One of the things that the past year has proven is that Team Lakay knows how to make the most of a second opportunity, even more so when the stakes are at their absolute highest.
In 2018, the Benguet-based warriors have found themselves in rematches with championships on the line thrice, and each time, they have come out with gold wrapped around their waists.
Geje “Gravity” Eustaquio kicked off the year with a rematch against former ONE Flyweight World Champion Kairat Akhmetov in January, a do-over of their controversial 2017 meeting that saw Akhmetov win via split decision.
With the ONE Interim Flyweight World Championship on the line in their second encounter, Eustaquio bested Akhmetov via unanimous decision to avenge his 2017 loss, but more importantly become a world champion for the first time.
In June of the same year, Eustaquio found himself in yet another rematch, this time against then-reigning ONE Flyweight World Champion Adriano Moraes in a title-unification bout.
Again, when it mattered most, Eustaquio pulled out all the stops and outworked Moraes en route to a five-round unanimous decision victory to leave Macau, China as the new undisputed ONE Flyweight World Champion.
“They say victory is sweeter the second time around,” said Eustaquio, who has earned the moniker of “The King of the Rematch”, “In my case, I usually perform better and come out victorious in rematches because I’ve already gotten a feel for my opponent.”
“I also believe that my development is faster than that of my opponent, which is why I outperform them when we share the cage again,” he added.
The flyweight star has won all three of his career rematches so far, including one non-title rematch against Thailand’s Anatpong “Mak” Bunrad.
But it is not just Eustaquio who has found success the second time around.
Just last 22 September in Jakarta, Indonesia, strawweight star Joshua “The Passion” Pacio triumphantly avenged the first loss of his career by edging out Japanese grappling sensation Yoshitaka Naito via unanimous decision after five rounds to be crowned the new ONE Strawweight World Champion.
It was a rematch of their 2016 encounter for the strawweight title, which resulted in a third-round submission win for Naito.
Before the year comes to a close, one more Team Lakay member will figure in his own rematch with a world championship at stake.
Hoping to follow in his teammates’ footsteps is reigning ONE Interim Bantamweight World Champion Kevin “The Silencer” Belingon, who meets reigning ONE Bantamweight World Champion Bibiano Fernandes in a title-unification bout at ONE: HEART OF THE LION on Friday, 9 November in Singapore.
More than finally capturing a world title, Belingon is determined to even the score with Fernandes, who was dominant in their first encounter back in 2016.
“I am super excited. Finally the long wait is over, and now I’m fighting Bibiano Fernandes for the undisputed bantamweight title. Ever since the night I lost to him the first time in China, this moment has been all that I have looked forward to,” Belingon expressed.