a fight that wasn’t entertaining, but sadly, I was mistaken.
- Belingon is still very young, and he has a bright future ahead of him. He has lots of time to improve, and while he already has very good strikes, the team really needs to improve on their wrestling and BJJ. They also need to learn how to use the fence better by posting up, and getting back up to their feet.
- I know the rules are somewhat confusing, but that Tim Sylvia vs. Andrei Arlovski bout should’ve been a DQ, not a no-contest. Much like the Jon Jones vs. Matt Hamill fight, the strike was deemed illegal, and since the fighter couldn’t continue after it, the fight should’ve been stopped and ruled as a Disqualification.
- URCC Champion Nicholas Mann took a huge step up in competition against Gregor Gracie. He looked to be having the better of the fight standing up, until he decided to stay at an ill-advised clinch with the BJJ Champion. Gracie got a trip takedown from the position, and it eventually led to a very slick and Judo-Chop worthy armbar finish. I’m really looking forward to seeing more of these two guys on future ONE FC events.
- Rolles Gracie was clearly much better than the undersized Tony Bonello, but the fight was still very underwhelming as Rolles didn’t do much or attempt much submission even when he had mount and other dominant positions.
- Phil Baroni shined in the prelims. I’ve already written about that so check out his barrage of soccer kicks and punches here. Speaking of the NYBA, that post-fight celebration with him carrying the ring girl out was pretty funny and got a very good reception from the crowd.
- The only thing I can criticize is the rule set and officiating. There have only been two events which had soccer kicks so it’s forgivable, but they really need to make it clear and consistent with their calls and decisions on Open-Attack. Another idea that people have brought up is to just scrap that all together and either have full on soccer kicks, or none at all. Either way, I just want the rules and implementation of it to be consistent.
- Overall the production looked good and the live experience of the ONE FC event gets better and better with each show, which is a huge compliment since those two have been their strong points. They’re still starting, so they still have a few minor bits to change, but it’s good to see improvements with each iteration. Less than a year since their first event, and it’s very interesting to see where they’ve reached, and how far they can go.
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