If based on the old idiom “it’s sweeter the second time around,” it would be the perfect personification to depict Filipino superstar Geje “Gravity” Eustaquio’s professional career as Lady Luck seems to be on his side in every rematch that he has had.
Out of 17 bouts in his nearly eight-year mixed martial arts stint, Eustaquio has shared the cage or ring with the same foe on three occasions, walking out of these matches with his hand raised in triumph.
“They say victory is sweeter the second time around. In my case, I usually perform better and come out victorious in rematches because I’ve already gotten a feel for my opponent,” he explains.
“I also believe that my development is faster than that of my opponent, which is why I outperform them when we share the cage or ring again.”
Here is a look-back of the three bouts that enshrined the reigning ONE Flyweight World Champion as the promotion’s one and only “King Of The Rematch. “
Eustaquio’s reputation of making the most out of a second opportunity started back in May 2017 when he defeated Thai hard-hitter Anatpong “Mak” Bunrad in a rematch at ONE: DYNASTY OF HEROES by way of razor-thin split decision.
Although Bunrad got the nod via split decision in the first encounter at ONE: VALOR OF CHAMPIONS in April 2015, there was not much to separate them in that absolute thriller of a matchup as the rematch was to be more of the same.
Eustaquio bucked a slow start in the opening round when the rangy Bunrad came out strong in an effort to intimidate the spitfire from Baguio City, Philippines with his menacing strikes.
After getting overwhelmed by Bunrad’s offense in the opening salvo, Eustaquio changed the complexion of the contest in the second stanza, displaying superb footwork and frustrating the physically stronger Thai combatant with crisp counterpunches.
“Gravity” picked up where he left off in the third frame, connecting his leg kicks and countering Bunrad with right straights and elbows whenever the Thai charged in.
Despite the late takedown by Bunrad in the dying minutes of the third round, Eustaquio was able to roll his opponent and went on top of him to rain down a torrent of impactful blows near the final bell.
When the bout’s final bell sounded, Eustaquio knew that he was walking out of the packed arena with the sweet victory.
“After the third round, I was already confident that I won the fight. From my view, I got two rounds to one,” he says.
Eustaquio thought that he did enough to get a unanimous decision from the three judges at cageside, but regardless of the verdict, he fully accepted the outcome of the match.
“I was surprised with the three judges’ decision. I was expecting a unanimous decision win against my opponent,” he discloses. “But I am good with it. I respect it.”
“I am so happy whether it’s split or unanimous. I am the winner. I respect the three judges’ decision. I know I did my best inside the cage.”
According to Eustaquio, his timing and movement played a pivotal factor in his rematch against Bunrad, who was relentless in hurling heavy blows.
“Bunrad kept on throwing big shots from the first round, but he had difficulties because I was creating spaces. I was moving a lot,” he reveals.
“Although he was throwing more, I was the fighter who’s landing more accurately. My timing was the key.”
Eustaquio admitted that standing toe-to-toe without regard precision against a dangerous striker like Bunrad was the biggest mistake in their initial encounter.
“I was a bit more strategic in the rematch. If I traded fire with fire, the outcome would be very similar to our first meeting. It was still exciting, but in the rematch, I made sure that all the clean blows came from me,” he points out.
Eustaquio kicked off 2018 with a rematch against Kairat “The Kazakh” Akhmetov at ONE: GLOBAL SUPERHEROES in January, a do-over of their debatable September 2017 meeting that saw the latter win by split decision.
With the ONE Interim Flyweight World Championship on the line in their second clash, Eustaquio bested Akhmetov via unanimous decision to avenge his loss—but more importantly to become a world champion for the first time.
“Winning the world title is a dream come true for me. Ever since I started my professional career, the goal was to be a world champion. To finally realize my dream last year, it was a meaningful moment to me,” the Team Lakay member recalls.
Eustaquio showcased significant improvements to his game to deliver a masterful performance, which was full of confidence and composure against a man who previously had lost just once in his decorated mixed martial arts run.
Even if Akhmetov started the bout looking to close the distance and use his wrestling, it was largely ineffective against Eustaquio, who showed vastly-improved takedown defense, repeatedly fending off the former world champion.
“Gravity” even flaunted his growing jiu-jitsu arsenal, locking up a kneebar submission from his back after eventually being taken to the mat late in the first round.
Eustaquio bared that he had to come down from the mountains of Baguio City to work on his ground game with Iranian wrestling coach Ali Heydarabi.
“You saw me way back five or six years ago, I didn’t even know jiu-jitsu. Now you see me doing submission attempts, I believe I am growing because the people backing me are the best in the business,” he says.
Despite competing past 15 minutes for the first time in his career, Eustaquio looked the fresher competitor of the two in the championship rounds.
He ripped heavy kicks to the legs and body of Akhmetov, slowed the forward pressure of the former world champion, and then fastened a guillotine choke of his own.
“A wrestler like Kairat Akhmetov will put your gas tank into test. My good conditioning was definitely a factor,” Eustaquio quips.
When the judges rendered their verdict, they were undivided, awarding the hard-earned unanimous decision win and the ONE Interim Flyweight World Title to an exultant Eustaquio.
“There were lots of trials and challenges. My path was not the easiest, but I always knew what I had to do to achieve it,” he shares.
“Like I always say, it’s either you win or you learn. I learned from my past failures.”
In June 2018, Eustaquio found himself in yet another rematch, this time against then-reigning ONE Flyweight World Champion Adriano “Mikinho” Moraes in a highly-anticipated title unification contest at ONE: PINNACLE OF POWER.
Again, when it mattered most, Eustaquio pulled out all the stops and outworked Moraes en route to a split decision to leave Macau, China as the new undisputed ONE Flyweight World Champion.
Putting everything on the line to unify the ONE Flyweight World Championships, both men went back-and-forth, swapping solid blows and momentum-shifting takedowns from bell to bell.
Neither of the two would give each other any quarter for five rounds as both men traded their best offense all throughout the tiff.
After five fiercely-contested rounds, Eustaquio earned two of the three judges’ favor to take the tightest of split decisions and emerge as the undisputed ONE Flyweight World Champion.
“It wasn’t easy, the split decision can attest to that, but our game plan worked,” he says.
“We were able to negate most of his strengths, and we did what we wanted to do. All the hard work was worth it. It’s definitely my favorite victory above all.”
Known for his wushu base, Eustaquio surprised everyone when he went to grapple with Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt such as Moraes.
It was a move that nobody thought he would do, and Eustaquio feels that the risks he took paid dividends during the bout.
“I had him confused in the first and second rounds. He was no longer certain if he wants to shoot for a takedown in the later rounds,” he confides.
“He submitted me the first time, but I proved that I became better, and my improvements were way faster than him.”
Eustaquio will share the ONE Championship stage with Moraes again on 25 January as both men are set to face each other in the first trilogy bout in ONE Championship history.
The contest will serve as the main event of ONE: HERO’S ASCENT, which emanates from the 20,000-capacity Mall Of Asia Arena in Manila, Philippines.
Now tied at one win apiece, Eustaquio believes that he can put an end on his rivalry with Moraes in their rubber match.
“Being a world champion only made me much more hungry,” he declares. “I am still growing. I believe there is a lot more to unlock and showcase from my martial arts arsenal.”
“If I can do it before, I will do it again on 25 January. The belt will stay here in the Philippines.”