February 21 ------ At ONE: Fire and Fury, Team Lakay showed they could be in for another banner year. Joshua “The Passion” Pacio defended his ONE Strawweight World Title against Alex “Little Rock” Silva in the main event. Meanwhile, Danny “The King” Kingad, Gina “Conviction” Iniong, and Lito “Thunder Kid” Adiwang also went home victorious on January 31. But the team from Baguio City are no longer the only players in the game of Philippine mixed martial arts. The scene is growing at a rapid pace and other athletes are on the rise. Here are three Philippine martial artists outside of Team Lakay who could dominate 2020.
Denice “The Menace Fairtex” Zamboanga. She might be the youngest athlete on the list, but Denice “The Menace Fairtex” Zamboanga is the closest to a World Title shot — especially if she passes her next test. Zamboanga battles ONE Women’s Atomweight World Title challenger Mei “V.V” Yamaguchi at ONE: King of the Jungle on February 28 in Singapore. Another impressive win here could catapult her to the top of the division. The Thailand-based Filipina shut down Jihin “Shadow Cat” Radzuan at ONE: Mark of Greatness in her debut, and the fact that she is facing “V.V” next is a testament to her impressive entrance in ONE. Yamaguchi has won four straight bouts, but if “The Menace Fairtex” stops that streak, she could find herself standing across the Circle from ONE Women’s Atomweight World Champion “Unstoppable” Angela Lee.
Jeremy “Jaguar” Miado. Jeremy “Jaguar” Miado ended 2019 with a first-round knockout win over Miao Li Tao at ONE: AGE OF DRAGONS. Now, with the momentum from that win, “The Jaguar” could have a busy year ahead of him. The pride Albay City has expressed his interest in battling Adrian “Papua Badboy” Matheis as he looks to climb the strawweight division’s ladder. A lot of interesting bouts await Miado, including a possible rubber match with former ONE Strawweight World Champion Dejdamrong Sor Amnuaysirichoke. If he clears his next few bouts, he could end the year alongside the division’s top contenders.
Robin “The Ilonggo” Catalan. Like Miado, Robin “The Ilonggo” Catalan’s career in The Home of Martial Arts has been a roller-coaster ride, but the similarities do not end there. Catalan also ended the year with a highlight-reel worthy win, scoring a knockout over Gustavo “El Gladiador” Balart at ONE: Masters of Fate. A run to the top is not impossible for the fiery strawweight, and he does not have to look far for inspiration. Last year, his older brother, Rene “The Challenger” Catalan, made a surprise run to World Title contention, proving that anything is possible with hard work and determination. Who knows — this year it might be Robin’s turn to raise the flag for Catalan Fighting System.