NOSTALGIA: San Miguel, Ginebra blitz respective foes in PBA Legends games

Hardcore fans of eighties and nineties basketball were in for a Sunday treat.

Legendary players from PBA teams San Miguel, Alaska, Ginebra and Purefoods took the court for a worthy cause in UNTV’s “Return of the Rivals” held at the Araneta Coliseum on Sunday.

A pair of exhibition matches held inside the fabled Cubao sporting venue pitted the Beermen against the Milkmen in the curtain-raiser, while the protagonists of the “Manila Clasico” clashed in the main game. The project aimed to raise funds for the PBA Legends Foundation Incorporated, an organization that looks after the welfare of retired professional basketball players in dire straits.

The San Miguel Beermen, behind Allan Caidic, Denok Miranda, Danny Ildefonso and Dondon Hontiveros, unloaded the greater part of their offensive firepower in the second half to claim a 96-83 win over Alaska in the opener. Down by eight points at the half, the Beermen outgunned the Milkmen 64-43 in the third and fourth quarters en route to a masterful victory.

Ildefonso and Hontiveros closed out the third with a pair of two-pointers to complete a rally from ten points down, giving the Beermen a 62-59 advantage heading into the payoff period.

Then in the fourth quarter, “The Triggerman” caught fire and decided to empty the barrel.

After a game-tying three-pointer by Willie Miller at the 6:06 mark of the said period, the Beermen retaliated with a 13-1 run that took the fight out of the Milkmen. With 2:04 remaining in the ballgame, the 1990 PBA Most Valuable Player (MVP) sank a back-breaking triple in transition– his fourth of the quarter – which gave the Beermen a 91-79 headway.

Caidic was adjudged as the Best Player of the Game behind his 26-point performance, spiked by six three-pointers out of 14 attempts. Miranda, the youngest participant amongst the two clubs, tallied 17 points, four rebounds and four assists. Ildefonso and Hontiveros chipped in 14 and 11 markers respectively.

Miller, a two-time PBA MVP, paced Alaska with 20 points on 7-of-18 (38%) shooting from the field. Johnny Abarrientos, the 1996 MVP, finished with a double-double showing consisting of 11 points and 10 rebounds.

Legendary coach Pilo Pumaren manned the sidelines for San Miguel along with Jong Uichico, who served as his deputy. Alaska tapped Joel Banal as its head coach for the contest, while Aric Del Rosario filled in as his assistant.

In the nightcap, Barangay Ginebra proved steady in the second half to annex a 97-89 decision over Purefoods.

With the game tied at 38 at the half, Vince Hizon and Noli Locsin spearheaded a Ginebra uprising in the third quarter, in which they outscored Purefoods 39-28. “The Prince” dropped three three-point bombs in the said frame while “The Tank” operated on the inside to give the league favorites a much-needed separation from their rivals.

In the final frame, Roger Yap and Tony Boy Espinosa willed Purefoods to a last-ditch rally, only to be foiled by the timely hits of Jayjay Helterbrand, Marlou Aquino and Bal David.

Helterbrand, the 2009 MVP, capped off the night with a triple-double made up of 21 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists. Hizon, who shot 4-of-9 (44%) from beyond the arc, contributed 19 markers along with nine boards. The troika of Locsin, Aquino and David combined for 41 points.

Helterbrand and Hizon later shared Player of the Game honors.

Yap topscored for Purefoods with game-high 27 points, while Espinosa and Paul Artadi chipped in 14 markers apiece.

PBA Hall of Famers Robert Jaworski and Ramon Fernandez rekindled their history in this one-off match, returning at the helm for Ginebra and Purefoods respectively. Jaworski enlisted Philip Cesar and his son Dodot as assistant coaches, while Ed Cordero served as second-in-command for Fernandez.

The winning teams brought home the prize money worth 100,000 pesos. The players of the game were rewarded with 25,000 pesos along with other prizes.

The scores:

FIRST GAME

San Miguel (96) – Caidic 26, Miranda 17, Ildefonso 14, Hontiveros 11, Belasco 7, Alvarez 6, Racela 5, Agustin 4, Calaguio 3, Gamboa 2, Paras 1, Reyes 0, Asaytono 0, Teng 0, Abuda 0

Alaska (83) – Miller 20, Abarrientos 11, Santos 9, Dela Cruz 8, Cariaso 7, Laure 6, Duremdes 5, Juinio 5, Lastimosa 4, Ferriols 4, Gomez 2, Hawkins 2, Sotto 0, Adornado 0

