MANILA, Philippines – Another major sporting milestone will be reached in the Philippines on May 16 as the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) stages its first fight card in the country.
With only a week to go before Filipino mixed martial arts fans witness the action-packed live affair, Rappler shares some critical facts that you need to know if you plan to be in attendance or glue your sights on the television screen on fight night.
But if you are not yet a UFC follower or the sport is now stimulating your curiosity, here are several must-know trivia that can impress your peers who are enthusiastic MMA aficionados.
UFC Fight Night Manila
UFC Fight Night Manila, also numbered as Fight Night 66, is the only UFC event that will be held in Southeast Asia for 2015.
The Philippines has been chosen to host one of the 45 MMA cards that the UFC has planned for this year.
The world’s premier MMA promotion has long held interest in the Philippines, with plans for “The Ultimate Fighter” reality television series to be based in the archipelago being discussed as early as 2011.
The country was listed as one of the company’s target markets for an overseas show on numerous occasions and has seen visits by several UFC superstars such as Chuck Liddell, Georges St-Pierre, BJ Penn, Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, Alexander Gustafsson and Carlos Condit.
SM Mall of Asia Arena
Businessman Henry Sy’s SM Group formed a groundbreaking partnership with the UFC last January to stage the MMA organization’s maiden fight card at the 20,000-seater Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City, Metro Manila.
The state-of-the-art venue is not new in showcasing the sport, having already presented eight MMA events in the past.
Universal Reality Combat Championship, the first MMA league based in the Philippines, held the first MMA card at the Mall of Asia Arena in December 2012 when it celebrated its tenth anniversary in the fighting industry.
Urijah Faber vs. Frankie Edgar
The UFC had a challenging situation when it ran a show in Singapore and Macau last year, but after hearing the Filipino fans’ clamor to see household names in action, the promotion acceded to the request.
File photo by Jaelle Nevin Reyes/Rappler
UFC Fight Night 66 is headlined by a featherweight fight between Urijah Faber (32-7) and Frankie Edgar (18-4-1), two of MMA’s most accomplished fighters at the lighter weight class.
Faber’s UFC record now stands at 8-3, which includes a remarkable four-straight triumphs with three submission wins in 2013.
“The California Kid” is now riding high on a two-fight winning streak since losing to then-bantamweight champion Renan Barao in February 2014, thwarting the likes of Alex Caceres and Francisco Rivera.
On the other hand, Edgar is on a roll as a featherweight as he piled up three victories in a row since his three-match losing skid and last fought this past November when he submitted Cub Swanson with a neck crank in the fifth round.
Former world champions at UFC Fight Night 66
UFC did not book ordinary fighters for its inaugural trip to the fight capital of Southeast Asia as four former world championship titleholders are scheduled to compete on the UFC Fight Night 66 card.
Urijah Faber is a two-division world champion, highlighting his early run in the sport by holding simultaneously both King of the Cage and Gladiator Challenge bantamweight belts and the World Extreme Cagefighting featherweight title.
Frankie Edgar had the highlight-reel moment of his career when he scored a decision victory over BJ Penn to capture the UFC lightweight strap in April 2010.
Gegard Mousasi is the only fighter in the now-defunct DREAM organization to win both light heavyweight and middleweight titles. In August 2009, he claimed the Strikeforce light heavyweight championship by knocking out Renato Sobral.
Hyun Gyu Lim submitted Ryan Biglar with a guillotine choke to bag the Pacific Xtreme Combat (PXC) welterweight belt in July 2012.
Two homegrown talents will represent the country on the undercard of UFC Fight Night 66 as a pair of Team Lakay stalwarts has been booked for action.
Mark Eddiva (6-1) battles Levan Makashvili (6-1) in a three-round featherweight tussle, while his teammate Roldan Sangcha-an (4-1) aims to claim his first UFC victory as he squares off with Guamanian flyweight Jon delos Reyes (7-4).
Fil-Am standouts at UFC Fight Night Manila
Three Filipino-American standouts will have the chance to strut their wares in front of the hometown crowd on the UFC Fight Night 66 undercard
Mark Muñoz (13-6) seemed to be the natural selection to headline the event, but he is relegated to square off with Luke Barnatt (8-2) in three-round middleweight showdown.
Meanwhile, Phillipe Nover (10-5-1) and Nolan Ticman (4-2) are also slated to have their respective homecoming fights.
