Vancouver's Bibiano Fernandes reclaims One Championship MMA bantamweight title - InfoNews

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Vancouver's Bibiano Fernandes reclaims One Championship MMA bantamweight title

Mixed martial arts (MMA) fighters China's Xiong Jingnan, left, and Angela Lee of Singapore fight during One Championship bout in Tokyo, Sunday, March 31, 2019. (AP Photo/Koji Sasahara)
March 31, 2019 - 9:34 AM

TOKYO - Brazilian-Canadian Bibiano (The Flash) Fernandes reclaimed his One Championship MMA bantamweight crown from Kevin (The Silencer) Belingon on Sunday when the Filipino title-holder was disqualified.

But Vancouver-born Angela (Unstoppable) Lee failed in her bid to add the strawweight title to her atomweight championship, suffering the first loss of her career when she was stopped in the fifth round by China's Jing Nan Xiong.

Belingon (20-6-0) was disqualified one minute 21 seconds into the second round for illegal strikes to the back of the head. He had won the 135-pound title from Fernandes (23-4-0) on a split decision in November 2018.

The bantamweight fight between Fernandes and Belingon was their third meeting and it looks like there will be a fourth, with an immediate rematch announced after Sunday's disqualification.

The "One Championship: A New Era" card at Ryogoku Kokugikan, Tokyo's premier sumo venue, featured four title bouts as well as the debut of two former UFC champions in the promotion.

Former UFC flyweight champion Demetrious (Mighty Mouse) Johnson won his bout while former lightweight title-holder Eddie Alvarez lost.

Aung La N Sang, a native of Myanmar who trains in the U.S., retained his One Championship middleweight title with a second-round TKO of Japanese challenger Ken Hasegawa.

Japanese challenger Shinya Aoki dethroned lightweight champion Eduard Folayang if the Philippines via first-round submission.

Fernandes won the 135-pound title in 2013 and defended it seven times — including a submission win over Belingon in January 2016 — before losing to his Fillipino rival last year.

The 39-year-old Fernandes's road to MMA stardom was not easy. His mother died when he was seven and he lived for a time with his aunt in the Amazon.

He was 14, selling ice cream and cleaning houses, when he started learning jiu-jitsu. The mother of a friend paid for his lessons to start with. When that ran out, he cleaned the gym to pay for them.

Fernandes did it for almost four years. Then his coach told him to quit cleaning and focus on becoming a world champion. Fernandes did just that, going on to win world, Brazilian and Pan-Am jiu-jitsu titles before switching his focus on MMA.

He was at a jiu-jitsu competition in California more than a decade ago when he was invited to come train in Canada. He liked what he saw and stayed. He met his wife there and started raising a family in Vancouver.

Lee (9-1-0) holds the atomweight title but was moving up to 115 pounds from 105 to challenge for the strawweight championship against Xiong, a fighter known as the Panda.

Xiong (14-1-0) survived a series of submission attempts by Lee in the fourth round then countered in the final round with body kicks and got the TKO stoppage at the 1:37 mark of the final round. She has now won nine straight.

The 22-year-old Lee, who now makes her home on the Hawaiian island of Oahu, comes from a fighting family. Father Ken and mother Jewelz are decorated martial artists who teach at their United MMA gym in Waipahu where Angela and younger brother Christian, also an MMA fighter.

Ken was born in Singapore and Jewelz in South Korea. She moved to Hawaii at a young age while he came to Canada at the age of four. They met in Hawaii when Ken went there for high school, moving to Canada after graduation and eventually marrying.

Angela lived in Vancouver and elsewhere in Canada until she was seven, when the family moved to Hawaii. Angela, who has dual Canadian-American citizenship, graduated from high school in 2014. She had three amateur fights then signed with One Championship.

The 35-year-old Alvarez, who hadn't fought since July 2018, was taken to a nearby hospital after his loss in the 155-pound Grand Prix tournament.

Nasyukhin kicked high early and put a two-punch combination together when Alvarez attempted to pressure him backward. He floored Alvarez with a right hand two minutes in.

"This has been the case most of my career, people have underestimated me," the 28-year-old Nasyukhin said. "I knew that he was a better opponent than me and he's an MMA legend but I used that as motivation."

The 32-year-old Johnson won his flyweight bout, part of a 125-pound Grand Prix, by choking out Japan's Yuya Wakamatsu at 2:40 of the second round.

"He's good about crossing distance," Johnson said after the win. "I had a hard time trying to cross distance carefully. I got caught, but sometimes you battle through adversity in the cage or in life, and you keep pushing through it."

The Singapore-based One Championship has staged shows across Asia from Myanmar to China over the past seven years, but waited to take its shot at the martial arts-loving fan base in Japan, where several major MMA organizations have risen and fallen over the years. One also plans to debut in Vietnam and South Korea later in 2019.

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With files from Jim Armstrong, The Associated Press

News from © The Canadian Press, 2019
The Canadian Press

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