Three belts will be given away at ONE Fighting Championship: 'Rise of the Kings' in Singapore next month and one of them is guaranteed to go to a Filipino because URCC champions Eric Kelly and Honorio Banario will be doing battle for the featherweight strap.
Both registered big wins in Manila last night with Kelly stopping Jens Pulver in the second round and Banario finishing Andrew Benibe in the third. Kelly holds the URCC belt at featherweight while Banario is the lightweight champion and the former has a perfect professional record of 8-0 while the latter is 7-1.
Intriguingly both fighters are from Baguio and have trained together in the past although Kelly has since relocated to Kuala Lumpur while Banario is still based in Baguio and is a member of Team Lakay alongside ONE FC fighters Eduard Folayang, Kevin Belingon and Geje Eustaquio.
Kelly established himself as the frontrunner for the ONE FC Featherweight belt by beating Mitch Chilson, Bae Young Kwon and Jens Pulver. Banario suffered the first loss of his career on his ONE FC debut when he was submitted by Kwon but bounced back immediately by beating Benibe.
Their outstanding records made them obvious candidates to fight one another and while the Filipino fans will be divided the crowd in Singapore can expect a very entertaining fight because if previous fights are anything to go by these two are guaranteed to put their friendship aside and go toe to toe.
Both have similar striking styles but Kelly's background is in Yaw Yan, a form of Filipino kickboxing, while Banario is a student of Wushu. Although between they them have a lot of submission wins they are very comfortable fighting on their feet and this has all the makings of a stand up war.
Throw in the fact that they both come from the same Filipino tradition of warriors who try to finish fights and always leave it all in the ring or the cage and all the ingredients are in place for a classic contest.
There may not be any animosity between these two former training partners but I still expect them to go for broke as soon as the bell sounds and both have the stamina to keep up that sort of pace for the full three rounds.
Kelly has a diverse range of striking, is comfortable boxing and has the athleticism to fire in push kicks to the face. He dropped Pulver with a brutal body kick and is very well rounded striker.
Banario's boxing looked good against Benibe who he absolutely picked apart in a virtuoso performance which culminated in a third round stoppage caused by a non stop barrage of strikes.
Banario also used the body kick to good effect but mixed things up well, alternating between head kicks which never quite connected and sweeps which were more successful, knocking Benibe off his feet on a number of occasions.
Filipinos are seldom enthusiastic about the possibility of fighting one another but such considerations go completely out the window when the possibility of becoming the first ever ONE FC Featherweight Champion is on the line.
Whatever happens on October 6th ONE FC will have a Filipino with a world class record holding the featherweight belt by the end of the night. Banario and Kelly both have outstanding records, hold highly respected URCC belts and the winner will be a worthy champion.
You can watch ONE FC: Pride of a Nation in its entirety here: http://www.onefc.livesport.tv/