ONE FC 5: Official Preview and Predictions
By Tom Taylor
While the UFC has cornered the global MMA market, another organization, ONE FC, aims to assert itself as top dog in Asia. So far, the blossoming promotion has been quite successful.
Their fifth card, entitled “Pride of a Nation,” goes down on August 31, from Manila, Philippines; the site made famous by Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier’s legendary bout, “The Thrilla in Manila.”
When ONE FC makes its trip to Manila it will bring a card peppered with big names, UFC veterans, and exciting young prospects. In the main event, the bantamweight champion of the now defunct organization DREAM, will test his mettle against Brazilian-Australian Gustavo Falciroli.
The card will also boast an appealing matchup between exciting prospects Eduard Folayang and Felipe Enomoto—both of whom will be looking to rebound from losses and stay relevant in the ever-competitive lightweight division.
Next, featherweight prospect Eric Kelly will face his toughest test to date as he clashes with former UFC Lightweight Champion Jens Pulver. And finally, Pride of a Nation will also include a heavyweight scrap between former UFC champions Andrei Arlovski and Tim Sylvia in a bout that will mark the fourth time the pair have fought.
Indeed, ONE FC has put together a card that promises to be extremely entertaining. When Pride of a Nation brings combat sports back to Manila, here is what we might expect from the event’s main card:
Bibiano “The Flash” Fernandes (11-3) vs. Gustavo Falciroli (12-3-2)
When Japan’s premier MMA organization, DREAM, collapsed earlier this year, the biggest question that ensued was where lightweight champion Shinya Aoki and bantamweight champion Bibiano Fernandes would go. While it initially appeared that Fernandes had been scooped up by the UFC, both fighters ended up with ONE FC.
When Fernandes makes his debut with ONE FC, he will face the stark challenge of Falciroli’s jiu jitsu chops. Falciroli carries a two-fight win-streak into the fight, and will be eager to tack on a third. This will not be an easy task against the highly regarded Ferandes, however, despite the size advantage Falciroli holds.
Fernandes, who is also a jiu jitsu fighter, showcased his hands in his most recent outing, as he smashed Antonio Banuelos in December of 2011 to secure a first round TKO victory. It would not be surprising to see a second showing of Fernandes’s striking at Pride of a Nation. Expect both men to come out firing on all cylinders at a pace characteristic only of bantamweights. Falciroli’s plan, most likely, will be to drag the fight to the mat.
With seven submissions among his twelve career wins, it is clear where the Brazilian-Australian is most comfortable. Against Fernandes, who is also a jiu jitsu whiz, however, Falciroli’s takedowns will not come easily.
Look for Fernandes to punish Falciroli with knees and uppercuts each time a takedown fails. Falciroli might be content to fire back, but Fernandes will win the majority of exchanges. Eventually, the fight should hit the mat, but the grappling skills of both men could well result in a stalemate.
What a stalemate it will be, however, as the pair will hopefully scramble at breakneck speed, chasing each other’s limbs and necks. Neither man has lost by submission before though, so don’t expect this fight to be the first time either does.
In the end, this bout will come down to striking exchanges—most of which should be claimed by Fernandes. Still, Falciroli has never been finished in his 17 career outings, and his record as a durable fighter will remain intact as Fernandes outworks him throughout the fight, but fails to seal the deal.
The Pick: Bibiano Fernandes makes a successful debut as part of the ONE FC roster, and steals a unanimous decision.
Eduard “Landslide” Folayang (11-2) vs. Felipe Enomoto (6-4, 1 NC)
Pride of a Nation will also mark the return of Eduard Folayang, who most recently lost an extremely controversial split decision to Ole Laursen. Folayang will have the advantage of being the hometown hero as he looks to bounce back from the Laursen loss, and takes on the Swiss-Japanese fighter Felipe Enomoto.
Enomoto will also look to wash the taste of a recent loss out of his mouth at Pride of a Nation, having been arm-barred by the surging Zorobabel Moreira in his last fight. A second consecutive loss would be detrimental to the career of either man here, so we can expect an air of desperation from the moment the bell sounds at the beginning of this lightweight fight.
While he did come out on the losing end of his battle with Laursen, Folayang proved a lot about himself even in defeat. An undeniably talented prospect, expect Folayang to start throwing leather early on, hopeful to add a sixth knockout win to his resume.
It would not be surprising to see Folayang ring his opponent’s bell early as he hunts for the finish. Enomoto has yet to be knocked out during his eleven-fight career, but Folayang will look to change this as he presses forward, throwing every strike in his arsenal at Enomoto’s chin. A barrage of Folayang kicks and punches, possibly punctuated by brief attacks from the clinch, will make it difficult for Enomoto to mount any offense of his own or execute his own game plan.
