In his One Fighting Championship debut, Bibiano Fernandes did not necessarily look like a prized MMA free agent, but the Brazilian jiu-jitsu world champion did his job well, technically outclassing Australian-based Brazilian Gustavo Falciroli to win a unanimous decision in the One FC 5 "Pride of a Nation" main event on Friday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum in Quezon City, Philippines.
The 32-year-old Brazilian’s debut for what is now the highest-profile MMA promotion in Asia comes nearly three months after a messy fracture of negotiations with the UFC led “The Flash” to sign with One FC amidst much curiosity and criticism.
In his first bout since taking the Dream bantamweight crown last New Year’s Eve, Fernandes quickly took Falciroli’s back with a butterfly guard sweep in the first 30 seconds. However, Fernandes, now training out of Matt Hume’s AMC Pankration, was not able to find a finish and needed to play position in order to best the blue-haired Falciroli.
Falciroli continued to use deep half-guard techniques and other defensive tactics to slow down Fernandes’ guard passing, tiring him and actually opening up some scoring opportunities on the feet. However, Fernandes’ early dominance was far too much for Falciroli to overcome. Following the three rounds, the judges returned an easy unanimous decision for the Brazilian, who upped his record to 12-3 and remained unbeaten at bantamweight. Falciroli falls to 12-4-2.
Initially, the fourth contest between former UFC heavyweight champions and rivals Andrei Arlovski and Tim Sylvia was shocking because it was an entertaining bout between the two long-faded titlists. However, One FC’s convoluted rule structure ensured that the bout ended in a fashion that was shocking for another reason.
In the opening five minutes, Arlovski and Sylvia put on a remarkably well-paced, back-and-forth exchange of strikes in which both fighters landed clean and hard. Despite being far removed from their primes, the fighters turned in the most entertaining single round of fighting in any of their previous encounters, with Sylvia charging ahead late with a salvo of crosses.
The second round again witnessed even footing, until the Belarusian unloaded on a three-punch combination that sent Sylvia sprawling onto the mat. In his zeal to seal the deal, Arlovski unloaded two soccer kicks that seemed to end the contest. However, referee Yuji Shimada had not declared “open attack” -- a One FC house rule in which the referee declares it is safe for a fighter to soccer kick another -- and so the strike was deemed a foul. Sylvia was given five minutes to recover.
As the Quezon City crowd grew anxious, Sylvia told Shimada he could “see two of [him].” The bout was unceremoniously halted and declared a no contest, with both men casually agreeing to the idea of a previously unthinkable fifth bout.
Filipino star Eduard Folayang used his flair for dramatic, potent striking to outpoint Felipe Enomoto in a de facto One FC lightweight title eliminator.
After dropping a razor-thin split decision to former K-1 Max notable Ole Laursen at One FC 3 in March, the Lakay MMA exponent was like a man possessed, taking the fight to Enomoto with aggressive combination punching and relentless kicking. Enomoto was unbowed, never letting up despite Folayang’s constant pressure and striking volleys.
The 27-year-old’s best chance to finish came with 30 seconds to spare in the second round. A right hook dropped Enomoto and “Landslide” was on his foe in a heartbeat, but his follow-up shots just could not put away the tough Swiss fighter. After 15 minutes, it was a foregone conclusion that all three judges would return with cards for Folayang, who moved to 12-2 with the win, handing Enomoto his fourth loss in his last five fights.
Following the win, One FC CEO Victor Cui entered the cage and announced that Folayang would meet lightweight champion Zorobabel Moreira at One FC 6 on Oct. 6 in Kallang, Singapore.
Popular Malaysian-based Filipino Eric Kelly continued his own ascent, stopping shopworn former UFC lightweight champ Jens Pulver in the second round of their 145-pound contest.
Pulver looked surprisingly crisp early, shucking off Kelly’s attempted throws from the clinch and takedown attempts, while asserting his dominance with his left hook. However, “Lil’ Evil” faded quickly when the second stanza began, and, as has been the case so often in the 37-year-old’s recent fights, the grains disappeared from the hourglass almost instantly.
Kelly began landing punches with both hands and more easily dealing with Pulver’s wrestling. After several clean combos, Kelly ripped Pulver with a right hook that staggered him. The follow-up was even more lethal, as a left roundhouse kick to the body whipped deep into Pulver’s midsection, dropping him to the mat on his knees. Kelly pounced with punches to coax the finish at 1:46 of the second round. With the win, Kelly stands at 8-0 with seven stoppages, while Pulver falls to 26-17-1, with 11 losses in his last 16 contests.