The Filipino Fighters Most Likely to Make it Into the UFC


Leland Rolling's excellent and extremely comprehensive scouting report identified the prospects most likely to make it into the UFC in the next 12 months. Predictably countries like the US and Brazil were well represented reflecting just how intensive the level of competition is in these places.

The Philippines is not that far behind and, crucially, it is a destination which the UFC have long held ambitions of hosting a show in. That means that Filipino fighters must already be in their thinking and these are some of the names which I think Joe Silva will be keeping a close eye on.

It is worth noting that apart from Folayang (27) and Kelly (29) all the fighters on this list are 25 or under meaning that they have a tom of potential.

1. Eduard Folayang

Putting Folayang's name forward is probably stating the obvious but that is no reason to ignore the outstanding Filipino fighter. He is very well rounded, has a 11-1 record which is already UFC calibre and is hugely popular in the Philipppines where he has as big fan following.

All he needs to do is post a couple of wins over UFC calibre opponents and the call up will inevitably come. Beating Vuyisile Colossa is no mean feet and Folayang topped that when he took out A Sol Kown, who was 17-6 and riding a six fight win streak, in front of 7,000 fans at the Singapore Indoor Stadium at ONE FC's inaugural event.

These are the sort of opponents that the UFC matchmakers will want to see him beat and they will also be encouraged by the improved composure which Folayang has shown in recent outings. He seems to have overcome his tendency to swing wildly and be taking a slightly more measured and tactical approach.

There is no doubt that the UFC will be keeping a very close eye on Folayang and if the 27 year old Team Lakay standout can continue to keep winning fights with Asia's most prestigious promotion, ONE Fighting Championship, America will soon come calling.

2. Kevin Belingon


Injury forced Belingon out of a defence of his URCC Flyweight title last November and also prevented him from making a proposed ONE FC debut next month. He fights at 129 lbs for the URCC but is a bantamweight in international competition and has wins over some very well regarded opponents on his 9-0 resume.

Belingon fought twice for Legend FC, defeating opponents from China and Korea, and once for Martial Combat stopping Ngoo Ditty who is one of Thailand's top fighters. The 24 year old also holds a win over Justin Cruz whose record currently stands at 18-4.

Belingon has good hands and takedowns but like all his Team Lakay team mates who train at altitude in Baguio his greatest asset could well be his conditioning. At 5'5" he is a little on the small side to be a bantamweight and his best chance of making it into the UFC might be to try to drop down to 125 lbs.

3. Eric Kelly


How good is Kelly? We won't get to find out just yet after he was forced to pull out of his fight with Bae Young Kwon at ONE Fighting Championship 2 due to personal problems. One thing that we can say for sure is that he has passed every examination he has faced so far in his fighting career with flying colours.

He made short work of Mitch Chilson at ONE FC 1 and is the URCC featherweight champion and holds a perfect professional record of 6-0. He is confident in his stand up and combines Yaw Yan (a traditional form of Filipino kixkboxing) with Wushu to good effect.

His submission game is rumoured to be outstanding and with six submission wins out of six there is probably some substance to these rumours. At 29 years old time is perhaps not on his side but he is an outstanding prospect who could well have what it takes to do well in the UFC.

4. Roy Docyogen


The biggest question mark over Docyogen concerns his size. He is the URCC pinweight champion and fights at 119 lbs, 6 lbs below the traditional flyweight limit. The UFC is in no danger of introducing a pinweight division so his only hope is to start competing and winning at 125 lbs.

Standing 5'5" tall he is not too short for a flyweight and if he can fill out his frame a little more his 9-0 record alone should be enough to put him into UFC contention. He has a tough title defence against former boxing world champion Rodel Orais coming up but realistically UFC matchmakers aren't going to take him into serious consideration until he posts some wins outside of the Philippines.

The flyweight division is comparatively shallow and Docyogen may well have what it takes to reach the top. Training at Team Lakay has taken him to the pinnacle of Filipino MMA but now it is time for him to show that he is good enough to compete against the top flyweight fighters in the region.

5. Honorio Banario


Banario's career has been brief and highly successful. He holds the URCC Lightweight strap and already has a perfect professional record of 6-0, despite making his debut less than two years ago. He will get his opportunity to show that he is ready to make the breakthrough sooner rather than later when he takes on Bae Young Kwon at ONE FC 2.

Dropping down to featherweight could be a career defining decision, if he can make the cut safely he will be much bigger and stronger competing at 145 lbs. At only 22 and with only a couple of years of MMA training under his belt Banario has tons of potential for improvement and a loss against Kwon would not necessarily be an insurmountable setback.

He should also benefit from training alongside and learning from Folayang, who is a similar size and fights with a very similar style. Banario is still learning his trade as a mixed martial artist but will only benefit from being surrounded by so much experience at Team Lakay.

6. Mark Striegl


Striegl is only half Filipino but he is based full time in Baguio. His record of 6-0 has been compiled fighting in Taiwan, Sapain and Macau as well as the Philippines and he has trained extensively in Japan. His wrestling is probably his greatest asset although he has finished four of his six opponents with a rear naked choke.

He has been competing at 145 lbs and even 155 lbs but could probably get down to bantamweight where he would be a real force to be reckoned with. He holds a win over Japanese Pancrase veteran Yusuke Kawanago although it did come by way of a controversial split decision.

Striegl is only 23 and having trained in the US and Japan as well as the Philippines is well traveled. He is young enough to have plenty of potential and having already beaten some good level opponents will definitely be one to watch out for in 2012.

7. Jessie Rafols


Rafols is coming off a disappointing loss against Reydon Romero and will be hoping to bounce back against Irshaad Sayed at ONE FC 2. He is rated as one of the most exciting prospects in the Philippines and has a fan friendly style which involves going full speed from the second the bell rings.

Against Romero he simply ran out of steam after almost five and a half minutes of non stop action in the opening round but he will have learned from that experience and will also find his style is a little more sustainable when fighting five minute rounds, as opposed to the ten minute limit set in the URCC.

Rafols is still quite raw but his aggression will appeal to UFC matchmakers and if he can steamroll though international opponents the same way he has fighters in the Philippines he could come into contention. He needs to show the loss to Romero was no more than an aberration and that he has the cardio to make his non stop style work, a win over South African Muay Thai world champion Irshaad Sayed at ONE FC 'Battle of Heroes' would be the perfect way to do just that.

\The FanPosts are solely the subjective opinions of Bloody Elbow readers and do not necessarily reflect the views of Bloody Elbow editors or staff.

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