Quarters: 20-21, 32-40, 62-59, 96-83

SECOND GAME

Ginebra (97) – Helterbrand 21, Hizon 19, Aquino 15, Locsin 14, David 12, Feihl 7, Palad 4, Jarencio 4, Jose 1, Isaac 0, Gayoso 0, Loyzaga 0, Cheng 0, Distrito 0, Ong 0

Purefoods (89) – Yap 27, Artadi 14, Espinosa 14, Sta. Maria 7, Patrimonio 6, Codinera 6, Yee 5, Capacio 3, Marquez 3, Balingit 2, Solis 2, Ravena 0, Magsanoc 0, Pumaren 0, Naron 0

Quarters: 16-17, 38-38, 77-66, 97-89

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UFC 234: Robert Whittaker vs Kelvin Gastelum preview and predictions

From their days in The Ultimate Fighter, Robert Whittaker and Kelvin Gastelum have come a long way to reach the world stage.

On February 10 at the Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne, Australia, the former Ultimate Fighter tournament winners headline UFC 234 for the undisputed world middleweight championship. A native of Sydney, Australia but born in South Auckland, New Zealand, Whittaker defends his 185-pound world title against the fourth-ranked middleweight contender Gastelum.

Currently on a nine-fight winning streak, Whittaker owns a mixed martial arts record of 20 victories with four losses. Gastelum holds a 15-3 slate.

Whittaker made his way to the UFC by winning the welterweight tournament of The Ultimate Fighter: The Smashes in 2012. Gastelum, on the hand, emerged as victor amongst 13 other middleweight prospects in The Ultimate Fighter: Team Jones vs. Team Sonnen which ran in 2013.

In 2018, both fighters were selected as coaches for the 28th installment of TUF, which featured male and female mixed martial artists from the heavyweight and featherweight divisions, respectively.

Fast forward to 2019, Whittaker and Gastelum find themselves on a collision course for UFC gold.

Whittaker: Back on track

Nicknamed “The Reaper”, Whittaker was elevated from interim to undisputed middleweight champion in December 2017, succeeding two-division titlist and future Hall of Famer Georges St-Pierre.

Whittaker’s missed the first half of 2018 due to a staph infection, derailing his title run in the division which also crowned Rich Franklin, Anderson Silva and Michael Bisping among others as champions. In his return to the octagon in UFC 225, Whittaker eked out a split decision win over Cuban sensation Yoel Romero in an exhilarating non-title fight. It marked the second time that Whittaker showed his mastery over Romero, whom he defeated via unanimous decision in July 2017 for the interim world title.

Whittaker now aims for an injury-free campaign in the UFC in 2019, in possession of the middleweight hardware.

Gastelum: Ready for the big stage

Since his upset win over Uriah Hall in the finale of TUF 17, Gastelum has figured in 13 UFC matches. However, Gastelum’s run in the UFC has been riddled with controversies. Aside from weight issues, doping allegations have muddled the career of the 27-year old Gastelum. The San Jose, California-born mixed martial artist missed out on a clash with Anderson Silva on June 2017 for testing positive for Carboxy-THC – a substance banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency.

After a submission loss on 2017 to former middleweight champion Chris Weidman, Gastelum rebounded with two big victories to earn a shot at Whittaker. The Kings MMA standout knocked out Bisping in the first round of their UFC Fight Night clash in November 2017. Six months after their bout held in in Shanghai, China, “The Count” announced his retirement from the sport due to an eye injury sustained during his scrap with Gastelum.

On May 2018, Gastelum faced jiu-jitsu black belt Jacaré Souza in the main supporting bout of UFC 224 in Souza’s home country of Brazil. In a back-and-forth fight, Gastelum escaped with a split decision victory over the submission expert.

Prediction

It wouldn’t be a walk in the park for the reigning champion. Gastelum has proven to be a tough puzzle to solve, even for the other middleweight title contenders. His chin will be put to the test against Whittaker’s powerful punches.

If the encounter goes the distance, the defending champion might get the upper hand. Whittaker has shown his ability to grind out victories from fights that go the full route.

One thing’s for sure: this title fight would be an exciting one, as both Whittaker and Gastelum have been awarded with Performance and Fight of the Night honors in the past.

(Photos: MMAfighting.com)

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Interim champion Reymart Gaballo makes short work of Japanese foe

General Santos City may have produced another boxing gem.

Reigning World Boxing Association (WBA) interim bantamweight world champion Reymart Gaballo impressed local fight fans with a second round knockout of Yuya Nakamura in a 10-round non-title bout Saturday night at the Midas Hotel and Casino in Pasay.