Muñoz’s retirement and Nover’s UFC return
Mark Muñoz’s 185-pound encounter against Luke Barnatt will be the last professional bout in his career as he has decided to hang up his gloves for good regardless of the outcome of his fight versus the English combatant.
File photo by Mark Cristino/Rappler
Muñoz will be joining the likes of Randy Couture and Tito Ortiz, who had the same privilege of having a farewell fight inside the Octagon.
On the other hand, Phillipe Nover will make his return to the UFC after five years of wandering outside the confines of the organization. He is set to face Yui Chul Nam (18-4-1) in a three-round featherweight match.
The 31-year-old Nover gained prominence in 2008 when he joined season eight of The Ultimate Fighter reality television series as a lightweight contestant.
Due to his disappointing three-fight losing skid inside the UFC cage, he was released in February 2010.
The 5-foot-9 fighter from Brooklyn, New York revitalized his prizefighting career by making sporadic appearances in different promotions such as Bellator MMA and Ring of Combat.
Nover has piled up three-consecutive victories, which included a lightweight title-winning performance in Ring of Combat.
Former PXC stars slated on UFC Fight Night 66 undercard
Pacific Xtreme Combat has staged 13 of its last 24 PXC fight cards in Manila, and since its first Philippine venture in June 2011, it has been a staple on the local MMA scene, spawning talented Filipino contenders like Mark Striegl, Ale Cali, Crisanto Pitpitunge, Glen Ranillo and Rolando Gabriel Dy.
The Guam-based organization served as the footstool for MMA competitors such as Dustin Kimura, Louis Smolka and Michinori Tanaka to be noticed by the UFC.
In order to attract more local fans, five former PXC fighter are booked to be part of the UFC Fight Night 66 lineup.
Ex-PXC welterweight champion Hyun Gyu Lim (13-4-1) locks horns with Neil Magny (14-3), while Jon Tuck (8-2) meets fellow PXC alumnus Tae Hyun Bang (17-8) in a lightweight confrontation.
UFC Fight Night 66 will also feature a three-round bout between former PXC flyweights as Roldan Sangcha-an faces Jon delos Reyes.
The dangerous Jon Tuck
Jon Tuck, the first Chamorro native from Guam to be signed with the UFC, is infamously known for his quick work on Eduard Folayang, who is widely considered as the frontrunner of Philippine MMA.
In November 2009, it only took eight seconds for Tuck to turn the lights off on Folayang by landing a right straight on the Filipino fighter’s chin.
Two years later, Tuck added another Pinoy to his list of victims as he finished Tristan Arenal in the first round by dropping heavy bombs from a standing position.
Mousasi as the most experienced fighter at UFC Fight Night Manila
Gegard Mousasi (36-5-2), who is slated to face fellow middleweight contender Costas Philippou (13-4) in the co-headliner of UFC Fight Night 66, has 43 professional fights to his credit.
Moreover, Mousasi has the most number of stoppages when compared to the other fighters who are part of the one-night event as he has 19 knockouts and 12 submissions.
Main card to be aired on FOX Sports in US
The Philippines’s first UFC spectacle has received an amount of media attention since its announcement, but it was expected that it would be aired internationally on the digital network UFC Fight Pass.
The initial broadcast plan of UFC Fight Night 66 was nixed when the Faber-Edgar duel was publicly confirmed, adding credence to the fight card.
Ten of the 12 scheduled bouts will be aired on the FOX Sports 1 channel in the United States, while the two preliminary fights will be available on UFC Fight Pass.
In the Philippines, UFC Fight Night 66 will have a simulcast on ABS-CBN’s Ball sports channel.
Two injury pullouts
Two fighters have withdrawn from their scheduled fights on UFC Fight Night 66 due to undisclosed injuries.
Mark Eddiva was supposed to meet Alex White, but the latter pulled out and gave his spot to Levan Makashvili, who will be having his first Octagon appearance.
Meanwhile, Roger Zapata backed out in a welterweight contest against Jingliang Li, giving an opportunity to Dhiego Lima to fill in and battle the Chinese combatant.
Winning streaks and coming off losses
Seven UFC fighters are coming to UFC Fight Night 66 dancing to the tune of the victory band and aiming to extend their individual winning streaks.
On the other hand, 12 competitors are seeking to reinsert their names into the winner’s column after suffering disappointing setbacks.