ONE: Century is a card primed to be even bigger than March’s ONE: A NEW ERA. The event is so monumental, that it had to be broken up into two parts. Few have a greater understanding of the talent involved, and the rewards at stake, than the organization’s play-by-play voice Michael Schiavello.
In this exclusive, “The Voice” gave his thoughts on the two pivotal mixed martial arts championship bouts going down at ONE: Century – Part II on October 13.
Aung La N Sang and Brandon Vera: Two of ONE Championship’s Best Ever Do Battle
The light heavyweight showdown between ONE Heavyweight World Champion Brandon Vera and two-division kingpin Aung La N Sang is a bout sure to draw the attention of mixed martial arts fans around the world. Not only does it pit two of the greatest champions in ONE history against each other, but it’s also a matchup between a pair of legitimate thumpers in the organization. In Schiavello’s opinion, the bout boils down to a unique analogy.
“Aung La’s got what we might call that ‘steel pipe,’” Schiavello says.
“He likes to get in close. He likes to land on people’s jaws and knock them out. We saw it against [Ken] Hasegawa [at ONE Championship: A New Era]. He stood on Hasegawa’s foot, landed the ‘steel pipe’ [and] knocked him out. To knockout Hasegawa that early is an amazing feat. We know what a jaw Hasegawa has.”
The question for Schiavello is: can Vera handle the test of Aung La? Without question, he admires the martial arts acumen of the American athlete, with roots in the Philippines. He considers him the best heavyweight in ONE’s short history. However, he also admits the organization isn’t known for its depth at the weight class.
“He is the best heavyweight of all-time in ONE Championship,” says Schiavello.
“He’s beaten everyone that they’ve put in front of him [and] he’s beaten them all handily. He’s never gotten beyond the first round in his ONE Championship career. He’s only been in the Circle a combined time of eight minutes and 45 seconds. You can only beat the people put in front of you, and he’s done that.”
The Aussie play-by-play veteran wants to see if Vera can do something “The Burmese Python’s” last four opponents could not, and withstand Aung La’s “steel pipe” power. The notion is all the more important because he knows Aung La has shown a penchant to be able to take just as much damage as he dishes out.
“One hundred percent, Aung La wants a brawl. He has a jaw of granite,” Schiavello says.
“We know Aung La can take enormous punishment, as we saw in the first fight with Hasegawa, and he can come back. Brandon hasn’t been tested. Obviously, in ONE Championship, his jaw hasn’t been tested. We don’t know if he can take a steel pipe to the jaw. We saw him tested [earlier in his career], but that was a different time. We’ve seen no one really plant a clean blow that he’s had to stand up to. So what happens when he’s inside a phone booth with Aung La? Aung La is one of the heaviest hitters in all of ONE Championship.”
That said, Schiavello does expect an already fast Vera to be an even faster version at light heavyweight. Which could be bad news for the current two-division champion. However, if Aung La is able to defend his throne against the dominant invader from heavyweight, the “Voice” of the promotion does believe a rematch at some point in the future for Vera’s title is possible.
“It would depend on what the outcome is on October 13,” he says.
“How good the fight looks. Nevertheless, Aung La has mentioned in the past he has considered going up to heavyweight. We may see a rematch in the future at heavyweight, with Aung La trying to be a triple-champion. He’d be the perfect person to go for it and become the first triple-division champion. I think his body’s suited to it. What he may lack in size, he may make up for in power and determination.”
Can Bibiano Fernandes and Kevin Belingon Surprise Each Other in Fight Four?
At ONE: Century, ONE Bantamweight World Champion Bibiano Fernandes and the division’s former titleholder Kevin Belingon finds themselves in an unusual predicament. They will face off for the fourth time and third straight bout over the last year.
Having logged over 40 minutes of cage time against one another in the first three outings. At this point, one would imagine there is very little the pair don’t know about each other, and the chance of surprise seems minimal. Yet, Schiavello does not see it that way. With both coming from strong gyms with great coaching, he expects that surprises lie ahead. Especially when it comes to Fernandes. One of the best bantamweights of the last decade.
“With anybody else but Bibiano, the answer would be yes. There’s no surprises,” says Schiavello.
“But, with Bibiano being so experienced, and training under a genius like Matt Hume, and a sparring partner like Demetrious Johnson; Bibiano’s fighting IQ is off the rails. So, I believe he’s going to try and bring something that Belingon has not seen before. Don’t forget, Bibiano is the elder statesman here. Belingon has the youth. The fervor on his side and Bibiano is the older guy that a lot of people think is in the twilight of his career. So when you’re the older guy, you’ve got to rely on the strategy a lot more.”
The long-time ONE Championship broadcaster believes the same holds true for the Belingon’s coaches and teammates at Team Lakay. A powerhouse gym that has dominated in the ONE Championship Circle and ring over the last few years.
“You never know about the Team Lakay guys,” Schiavello says.
“They’re a team mainstream media doesn’t pay a lot of attention to. You want to talk about the super-gyms; American Kickboxing Academy, Jackson-Winkeljohn. People don’t mention Team Lakay. How many world champions have they produced? Last year, they had the bulk of the world champions in the promotion. They defied the odds, and they are so humble. They are so hard working. I don’t think it will be a case of wash, rinse, repeat. I think it will be a case of let’s go back to the lab. Let’s break it down. Let’s study it [and] try and come up with something the other guy hasn’t seen before.”
No matter who wins, the ONE Championship play-by-play analyst feels Fernandes’ place as the best bantamweight champion in the promotion’s history is secure. Even with a second straight victory over his Brazilian foe, he believes the Filipino champion would need to do much more to surpass the historic run of “The Flash.”
“He needs to prove himself against an illustrious list as Bibiano has,” he says.