The 22-year old Gaballo set the tone early with two knockdowns in the first round. A right straight by Gaballo deposited his Japanese foe to the canvas to score the first knockdown of the fight. A minute later, Nakamura saw himself down on the floor for the second time courtesy of a Gaballo left hook.

The Japanese fighter survived the round, but “The Assassin” made sure that their main event clash wouldn’t last much longer.

The Filipino champion chased his overmatched opponent all over the ring in the second stanza, looking for the finish. Forcing the Japanese to his own corner, Gaballo planted a left hook to Nakamura’s rib cage followed by another left to the jaw. Nakamura crumbles to canvas for the third time in the fight, prompting referee Virgilio Garcia to call for the stoppage at the 1:44 mark of the second round.

Gaballo improves his win-loss record to 21-0 with 18 knockouts, while Nakamura drops to 9-3.

In March 2018, Gaballo captured the interim world title with a unanimous decision victory over Stephon Young in a fight held at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood. On his radar is Japan’s Naoya Inoue, the WBA regular bantamweight world champion.

Born in Polomolok, South Cotabato, Gaballo fights out of General Santos City – a town that has been represented by a number of world boxing champions in the past such as Roland Navarrete, Nonito Donaire and eight-division titlist Manny Pacquiao.

(Photo credit: Sanman Productions)

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Balkman tows Alab to 7th straight win, barges into elite scoring list

The 1,000-point club of the ASEAN Basketball League (ABL) is about to run wild.

Behind the 32-point performance of world import Renaldo Balkman, the visiting San Miguel Alab Pilipinas claimed its seventh consecutive victory of ABL Season 9 via a 96-81 drubbing of the Hong Kong Eastern Lions Friday night at the Southorn Stadium in Wan Chai.

The 6-foot-8 Puerto Rican also made his way to the ABL’s circle of 1000-point scorers, five days after his teammate Bobby Ray Parks Jr. achieved the same feat. Last February 3, Parks entered the elite club in Alab’s tenth-straight home win against the Saigon Heat.

In 2018, “Balkmania” teamed up with Justin Brownlee in leading Alab to the Season 8 championship crown.

In a tightly-contested game, the Jimmy Alapag-mentored squad finally broke loose from the Lions in the fourth quarter courtesy of a Balkman-led uprising. Ahead 73-71 at the start of the final period, Alab increased its advantage to 10 with 3:23 remaining on a fast break layup by Balkman.

The hosts came close to within nine, 90-81, with two free throws from their import and team captain Marcus Elliott. Those free throws, however, turned out to be the final tally for the Lions as Parks and Caelan Tiongson closed out the show for the defending ABL champions.

Tiongson connected on an easy bucket in transition off a long pass from Peter John Ramos to settle the verdict with still 44 ticks left on the game clock.

Parks chipped in 23 markers on 5-of-6 (83%) shooting from beyond the arc, along with seven boards. An assist short of a triple-double, the 7-foot-3 Ramos finished with 11 points and 14 rebounds in his return bout with Hong Kong’s 7-foot-5 center Samuel Deguara.

O’Darien Bassett paced the Lions with 27 points and seven rebounds, while Deguara and Elliott contributed 20 and 18 markers respectively.

Alab Pilipinas hike their win-loss card to a league-best 13-2. The Lions, currently at fifth place in the team standings, drop to 11-9.

On February 13, both teams meet again inside the same venue – their fourth meeting this season.

The Scores:

Alab Pilipinas (96) — Balkman 32, Parks 23, Ramos 11, Tiongson 8, Alvano 7, Domingo 6, Urbiztondo 4, Javelona 3, Rosser 2.

Hong Kong Eastern (81) — Bassett 24, Deguara 20, Elliott 18, Siu 8, Chan 5, Lee 3, Lau 3, Tang 0, Yang 0, Xu 0.

Quarters: 28-20, 53-53, 73-71, 96-81.

(Images from ABL)
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Need your regular fix of pick-up basketball? This group organizes games 6 times a week

Having trouble finding a basketball court right after work or even during weekends? Having a hard time finding nine other players for a game of five-on-five?

This group has this all covered for basketball enthusiasts on the lookout for some nightly hoops action.

Since 2013, Sneakerhunt PH (SHPH) has been holding casual basketball games for hoop junkies at prime basketball courts all over the metro. The Gatorade Hoops Center, Ronac Art Center and the Playdium Arena are the usual stomping grounds of SHPH, headed by its founder Joseph Aldea.

From Tuesday to Sunday, the group arranges two hours’ worth of pick-up games officiated by a referee and played within a 12-minute time limit. Cost for each player ranges from 170 to 190 pesos, good for at least three games depending on the actual number of attendees.

