Bibiano Fernandes' eight-year, 14-fight winning streak is over. Kevin Belingon beat the Brazilian by split decision at the Singapore Indoor Stadium on Friday to become the undisputed ONE Championship bantamweight king.
The ONE: Battle of the Lion headliner probably hinged on a moment at the end of the fourth round when Belingon dropped Fernandes with a straight right hand. Up until that point in the fight, the action had ebbed and flowed with both men enjoying periods of superiority.
The Filipino shrugged off Fernandes’ early takedown attempts and looked sharp in the opening exchanges. When the Brazilian finally succeeded in ducking under a punch and putting him down, he was unable to capitalize with any effective offense.
Instead, Belingon reversed the position and sprung to his feet where he scored with spinning back kicks to the body and head. In the second stanza, Fernandes put Belingon on his back again. He tried to move from half guard into mount, but left an opening and the Filipino saw his opportunity and slipped out.
Fernandes had Belingon down again towards the end of the round and succeeded in taking his back before transitioning to an armbar. He tried the same submission twice, but the Filipino slipped out both times and on the second occasion found himself in top position.
From there, he attacked with hard punches to the head and midsection of his opponent. It seemed Belingon might be on the verge of finishing the fight with ground and pound, but Fernandes was able to hold him off just enough to survive the round.
The assault had clearly taken a lot out of Belingon, who barely threw a strike in the third round. Fernandes was the aggressor and he took the Filipino down, moved into mount and started to rain down blows, but the bell sounded before the Brazilian could do any real damage.
At this stage, the momentum had shifted toward Fernandes, who started to find a home for his straight right in the fourth. He scored another takedown and moved from side control into mount before trying for another armbar, only for Belingon to slip out and get back to his feet.
With the round coming to a conclusion, Belingon threw a straight right hand that connected clean with the face of Fernandes and sent him flying backwards. It was a solid knockdown, but the Brazilian seemed to have recovered his composure when the round ended moments later.
Before the knockdown, Fernandes appeared to have been winning, but Belingon looked confident in the final round. The last five minutes was basically a striking match with the Filipino looking slightly the sharper of the two, although neither fighter really landed anything of note.
It was a question of whether the judges favored the numerous submission attempts from Fernandes or the damage done by Belingon. Opinion was ultimately divided, but two of the three votes were cast in favor of the Filipino, who unified the bantamweight belts with a split-decision win.
It was a seventh win in a row for Belingon, who improves to 20-5. Fernandes drops to 22-4 after tasting defeat for the first time since dropping a decision to Hiroyuki Takaya at K-1 Dynamite all the way back on Dec. 31, 2010.
After the fight, Belingon was full of praise for the former champion.
“Bibiano is a very tough opponent, I really had a hard time beating him tonight. I respect him very much, and it is an honor to fight such a tough fighter. I know Bibiano is very tough, but I think I deserve this victory. The game plan was to knock him out (and) I kept on giving him everything, but he has good defense.”
ONE: Heart of the Lion Full Results
ONE Bantamweight World Championship bout: Kevin Belingon defeats Bibiano Fernandes by Split Decision (SD) after 5 rounds
Catch Weight bout (72.0kgs): Christian Lee defeats Kazuki Tokudome by TKO (Strikes) at 3:07 minutes of round 1
ONE Super Series Kickboxing Catch Weight bout (71.0kgs): Giorgio Petrosyan defeats Sorgraw Petchyindee Academy by Unanimous Decision (UD) after 3 rounds
Women’s Strawweight bout: Tiffany Teo defeats Michelle Nicolini by Unanimous Decision (UD) after 3 rounds
Lightweight bout: Adrian Pang defeats Kota Shimoishi by TKO (Doctor’s Stoppage) at 5:00 minutes of round 1
ONE Super Series Muay Thai Featherweight bout: Jo Nattawut defeats George Mann by Unanimous Decision (UD) after 3 rounds.
ONE Super Series Muay Thai Bantamweight bout: Alaverdi Ramazanov defeats Andrew Miller by Knockout (KO) at 0:57 minutes of round 1
Featherweight bout: Garry Tonon defeats Sung Jong Lee by Submission (Guillotine) at 2:04 minutes of round 2
Strawweight bout: Dejdamrong Sor Amnuaysirichoke defeats Himanshu Kaushik by Submission (Rear Naked Choke) at 4:45 minutes of round 2
ONE Super Series Muay Thai Bantamweight bout: Muangthai P.K.Saenchaimuaythaigym defeats Panicos Yusuf by Unanimous Decision (UD) after 3 rounds
Bantamweight bout: Shuya Kamikubo defeats Muhammad Aiman by Unanimous Decision (UD) after 3 rounds
Bantamweight bout: Xie Bin defeats Hisyam Samsudin by Submission (D’arce Choke) at 3:19 minutes of round 1
Featherweight bout: Anthony Engelen defeats Meas Meul by Knockout (KO) at 0:39 minutes of round 1