Leone faces Belingon for One bantamweight world championship bid

MANILA — Battling a member of the renowned Team Lakay Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) stable is not new to American fighter Andrew Leone.

In his first fight under One Championship in 2013, he faced off with Geje Eustaquio and won the match.

Fast forward to the present time, Leone is set to take on another Team Lakay member in Kevin Belingon.

“I heard Kevin Belingon was supposed to be next in line for the title, but the promotion had other plans,” Leone said, pertaining to the One bantamweight championship picture.

Leone actually had a shot at the said belt before like Belingon, and just like his opponent, Leone fell prey to Brazilian Bibiano Fernandes.

“It was a tough loss. I worked very hard for that bout, and I only lasted for almost two minutes inside the cage with him. I believe I could have done more against Bibiano Fernandes, but it is what it is,” he recalled.

A win over Belingon in what could be a showdown for the right to score a rematch with Fernandes may be what Leone needs to quickly jump back to the title picture, but he has to do it in front of the raucous pro-Belingon crowd at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay on April 20 during the main event of One: Heroes of Honor.

“It’s great to have my first match for 2018 in Manila. It feels like I’ve gone full circle,” Leone said.

For his part, Belingon believes his improved ground game would put him at par with Leone.

“After working on my wrestling and grappling over the past couple of years, I have really improved. Because of this improved grappling, my striking can be showcased even more,” Belingon said. “I will not hesitate to grapple with him.”

Belingon has been on a tear since he last vied for the One bantamweight belt against current champion Fernandes.

Following his loss to Fernandes, the Team Lakay member has since won his last four fights, putting him in a good position for another shot at the bantamweight belt. PNA-northboundasia.com