The group also has its own Facebook page where schedules and special announcements are posted. In addition, action and candid photographs of players are taken each game and are uploaded right away in their official social media page.

Initially a weekly gathering of 15 regulars at the Golden Panda Gym in Barangay Tatalon, Quezon City, the player turnout for the nightly games organized by SHPH has grown rapidly in six years. On the average, there are at least a minimum of 30 to a maximum of 50 basketball players who troop to the designated playing venues.

The all-time record in attendance for SHPH? On one Sunday schedule at the Gatorade Hoops Center, the number of players reached 90. This prompted the group’s administrators, which include Aldea, Dneyo Sabuya and Leo Agapay, to extend their reservation inside the sprawling Mandaluyong venue for two more hours to accommodate all the attendees.

This is the one challenge that the SHPH crew has faced and addressed in numerous occasions.

“It’s a challenge when there are more players coming in within the schedule. Good thing, the court management always allows us to extend hours when needed”, said Aldea.

Celebrities and former professional basketball players have also graced these SHPH-organized games.

Actors Junjun Quintana, Polo Ravales, Billy Crawford and Makisig Morales, and DJ Ace Ramos are just some of the many personalities that have joined the nightly hoops fest. Even a female basketball player, model Nicole De Los Reyes, has taken part in one of the weeknight sessions.

Even former PBA Most Valuable Player (MVP) awardees Alvin Patrimonio and Jayjay Helterbrand have attended the SHPH pick-up games in the past. SHPH also count Magnum Membrere, Mike Acuna, MPBL standouts Kirk Vista, Jojo Cunanan, Carlo Escalambre and Dan Reducto in their list of participants in previous schedules.

For SHPH, the mantras “ball is life” and “basketball never stops” simply hold true.

Here are their weekly schedules for 2019:

Gatorade Hoops Center
Shaw Boulevard, Liberty Center, Mandaluyong
Tuesday 9 to 11 PM
Sunday 8 to 10 PM

Playground at Ronac Art Center
Ortigas Avenue, San Juan
Thursday 8 to 10 PM
Saturday 8 to 10 PM

Playdium Arena
47 Kabignayan Street, Tatalon, Quezon City
Wednesday 9 to 11 PM
Friday 9 to 11pm

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Parks scores breakthrough in another Alab home win

There’s certainly no place like home for the San Miguel Alab Pilipinas and its “Big Three”.

Alab Pilipinas kept its pristine home record intact with a 111-87 blowout win over Saigon Heat, as the city of Cebu played host to the ASEAN Basketball League (ABL) Sunday night inside the Lapu-Lapu Sports Complex.

The defending ASEAN Basketball League (ABL) champions stepped on the gas early, reversing a 9-10 deficit to a 33-17 bubble by the end of the first period. Reigning Most Valuable Player (MVP) Bobby Ray Parks Jr. and world import Peter John Ramos teamed up in the opening frame to set the tone for Alab Pilipinas, who remain undefeated at home at 10-0.

With 3:57 remaining in the first quarter, Parks knocked in a left corner three which formalized his entry to the ABL’s 1000-point club.

Entering the second half facing a commanding 53-33 deficit, the visiting team from Vietnam suddenly caught fire from the three-point area in the third quarter. Led by Trevon Hughes, Murphy Burnatowski, Chris Dierker and De Angelo Hamilton, the Heat dropped nine three-point bombs in the said frame to inch as close as eight points from Alab.

But in the final quarter, the Jimmy Alapag-mentored squad finished what they started in resounding fashion. Up by just 12 at the start of the fourth, the hosts doubled up with 2:48 to go courtesy of a three-point play converted by Renaldo Balkman. The Season 8 Defensive Player of the Year overpowered Tim Alan Van Waale at the post to score on a short stab with a foul to boot, knocking in the subsequent free throw for a 106-82 advantage.

Ramos finished with a game-high 30 points along with 18 rebounds, while Balkman and Parks contributed 29 and 23 markers respectively. Alab’s Puerto Rican world imports made mincemeat out of their opponent’s interior defense, mustering 70 inside points compared to the Heat’s 10.

Pacing the Heat was Dierker who tallied 20 points on 4-of-8 (50%) shooting from beyond the arc.

Currently on top of the Season 9 team standings, Alab Pilipinas improve their win-loss record to 12-2 while the fourth-running Heat drop to 10-7.

The reigning ABL titlists continue their seven-game schedule for February as they visit Wan Chai on the 8th for a showdown with the Hong Kong Eastern Lions.

The Heat return to action on February 10 in a road game against the Singapore Slingers, to be held inside the OCBC Arena.

