The ONE Interim Bantamweight World Champion’s textbook spinning back kick and ground strikes gave him the perfect finish to an outstanding performance, and to cap it all, he got to celebrate in front of 20,000 of his Filipino fans inside Manila’s Mall Of Asia Arena.
“There was a lot on the line for that bout, and because I was going to compete in front of my hometown crowd in Manila, I felt extra pressure to give a good performance,” the 31-year-old says.
“I never let the nerves get to me though. I am always composed, and once I stepped through those ropes, in my mind, it was just me and [Leone]. It was like tunnel vision.”
As soon as the first bell sounded, the Filipino looked to engage. Living up to his reputation for delivering relentless offense, he connected with a couple of thudding right hands.
Those punches added to his confidence, and it prompted him to increase the pressure.
“Every time I hit him, I heard his grunts and saw him wince,” Belingon says. “It was then that I knew I had to keep on the attack.”
Knowing Leone is a capable wrestler and grappler, “The Silencer” was adamant that he had to keep the Bali-based American on his feet.
Belingon pushed forward to keep his opponent on the back foot. Also, he proved to be too elusive, exhibiting his highly-improved grappling defense when Leone dived at his legs to go for a takedown.
The amount of shots the American took was a testament of his determination, but the crowd sensed he was fading and a finish was near. So did the Filipino, who never let up.
“I kept pounding him with my hardest punches. I was surprised he was still standing after some of the shots he took. He is a real warrior,” Belingon says.
“At this point, I was really feeling it. The crowd was cheering for me. I couldn’t miss. It was an awesome feeling. I even scored a takedown of my own.”
After a dominant first round, Belingon strolled back to his corner as Leone stumbled back to his stool, but the American earned his rival’s admiration for surviving a tough five minutes and coming out determined to turn things around in the second stanza.
“I have so much respect for Andrew Leone because he didn’t just come to play it safe and survive. He came to fight. That deserves my respect,” the Team Lakay standout adds.
However, the writing was on the wall and it only took a moment for the finish to unfold after the restart.
In a move that will stay in his highlight reel forever, “The Silencer” unleashed a picture-perfect spinning back kick that sent Leone flying across the canvas and onto the mat.
The American let out an audible gasp as he hit the ground, and this was enough of a signal for the home favorite to dive in for the finish – first with punches, and then hard knees to the head.
Leone had no chance to recover, and as Belingon completed the most inspiring victory of his career, the partisan Manila crowd erupted in a chorus of loud cheers.
“This win is my favorite because it showed exactly what I am capable of as a fighter. I am proud to be able to showcase my skills in front of the entire world,” Belingon says.
“To be able to execute that move to perfection, hear the crowd roar and chant my name, it was an awesome feeling that I will never forget.”
Belingon had to wait for his shot at Fernandes, but he did win the ONE Interim Bantamweight World Title in his next match – an outstanding unanimous decision victory against Martin “The Situ-Asian” Nguyen at ONE: REIGN OF KINGS in July.
He returns to action this Friday, 9 November, in the co-main event of ONE: HEART OF THE LION at the Singapore Indoor Stadium. There, he will finally get the chance to face “The Flash” in a highly-anticipated unification rematch for the ages.
“The Silencer” hopes to replicate what he did against Leone in the biggest bout of his career.
“We’ll see what happens,” he says. “I’m definitely looking to put on a show and get the finish for my team, my family, and my country.”