Issue of July 20, 2014

Courier Anniversary Issue
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Kelly to face Japanese fighter for ONE FC featherweight belt
Harley Palangchao

When it rains, it pours.

Igorot MMA fighter Eric Kelly is set to fight reigning One Fighting Championship featherweight world champion Koji Oishi for the title in a blockbuster show in Dubai on Aug. 29.

Kelly earned the right to a title fight after his impressive rear-naked-choke finish on Australian Rob Lisita in the main event of ONE FC 18: War of Dragons in Taipei, Taiwan on July 11.

The bloodied Igorot fighter was almost dominated by the Aussie fighter in round 1, but Kelly came from behind and won in round 2 of their scheduled five-round event.

Kelly, who improved his MMA professional record to 11 wins with one loss, is also the first recipient of the $50,000 ONE FC Warrior bonus from Victor Cui, the head of the biggest MMA promotions in Asia.

It would be the second time Kelly will fight for the featherweight world title belt in his stint with ONE FC.

His  first world title fight was against former ONE FC featherweight world champion Honorio “The Rock” Banario, a fellow Igorot fighter, during ONE FC7: Return of Warriors on Feb. 2, 2013.

Referee Yuji Shimada stopped the fight in round 4 due to an eye injury Kelly sustained, which made Banario the inaugural ONE FC featherweight champion.

It was the first defeat for Kelly, who is known as a technical fighter who submitted most of his opponents since he started his MMA pro career in July 2009.

Banario, on the other hand, lost his featherweight belt to Oishi in his first title defense in Manila during ONE FC9: Rise to Power in May 2013.

The 24-year-old Banario was given a rematch but he was again knocked out by Oishi in December of the same year.

This means that Kelly will face a formidable opponent from Japan, who has height advantage.

The 37-year-old reigning champion has been a veteran in MMA with 25 wins and nine losses since he made his debut with the Ultimate Fighting Champion 25 where he lost via majority decision against LaVerne Clark in April 2000.

The Dubai event will feature two title fights, which include the welterweight bout between champion Nobutatsu Suzuki and challenger Ben Askren.

Lightweight champion Shinya Aoki will also face Kamal Shalorus while Filipina MMA fighter Ana Julaton will face kick boxer Irina Mazepa.

Fans in Asia can catch all the action live on STAR Sports.

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