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Mighty Sports just too much for AUD in Dubai tilt opener

Mighty Sports cruised past American University in Dubai (AUD), 87-58, in the opening game of the 30th Dubai International Basketball Championship held inside the Shabab-Al Ahli Club.

The Philippine representatives to the 10-team tournament fashioned out the 29-point beatdown over an overmatched AUD side behind the exploits of imports Justin Brownlee and Randolph Morris and Fil-American Jeremiah Gray.

An alley-oop slam by Gray off a feed from Jason Brickman gave Mighty Sports a huge 49-20 advantage at the start of the third quarter. The 6-foot-5 guard scored on a dunk once more in the latter part of the period to the delight of pro-Filipino crowd composed mostly of migrant workers.

The game also marked the return to competitive basketball of former National Basketball Association (NBA) player Lamar Odom. The 2011 Sixth Man of the Year and two-time NBA champion started at the power forward spot and finished with four points and seven rebounds. Still groping for form, the 6-foot-10 forward made just two of his 10 field goal attempts while missing all of his five three-pointers.

Still, the Filipino fans urged Odom to continue finding his offensive rhythm up until the fourth period.   At the final 7:24 of the game, Odom scored on a nifty layup that was greeted with cheers by the crowd.

Brownlee led the way for Mighty Sports with 17 points and six rebounds. Gray and Morris chipped in 15 and 14 markers respectively.

Mahmoud Rab of AUD tallied game-high 20 points on 9-of-19 shooting from the field, along with seven rebounds.

In less than 24 hours, Mighty Sports return to action to battle the UAE National Team in the resumption of the elimination rounds.

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Possible PBA destinations for Jason Brickman

A vacancy at the point guard position for your favorite PBA team? Jason Brickman may just fill up that spot and more. 

The next rookie draft may still be months away, but the San Antonio, Texas-born playmaker is making a buzz this early. Granted a release just this week by his ASEAN Basketball League (ABL) team Mono Vampire, Brickman has long signified his intention of continuing his basketball career in the PBA.

Almost halfway through the elimination rounds of the ninth ABL season, Brickman decided to forego the remainder of the tournament —leading to his departure from the Thailand-based squad.

In his ABL debut in 2015, Brickman quarterbacked the Westports Malaysia Dragons to the Season 6 championship over the Singapore Slingers. For his splendid play in the best-of-five championship series, Brickman was also rewarded with the Finals Most Valuable Player (MVP) citation.

After his stint with the Dragons, the 5-foot-9 Brickman spent the 2017 and 2018 seasons with the MONO29-backed ballclub. In Season 8 of the ABL, Brickman —alongside Mike Singletary, Sam Deguara and Filipino point guard Paul Zamar—guided Mono Vampire to a respectable runner-up finish behind San Miguel Alab Pilipinas.

Throughout his ABL stint, Brickman registered per game norms of 12.4 points, 9.9 assists and two steals. The Long Island University Brooklyn standout also tallied a 44% shooting clip from the field and an assist-to-turnover ratio of 3.42.

With the PBA’s 44th season already in full swing with the ongoing Honda Click – Philippine Cup, Brickman may have to wait for a while before breaking into the country’s premier hoops league.

But what if Brickman could suit up right away for any PBA team, right at the very next playdate? Which squad should sign Brickman up in an instant?

FOX Sports Philippines lists down his possible destinations:

Alaska Aces

In Alaska, Brickman could possibly form an exciting backcourt duo with fellow ABL alum Chris Banchero. In 2013, Banchero spearheaded the championship run of the San Miguel Beermen against the Indonesia Warriors, with the Filipino-Italian playmaker taking home the Finals MVP plum.

Phoenix Pulse Fuel Masters

Speaking of reunions, Brickman may also want to suit up for the Fuel Masters which is currently led by his former Westports teammate Matthew Wright. With this familiarity, adjusting to the team’s system wouldn’t be much of a problem for Brickman with his former backcourt partner around.

Rain or Shine Elastopainters

Currently, the Elastopainters only has Kris Rosales as their pure point guard. Others, like Ed Daquioag, Rey Nambatac and Maverick Ahanmisi, are more akin to the shooting guard position. Having Brickman in their fold provides Rain or Shine another steady ballhandler and play-caller.

Columbian Dyip

For a youthful team that banks on speed, Columbian may want to enlist another cat-quick guard in the person of Brickman. The 2014 expansion team features open court players CJ Perez, JP Calvo and Rashawn McCarthy. Adding Brickman in the mix turns up Columbian’s tempo up a few notches higher.

