Mark Munoz, otherwise known as 'The Filipino Wrecking Machine', may have solidified his place as the #4 middleweight in the world by trouncing Chris Leben at UFC 138, but that wasn't the only relevant fight for Filipino fight fans this past weekend.
URCC hosted their 20th major event last Saturday, and it did not disappoint. The headliner was supposed to be a bout between the two most popular bantamweights in the country, in Kevin Belingon and Jessie Rafols. But when the Lakay Wushu product had to pull out due to injury, Reydon Romero stepped in against Rafols and took advantage of the opportunity in a big way. The featherweight contender dropped down to bantamweight and delivered on a super-fight that Filipino fight fans won't be forgetting any time soon.
The fight was at a very fast pace with both guys going back and forth as Rafols had multiple takedowns and slams, and Romero, constantly explodied and scrambled out of danger. Rafols even had a deep armbar locked in at one point, but 'The Filipino Bolo Punch' toughed it out and worked his way out of the submission. After that crazy pace that kept the crowd going wild at every exchange, Romero eventually weathered the storm got in a dominant position, and started landing heavy ground and pound that stopped the fight.
Romero notched the biggest win of his career by upsetting Rafols in what was surely the most entertaining URCC bout of the year. Alvin Aguilar, who founded the promotion almost a decade ago, also thinks it was a pretty special bout.
"We have been putting on shows since 2002 and next year, when we overtake Pride, the URCC will be longest running MMA show in Asia," said Aguilar, "We have had some great nights but this has to be up there with the best of them and the fight between Jesse and Red was one of the most exciting I have seen, the crowd were going absolutely crazy."
After the jump, a recap and analysis of the other key bouts from the event that had 6 title fights.
Here are the other highlights of the night full of very fun and entertaining bouts:
Froilan Sarenas, a BJJ purple belt, training at the Atos affiliated, Submission Sports Philippines, put an exclamation point as he successfully defended his middleweight title against Robin Jose. Known more for his submission game, Sarenas decided to change things up as he surprisingly striked with his opponent during the opening minute. He eventually landed a clinch takedown and unleashed a brutal beating that had him finishing up with punches and soccer kicks to the body of the downed challenger, forcing the referee to stop the fight in under 2 minutes.
"I wanted to finish the fight with strikes and not a submission", Sarenas exclaimed, "That’s why I stood up and went for the soccer kicks instead of staying on the ground and going for a submission."
Honorio Banario successfully defended his lightweight crown against Patrick Manicad. Like Sarenas, the Team Lakay product wanted to prove critics wrong by showing other facets of their game. Their Wushu base usually leads to terrific striking and good clinch takedowns and ground and pound, but Banario wanted a submission, and that's what he got, taking down Manicad and eventually sinking in the armbar at 3:09 of the first round.
"My plan was to take advantage of his height to take him down but I wanted to finish the fight by submission because I wanted to show that Team Lakay is evolving," said the URCC lightweight champ who improved his record to 6-0, "Even though everyone thinks we are stand up fighters we can also fight on the ground and I wanted to win with a submission to show this,"
- Three vacant titles were awarded. Igor Subora, the Philippine-based Ukrainian, interestingly came out to Skrillex blasting on the speakers, and quickly trounced Ryan Paglinawan with powerful punches that stopped him in just 49 seconds to win the heavyweight title.
- Nicholas Mann, an Australian fighter who trains out of Hybrid Yaw Yan, landed hard shots that hurt Chris Luna standing, and he followed up and finished the BJJ purple belt from DEFTAC on the ground after about a minute of unanswered blows. The referee stopped the fight at 4:59 of the first round, crowning Mann as the new Light Heavyweight (189 lbs.) champion.
- Pete Brooks dominated an overmatched Frank Navarro, who was stepping in on extremely short notice. It only took him 1 minute and 13 seconds to make his opponent tap, and to claim the vacant URCC cruiserweight (199 lbs.) title.
- Also on one of the entertaining bouts of the night was Will "The Kill" Chope, a Phuket Top Team product who also spent time in the mountains of Baguio training with top notch Filipinos such as Eric Kelly and Mark Striegl. He went against Estoro, and immediately displayed good Muay Thai skills as he rushed in and landed a ton of good knees and elbows earlier on. Chope, who is probably the tallest bantamweight at 6'4, used his height advantage well, as he eventually sunk in a standing guillotine that forced the Filipino to tap at 3:07 of the first.
- Other fighters who picked up victories are Adam Cacay, Andrew Benibe, and Rodel Orais.
- In between those entertaining fights, was the URCC's first inductee to their Hall-of-Fame. After almost a decade running shows in the country, they decided to honor the achievements and contributions of TJ Tiu, their very first heavyweight champion, who went undefeated since his first fight at URCC 1 back in 2002.
- Reydon Romero def. Jessie Rafols by submission (strikes) at 5:27 R1 [Bantamweight Super-Fight Championship]
- Nicholas Mann def. Christian Luna by TKO (punches) at 4:59 R1 [Light Heavyweight Championship]
- Igor Subora def. Ryan Palinawan by TKO (punches) at 0:49 R1 [Heavyweight Championship]
- Froilan Sarenas def. Robin Jose by TKO (punches and kicks) at 1:42 [Middleweight Championship]
- Will Chope def. Jerson Estoro by Submission (Standing Guillotine Choke) at 3:07 R1
- Adam Cacay def. Lando Espinosa by Submission (Rear Naked Choke) at 1:23 R1
- Honorio Banario def. Patrick Manicad by Submission (armbar) at 3:09 R1 [Lightweight Championship]
- Andrew Benibe def. Sulpiano Laurio by TKO (Punches) at 5:37 R1
- Pete Brooks def. Frank Navarro by Submission (Strikes) at 1:13 R1 [Cruiserweight Championship]
- Rodel Orais def. Jilmar Tangayan by Submission (strikes) at 5:27 R1
Quotes courtesy of James Goyder.
Note: My brother, Paolo Tabuena, took a lot of photos from the event, so I will also be posting a separate 'URCC 20 photo gallery' piece in the coming days, so stay tuned for that. As always, follow me on twitter.