Rene “The Challenger” Catalan will certainly be rooting for his fellow Filipinos at ONE: A NEW ERA in Tokyo, Japan on 31 March, but he feels that his compatriots have slim chances of emerging victorious.
Eduard Folayang is set to defend his ONE Lightweight World Title in a rematch with Japanese legend Shinya “Tobikan Judan” Aoki, while Kevin Belingon’s ONE Bantamweight World Title will be on the line as he completes a trilogy with the longtime division kingpin Bibiano “The Flash” Fernandes.
Aside from Folayang and Belingon, Kingad is also slated to compete in the quarter-final bout of the ONE Flyweight World Grand Prix against Japanese veteran Senzo Ikeda.
Catalan, a multiple-time Wushu World Champion with a mixed martial arts record of 6-2, was honest when asked about his assessment of the matches.
While he is hoping that Team Lakay comes up with a sweep in Japan, Catalan believes that the World Champions, particularly Folayang is up for a long night against Aoki.
“I think Shinya Aoki has a good chance to recapture the belt. He has proven to be very hungry of becoming a world champion again since he lost the world title to Eduard Folayang,” said Catalan who marveled at Aoki’s improvement after his loss to Folayang.
“I think that Aoki has improved a lot overall. His striking has improved, and he already knows what Eduard brings to the table after their first fight
“Aoki has to get the fight to the ground as early as possible because he cannot afford to stand and bang with Eduard, who has a very high-level striking.”
Catalan asserted that Folayang will have to use his strength and bully Aoki around to get the win, but Aoki, on the other hand, will need to rely on his grappling to take the victory.
“Eduard would have to overpower Aoki to win. Aoki can do two things; he can either get a technical knockout or submission,” he assessed.
He believes that Aoki’s hometown advantage will play a factor into the match, resulting to Japanese submission specialist regaining his title.
“I think there would be a hometown advantage factor as well because he will want to showcase his best and perform in front of his countrymen,” he stated.
While Catalan believes Folayang will struggle heavily against Aoki, he has the match-up between Belingon and Fernandes as a toss-up.
The 40-year-old Iloilo City native thought that Fernandes narrowly defeated Belingon in their rematch.
“To be objective, I honestly thought Bibiano Fernandes defeated Kevin Belingon in their last fight,” he stressed. “I can see Bibiano’s eagerness to get the title back. To win the trilogy he would have to totally outclass or submit Belingon.”
“What Belingon has to do is stick to what he does best and avoid getting caught in a submission. I am sure Bibiano worked triple time to prepare for this trilogy, but so did Kevin.
“I believe Belingon needs to have multiple strategies to win this fight. I think Bibiano has the heart to go out there and do whatever it takes to win the fight.”
But Catalan suggested that one punch is all Belingon needs to retain, and if that happens, he is confident that Igorot hard-hitter will get the knockout win.
“What he should do is to utilize his size and grappling advantage all night. When it comes to striking, Kevin still has the upper hand despite Bibiano’s renowned boxing,” he shared.
“Belingon throws strikes with bad intentions that if it lands it could result to a knockout.”