(Images from ABL)

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After stellar 2018 run, Team Lakay starts off year 1-and-4

Not the ideal start for 2019 for coach Mark Sangiao and the rest of Team Lakay.

The Baguio-based mixed martial arts stable, which raked in big victories in 2018, is on an early tailspin. After two ONE Championship events this January, Team Lakay fighters have suffered defeats in four of five bouts – two of which were for world titles.

Friday’s Hero’s Ascent fight card saw Geje Eustaquio drop his flyweight world title to now three-time champion Adriano Moraes via unanimous decision in a thrilling five-round fight. Inaugural ONE bantamweight champion Honorio Banario suffered a first round technical knockout loss at the hands of undefeated prospect Lowen Tynanes in a lightweight World Grand Prix quarterfinal clash.

It was only Danny Kingad who came out with a victory on Friday, outpointing Tatsumitsu Wada in a back-and-forth flyweight World Grand Prix qualifier.

Six days earlier in Jakarta, Indonesia, Team Lakay’s Edward Kelly and Joshua Pacio were at the receiving end of tough losses at ONE Championship Eternal Glory. Singapore’s Christian Lee decimated Kelly with vicious ground and pound in the first round, while Pacio yielded his strawweight decision to Yosuke Saruta via split decision.

For Eustaquio, it’s back to the drawing boards for him and the rest of the team. Losing the last chapter of his trilogy with Moraes doesn’t mean the end of his stellar MMA career, says the deposed flyweight champion.

“Sorry Pilipinas if I didn’t make it tonight. But in my mind, I thought I (was) winning the fight. But that’s part of it. Life has ups and downs. Tonight was not my night. It’s Adriano’s night. But the road doesn’t end there. The road doesn’t stop there. I’ve been through it before,” said Eustaquio, whose record now stands at 11 wins and seven losses.

“It’s time to get back to the drawing board. It hurts to smile but we are the people of the mountain, there’s no mountain we can’t conquer,” he added.

An option for Eustaquio would be the upcoming Grand Prix, which may well include Moraes and former Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) world flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson. Throwing his name into the flyweight mix piques Eustaquio’s interest, more than a fourth fight with “Mikinho”.

“Part 4? Mas maganda sana kung ibang putahe naman. But if he will still be the undisputed world champion in my division, give me enough time and I’m pretty sure. If he will still be the undisputed world champion, we will meet again,” exclaimed Eustaquio post-fight.

“There’s a lot of opportunities on my part. I believe – I don’t know if you also believe – that I am qualified for the Grand Prix, then let’s go. But if you think I’m not, well I believe there a lot of opportunities. I can show a better Geje Eustaquio in the future,” shared the 29-year old mixed martial artist.

Sangiao, the mentor of Team Lakay, couldn’t hide the disappointment on his squad’s latest debacle. Still, Sangiao is optimistic that a chance to turn things around in 2019 is in store for the famed MMA crew in the Chatri Sityodtong-founded promotion.

“Siyempre very sad. We thought we were winning the fight. But that’s it. As Geje said, we have to go back to the drawing board, watch the fight, try to see what is lacking or what happened. The whole team thought we won. Anyway, like what Geje said, we have to respect the judges. We will be back better again,” Sangiao quipped.

Team Lakay still has two world titles in their possession. Eduard “Landslide” Folayang holds the ONE lightweight world championship, while Kevin “The Silencer” Belingon owns the world bantamweight strap.

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ONE Hero’s Ascent: Moraes decisions Eustaquio to take back World Flyweight crown

In a span of six days, Team Lakay’s four world titles is suddenly down to two.  

Adriano “Mikinho” Moraes closed out his trilogy with Geje Eustaquio with a unanimous decision victory to capture the world flyweight title anew in ONE Championship’s Hero’s Ascent, Friday night at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay.

The Brazilian Jiu-jitsu black belt leaned on his grappling superiority, dominating each time the action transitions to the mat. In round 4, Moraes caught Eustaquio in a perplexing submission attempt on the ground that almost hyperextended the Filipino’s left leg. The Team Lakay standout walked back to his corner at the end of the round with a slight limp.

In round 5, Moraes capitalized on a missed right straight by Eustaquio by scoring a crucial takedown.

The tough loss comes in the heels of Joshua Pacio’s strawweight title defeat to Yosuke Saruta last January 19 in Jakarta.

(Images from ONE Championship)

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ONE Hero’s Ascent: Action-packed prelims kick off Manila fight card

Mixed martial arts action, courtesy of ONE Championship, makes its way back to the Philippines for the first time in 2019.

Four preliminary matches kicked off ONE Championship’s Hero’s Ascent, held Friday night at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay.

