ONE FC 23 preview: top bantamweights Kevin Belingon and Koetsu Okazaki go toe to toe

belingonvs okazaki

Top Filipino bantamweight fighter Kevin “The Silencer” Belingon battles the talented Japanese fighter Koetsu Okazaki on December 5, 2014 at One FC 23 happening at SM Mall of Asia Arena.

 

Kevin Belingon

Belingon has had some highs and lows in his career. However, he is no doubt, one of the best bantamweights in the Philippines. He was tearing everybody apart during his URCC days. But in order for him to really test his skills, he needed to face the best fighters in Asia and he experienced it under the One FC banner.

In his One FC debut two years ago in Singapore, Belingon fought a legendary Japanese fighter in Masakazu Imanari. It was a quick win for the leg lock submission wizard as he caught Belingon rushing in, took his ankle and did his signature heel hook technique which forced Belingon to tap at 1:18 mark of the very first round.

Belingon then faced a gifted South Korean fighter in Soo Chul Kim.  Kim exposed Belingon that night as he utilized a perfect game plan against him; take the fight to the ground and grind him out. It worked in the part of the young South Korean prospect as he earned a well-deserved unanimous decision victory against Belingon.

The former URCC bantamweight champ bounced back from those losses as he scored two consecutive TKO wins against incredibly talented grappler Yusup Saadulaev and Thanh Vu.  Then Belingon was face with another famous Japanese veteran Masakatsu Ueda and he came up short via UD.  Again Belingon bounced back and showcased his punching power by knocking out the then undefeated Spanish prospect David Aranda Santacana in the first round at One FC 13.

Belingon’s recent outing sent him to the drawing board anew when he faced undefeated South Korean fighter Dae-Hwan Kim at One FC 14. Everything was going well in the first couple minutes until he decided to trade punches with Kim.  He got tagged by few counters and put down eventually getting caught by a deep rear naked choke.

 

Koetsu Okazaki

The 35-year-old Okazaki is 2-1 under the One FC banner. His lone loss came when he was outclassed by the current champion Bibiano Fernandes in Manila last year.  But since then, Okazaki piled up two impressive stoppage wins against Guam’s Josh Alvarez and Yusup Saadulaev.

Okazaki looked very composed as always when he faced Alvarez in Manila. The Guamanian fighter came out aggressive in the couple minutes of the fight and got Okazaki with an armbar and omoplata attempts, but the Japanese fighter defended it very well.  In the second round, Okazaki displayed his tricky ground skills as he outclassed Alvarez on the ground and submitted him after three minutes via rear naked choke.

Okazaki was then scheduled to face Russia’s sambo champion in Yusup Saadulaev.  Saadulaev owned Okazaki in the first round of their meeting last July. The Russian sambo master took him down and controlled him on the ground and was able to hit him with clean shots.

Despite being pounded in the first round by Saadulaev, Okazaki kept his cool and stayed very methodical even when he was taken down for the second time in the early seconds of the round. Okazaki turned the tide with two minutes left as he tagged Saadulaev with a punch from the top then went on to take his back and threw some nasty ground and pound that forced the referee to save the Russian from further beating.

 

Fight Analysis

Belingon has been consistently in the thick of the top competition.  His back and forth record doesn’t do him justice.  What it should prove is that he can be in the mix with anyone in his division and can’t be counted out.  Belingon will always bring the fight.  He is brave and constantly improving his skill set.

Aside from Okazaki’s terrific grappling skills, the former Shooto champ is known for his crisp boxing and never ending cardio. He has a granite chin and loves to mix things up on the feet. He too has been in the mix as a contender so he knows how tough his division is.

This match has fireworks written all over it. Two world-class athlete will meet at the center of the cage. They have a goal to achieve on Friday, and that is to give the fans an unforgettable scrap and put themselves closer into title contention.