Kevin Belingon has fixed ‘Grade 1’ grappling ahead of title rematch with Bibiano Fernandes

Kevin Belingon

Team Lakay’s Kevin “The Silencer” Belingon (19-5) sees no problem if reigning ONE Bantamweight World Champion Bibiano “The Flash” Fernandes (22-3) takes the action to the mat in their highly-anticipated rematch on 9 November.

The two men are slated to lock horns in the co-main event of ONE: HEART OF THE LION, which takes place at the Singapore Indoor Stadium.

“All I can say is that in our first match, I wasn’t quite ready particularly in my grappling,” the ONE Interim Bantamweight World Champion said. “My grappling back then was still in ‘Grade 1,’ but now it has improved tremendously.”

In the Philippines, the term “Grade 1” or the first level of primary school, is used to describe something that is still in its infancy or requires further development.The pair initially crossed paths in January 2016. In that bout, Fernandes had his hand raised after making Belingon tap to a shoulder-wrenching kimura in the first round to successfully defend his bantamweight crown.

After failing in his bid to dethrone Fernandes for the gold-plated strap, Belingon worked his way up the ladder again, racking up six-straight victories against top-tier contenders of the 65.8-kilogram weight class.

In his most recent bout, Belingon captured the ONE Interim Bantamweight World Championship with a five-round decision defeat of former two-division kingpin Martin “The Situ-Asian” Nguyen.

After two years of steamrolling through every high-profile opponent in ONE Championship’s bantamweight division, Belingon finally gets his second date with Fernandes, a multiple time Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu world champion who has not experienced a loss in his mixed martial arts career since 2010.

The secret to this success, according to Belingon, has been a drastically improved ground game, particularly in the takedown defense department.

Despite the stark improvement in his ground game, the 30-year-old Baguio City-based wushu practitioner aims to keep the match standing, utilizing his leverage in the striking department.

“The game plan is to stand up with him,” he stated. “If he stands with me, that’s where I’ll catch him.”

Asked what his backup plan is if things do not go according to plan, Belingon made it clear that he is ready to grapple with Fernandes.

“I’m very confident to wrestle or grapple with him because I really focused on those in our training,” Belingon concluded.

This article first appeared on BJPENN.COM on 10/31/2018.