Opening the night was the strawweight bout between Himanshu Kaushik and Egi Rozten. Kaushik, a wushu and karate national champion from India, stopped his Indonesian rival via ground and pound at the 3:33 mark of the first round.

Filipino fight fans were treated to an action-packed muay thai display from Mohammed Bin Mahmoud and Hiroaki Suzuki. With 2:53 left in Round 3, referee Atsushi Onari called for the stoppage with Suzuki landing a volley of kicks and punches on Mahmoud.

In the third preliminary card bout, Tang Kai of China knocked out his Korean opponent Sung Jong Lee with a picture-perfect head kick to earn a knockout victory at the 1:14 mark of the second round.

Elias “The Sniper” Mahmoudi closed out the preliminaries with a unanimous decision victory over Yukinori Ogasawara in a ONE Super Series muay thai flyweight fight. Mahmoudi, a muay thai world champion from Algeria, inflicted a cut under the left eye of his Japanese foe with a sharp elbow while on the clinch in the opening round. From that point on, Mahmoudi controlled the action with a variety of strikes en route to his 30th muay thai victory, against three losses.

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MPBL courtside reporter Gianna Llanes vies for Miss Mandaluyong crown

For the second time, it’s “sneakers off, high heels on” for Gianna Margarita Llanes.

The bubbly Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League (MPBL) courtside reporter ventures anew in the world of beauty pageants as she takes part in Miss Mandaluyong 2019.

On February 2 at the Mandaluyong City Hall, a total of 30 candidates will vie for the coveted crown currently held by 2018 winner Shaira Marie Rona of Brgy. New Zaniga.

Last October, Gianna competed in her first pageant, Miss World Philippines, against 39 other candidates. Armed with the lessons from her previous stint in Miss World PH, Gianna is hopeful for a better result this time around.

“I learned so much from the first one, I knew that I could fare better this time around. I still want to represent the country internationally someday because I know I could do it,” said Gianna, who will be representing Barangay Barangka Ibaba.

The Ateneo de Manila alumna has her eyes set on here primary goal – to win a beauty pageant title before turning 26.

“I told myself before I turn the age of 26, I need to win a crown,” she shared.

Currently, Gianna juggles her time between pageant preparation and her other endeavors. The MPBL reporter, events host and indoor cycling instructor banks on her time management skills to get things done for work and the upcoming Miss Mandaluyong tilt.

“It’s chaotic, I have to admit. Especially because I want to make sure I’m 100% prepared for this pageant with trainings, wardrobe and presence of mind. But thankfully, a lot less stressful than competing in a national pageant,” Gianna quipped.

“I still continue to work my four jobs, but they all have a flexible schedule so any free time I find, I make sure to do more and more research and practice for this pageant especially since it spans for less than a month.”
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WELTER SKELTER: Pacquiao and the other ‘studs’ of the 147-pound division

In his current weight class, Manny Pacquiao is pretty much in “good company”.

Pacquiao, the reigning World Boxing Association (WBA) welterweight champion, is back in the spotlight after a unanimous decision victory over Adrien Broner Sunday (Manila time) at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.

At 40 years of age, Pacquiao may have found the “fountain of youth” to reinvigorate a career bound most likely for the boxing Hall of Fame. After tough decision losses to Timothy Bradley, Jeff Horn and Floyd Mayweather Jr. and a shocking knockout defeat to Juan Manuel Marquez, calls for Pacquiao’s retirement came in droves from fans and boxing observers.

However, Pacquiao opted to move forward to defy the odds and even Father Time. Now, the fighting senator is back as a world titlist in the 147-pound division.

At present, boxing’s stacked and talent-laden welterweight class includes Pacquiao – the only eight-division world champion of the sport – as just one of its titleholders. There are four other fighters who can lay claim as the best welterweight in the world.

Just in case Mayweather decides not to pick up the phone for a much-awaited rematch with Pacquiao, maybe one of these young guns – world champions in their own right – would want to step forward and face the legendary Filipino southpaw.

Who are these other welterweight champions? FOX Sports Philippines rolls out the list:

Terrence Crawford (34-0, 25 KOs)

A native of Omaha, Nebraska, Terrence Crawford lifted the World Boxing Organization (WBO) welterweight title from former Pacquiao tormentor Jeff Horn. Horn made his US debut in June 2018, defending the welterweight title he took away from Pacquiao via unanimous decision in his hometown of Brisbane, Australia. “Bud” dealt the Aussie champion a rude welcome – a ninth round technical knockout to claim the WBO strap. Crawford is on a streak of five-straight stoppage victories, capped by an October 2018 12th round knockout of erstwhile-unbeaten prospect Jose Benavidez Jr. On April 20 at the Madison Square Garden, former two-time junior welterweight world champion Amir Khan will attempt to inflict the first defeat on Crawford’s pristine record and snatch the WBO 147-pound division crown.