Still, expect the game Enomoto, who is a six-year veteran of MMA, to survive the onslaught and return to his corner at the round’s end.
Round two, however, could look largely similar, as a focused Folayang charges forward like a locomotive, eager to perform in front of his countrymen. Finally, his assault will begin to take its toll on Enomoto, and with cardio to boot, Folayang will not let up when he sees his opponent struggling. Eventually, a kick or well-time punched will find its mark, sending Enomoto to the mat, where Folayang will quickly finish the job.
The Pick: Eduard Folayang wins by second-round knockout to the jubilation of Filipino fans.
Eric “The Natural” Kelly (7-0) vs. Jens “Little Evil” Pulver (26-16-1)
ONE FC’s fifth card will also mark the return of former UFC champ Jens Pulver. Pulver, who was once a force in the UFC has since fallen on hard times. Even a migration to UFC subsidiary, the WEC, and from there, more minor shows, could not right Pulver’s ship—he has seen ten losses in his last fifteen endeavors.
At Pride of a Nation, Pulver will be thirsty for a much needed win. Standing across the cage from him, however, will be exciting prospect and local favorite Eric Kelly, who will not be willing to give up any ground. With an unblemished 7-0 record, Kelly will be as eager to keep his record perfect as Pulver is to keep his career alive—young lion versus old lion.
Without a doubt, youth and exuberance will provide an advantage to the corner of Kelly. ONE FC president Victor Cui often speaks highly of the blossoming career of Kelly, and may have created this matchup with the hopes of padding Kelly’s resume with a big name win. Despite his recent struggles, however, Pulver is a 15-year veteran of MMA. He also holds over half of his 26 career wins by knockout. He will not make this an easy fight for Kelly.
Expect the fight to commence with a confident Kelly pushing the pace against a measured Pulver. There is no doubt that Pulver holds the edge in the power department, but it will probably be Kelly who is the more aggressive striker early on.
Following a few combinations from Kelly, expect him to attempt to drag Pulver to the mat. Pulver has never been especially resilient to submissions, and with six of Kelly’s seven wins coming by way of submission, Kelly will look to turn this fight into a grappling match quickly.
Once Kelly is successful in a takedown attempt, look for him to gun for the finish. Mount will be his goal, and following a scramble or two he should be able to secure the position. From there, Kelly will mount an unrelenting offense until he finds Pulver’s neck or arm.
The Pick: Kelly wins by first round submission, and keeps his perfect record.
Andrei Arlovski “The Pitbull” (17-9) Arlovski vs. Tim “The Maine-iac” Sylvia (31-7-0)
It is not often that a pair of fighters meets four times, but at Pride of a Nation, Tim Sylvia and Andrei Arlovski will collide for an unprecedented fourth time. Of their first three bouts, all of which occurred in the UFC, two belong to Sylvia and one to Arlovski.
Their fourth will occur under the ONE FC banner, and in many ways, it is more interesting than their previous fights. Simply put, both men have fallen on hard times.
Both left the UFC to see only moderate success in other promotions, and debate about the legitimacy of either man’s career is common at this stage. Arlovski has won his last two fights, and Sylvia is 7-1 in his last eight, but still, neither man has beaten an elite opponent in recent memory. Because of this, their fourth meeting is a must-win for both competitors. The winner stays relevant for another day, and the loser will take another step down the ladder.
In advance of the fight, we can expect the majority of this bout to unfold on the feet. After all, nothing says “I’m still a competitor” like a knockout. Both men will be looking for a violent finish.
When it comes to striking, Arlovski has the crisper, more impressive hands. Despite this, both men know their way around a knockout. Sylvia owns 20 of his career wins by knockout, and Arlovski owns 13 of his by knockout. Given the propensity of heavyweights to finish each other in this way, coupled with the recent failures of both these competitor’s chins, we can expect a finish on the feet.
As this bout begins, look for these fighters to feel each other out. This process might take awhile but when the strikes begin to fly, expect Arlovski to land cleaner and more often.
Sylvia, however, will fire back. Look for Arlovski to tag Sylvia repeatedly, backing his opponent up. Arlovski will chase Sylvia, pressuring him; punishing him. Finally, when the fight appears all-but-won for Arlovski, look for the tide to change.
Despite being a multi-time UFC champ, Sylvia was never famous for his athleticism. Instead, it was his dedication and determination that lead to his dominance. In his fourth fight with Arlovski, look for these traits to carry him through adversity, as he fires back and rebounds from serious trouble to find the chin of “The Pitbull.”
The Pick: Sylvia wins by first round knockout and stays relevant.