Errol Spence Jr. (24-0, 21 KOs)

On May 2017, knockout artist Errol Spence Jr. decimated Kell Brook in 11 rounds to capture the International Boxing Federation (IBF) world title. Since his conquest of the British world champion, Spence has defended the crown twice, both by stoppages. Nicknamed “The Truth”, Spence once defeated Chris Algieri – a former opponent of Pacquiao – via a devastating fifth round knockout. Next up for the 28-year old southpaw is Mikey Garcia, a former lightweight and junior welterweight champion, who is set to invade the 147-pound division. Scheduled on March 16 at the AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, Spence takes on the biggest challenge in his seven-year career in the professional ranks.

Shawn Porter (29-2-1, 17 KOs)

Last September, Shawn Porter outclassed then-unbeaten Danny “Swift” Garcia for the vacant World Boxing Council (WBC) championship. In a battle of two former world champions, Porter stood toe-to-toe with Garcia to claim a unanimous decision win and a second title at the 147-pound division. In his first defense of the “green” belt, “Showtime” battles Cuban contender Yordenis Ugás on March 9 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.

Keith Thurman (28-0-1, 22 KOs)

Inactive for almost two years, Keith Thurman is raring to continue his promising boxing career derailed by an assortment of injuries. Despite the inactivity that dates back to March 2017, the WBA still recognizes Thurman as their “super” champion. As quirky and complicated as it sounds, the WBA has two, three and even four titlists in one weight class. Thurman is slated to defend his version of the WBA welterweight title on January 26 at the Barclays Center in New York against Josesito López.

Photo credits: Shawn Porter and Keith Thurman’s Twitter accounts

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Takedown artist Saruta edges Pacio to capture world straw-weight title

The ONE Championship world straw-weight title is coming home to Japan.

Replacing compatriot Hayato Suzuki, Japan’s Yosuke Saruta stepped up to the plate to challenge Joshua Pacio of the Philippines for the straw-weight gold at ONE Championship Eternal Glory. Making the most out of the opportunity, Saruta crowned himself champion by defeating Pacio via split decision in ONE’s first fight card for 2019 held inside Istora Senayan in Jakarta, Indonesia Saturday night.

The 31-year old challenger fighting out of Saitama relied on his grappling expertise, catching Pacio with double-leg takedowns throughout the five-round bout. Saruta controlled the action against the Team Lakay product every time the fight went to the ground.

Thirty seconds into the opening round, Saruta took the fight to the mat after catching Pacio’s right leg who missed on a roundhouse kick attempt. Establishing half guard, “Tobizaru” grounded the reigning strawweight kingpin with short punches and elbows.

That would be the recurring theme for the bout, as Saruta dodged an assortment of kicks and two-punch combinations thrown by Pacio, answering back with multiple takedowns. The Wajutsu Keishukai Hearts fighter scored two more takedowns against Pacio in the fifth round, which practically sealed the upset.

Saruta improves his mixed martial arts record to 19 wins against eight losses while Pacio, who entered the match on a four-fight winning streak, falls to 13-3.

With the title win, Saruta follows the footsteps of countryman Yoshitaka Naito – a two-time ONE strawweight world champion. Naito’s two title reigns lasted for a combined 694 days before yielding to crown to Pacio last September via unanimous decision.

For the dethroned Pacio, it’s back to the drawing boards with the rest of Team Lakay – kicking off the year in an inauspicious manner after having a dominant mixed martial arts campaign in 2018.

Kelly falls to Lee, Catalan outpoints Rahardian

Meanwhile, two other Filipinos took part in the Jakarta card and had contrasting results.

Singapore’s Christian Lee avenged a controversial September 2018 loss to Edward Kelly, stopping the Team Lakay member with vicious ground and pound at the 2:53 of the first round. Referee Kemp Cheng called for the stoppage after Lee stunned Kelly with three solid punches to the face.

After the fight, Lee expressed his interest for a rematch against ONE featherweight world champion Martin Nguyen. Lee came up short in his first shot for the title in May 2018, losing via split decision to the Vietnamese-Australian champion.

Wushu and Muay Thai specialist Robin Catalan outclassed hometown bet Stefer Rahardian to record the lone victory for the Philippines for the night. Catalan dictated the tempo of the bout with leg kicks and overhand rights. In the final round, the Catalan Fighting System product scored a big double-leg takedown against the Indonesian to seal the win.

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