When one thinks of the Philippines and combat sports, inevitably the first image that comes to mind is of a boxing ring and superstar Manny Pacquiao. “Pacman” has become a legend in his homeland.

However, boxing isn’t the only combat sport practiced on the island nation. There is also mixed martial arts, and several Filipinos are carrying the torch for their country, looking to bring new pride to a nation that carries so much of the sentiment when it comes to their beloved boxer. And at One Fighting Championship’s aptly titled fifth event, Pride of a Nation, several of these Filipino warriors will get their opportunity.

First and foremost, there is arguably the nation’s biggest star among its MMA fighters, Eduard Folayang. The Wushu practitioner will represent his nation against Swiss fighter Felipe Enomoto.

Meanwhile, Folayang’s Team Lakay teammates, Kevin Belingon and Honorio Banario, will also seek to improve their records. Both fighters have only lost once while compiling records worthy of prospect status. Belingon will have his hands full with South Korean foe Soo Chul Kim, and Banario will lock horns with fellow countryman Andrew Benibe.

And while the pride of a nation runs through this card as a distinct theme, there will also be the pride of veterans and the pride of a certain famous MMA family on the line when One FC heads to the Smart Araneta Coliseum in Quezon City’s National Capital Region in the Philippines on Aug. 31 for One FC 5. Jens Pulver, Phil Baroni, Andrei Arlovski and Tim Sylvia will all be looking for one more shot at glory and stardom, while the Gracie clan would like to leave the Philippines with a clean sweep in three scheduled fights involving members of the legendary first family of the sport.

And finally, there is the main event, which pits former Dream champion Bibiano Fernandes, who almost signed with the UFC, against up-and-comer Gustavo Falciroli. It’s a battle of submission specialists out to prove that they belong among the top bantamweights in the world.

Fans can watch the entire card through a live stream on the One FC website beginning at 8:30 a.m. ET. The undercard will be available for free, while the main card pay-per-view stream will cost $9.99.

For this event, The MMA Corner moved the round table out of the room, swept the floors and strapped on the gloves for a one-on-one sparring session between writers Rob Tatum and Bryan Henderson, who share their opinions for all eleven fights on the card.

HW: Rolles Gracie (6-1) vs. Tony Bonello (16-1-1)

Tatum: This fight features two heavyweights with a very similar story. Both are expert grapplers and both have fallen short on the biggest stage.

Gracie is best known for an embarrassing UFC 109 bout with Joey Beltran that even two-and-a-half years later fans haven’t forgotten. But the 6-foot-4 Brazilian is a much more capable fighter than he showed that night. In fact, outside of that lone loss, Gracie has finished every opponent inside of the first round. And with a world-class submission attack at his disposal, the 34-year-old has the tools to hang with anyone on the ground.

Rolles Gracie (L) battles Joey Beltran (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

As for Bonello, it’s been more than two years since he last competed. And prior to that, it was another two years since he was demolished by an undersized Murilo “Ninja” Rua under the EliteXC banner. Bonello has had success on the regional level, but despite his sparkling record, he’s never faced anyone with Gracie’s submission skills. Bonello holds 14 career wins by tapout, but he’s going to be at huge size and skill disadvantage in this fight.

Gracie may not be a UFC-caliber fighter, as we saw previously, but rest assured he’s much more talented than Bonello. Gracie takes this fight by first-round rear-naked choke.

Henderson: Both fighters are third degree BJJ black belts, and Bonello trained under the Gracies. So, while I agree that Bonello with be at a skill disadvantage, that’s only because Rolles, being a member of the Gracie family, probably came out of the womb and immediately slapped an armbar on the attending physician. Bonello is no slouch on the ground, but Gracie is as skilled as they come.

Having interviewed Rolles, I get the sense that he’s anticipating a stand-up battle, given the proficiency of both fighters when it comes to the ground game. It could get ugly, if that’s the case. Neither man is a natural striker, and what we’d witness would be an obvious showing of just how uncomfortable both men are on their feet.

What stands out most to me is Bonello’s inactivity in active competition. Combine that with the huge size advantage for Rolles, and I think Bonello will be in trouble here. We’ll probably see at least a few minutes, if not an entire round, of sloppy striking, followed by Gracie controlling Bonello on the ground en route to a first- or early second-round submission win.

FW: Eric Kelly (7-0) vs. Jens Pulver (26-16-1)

Henderson: There’s no doubt that the name Jens Pulver stands out in this match-up. The guy is a legend from his UFC days, and his personality makes him a fan-favorite, one that you want to see win, even if you know that he’s far along the downside of his storied career.

In this case, he might be the favorite to fight fans viewing this event from the United States, but he’ll definitely be in enemy territory against reigning URCC featherweight champion Eric Kelly, who hails from the Philippines.

Kelly has the perfect set of skills to exploit the weaknesses of the aging Pulver. His background is in jiu-jitsu and Yaw Yan kickboxing, and he has earned six of his wins by submission. His kickboxing will allow him to confidently stand toe-to-toe with the striking-centric Pulver, while seeking an opening to take the former UFC champion to the mat. That’s where Kelly’s jiu-jitsu skills will kick in, giving him a clear-cut advantage.

Eric Kelly (R) battles Bae Young Kwon (One FC)

Pulver’s experience is his biggest asset in this fight. He can take advantage of Kelly’s mistakes and seize opportunities to finish the fight. However, five of his eight career submission losses have come in the last four years. His ability to avoid his opponent’s grappling has diminished throughout the years. That leaves him vulnerable, and gives Kelly an aspect of the fight which he can exploit.

More and more, Pulver is looking like a high-profile name that provides a tough, but not impossible, challenge for up-and-coming stars. I believe that’s exactly the case in this bout. Kelly is undefeated and has been facing steadily tougher competition, and this fight takes it to the next level; a win could vault him to international attention. And that’s exactly what he’ll get when he submits Pulver via choke early in this fight.

Tatum: Pulver’s fall from stardom has been painful to watch for anyone who remembers the prime “Lil’ Evil.” But ultimately, time catches up to every athlete and in MMA, the drop off can be much more extreme than other sports. It’s hard to believe that the former UFC champion picked up only one win over a four year stretch between 2006 and 2010. But Pulver showed resolve, dropping weight classes and going 4-2 since.

Unfortunately for Pulver, Kelly is exactly the type of fighter that has been his kryptonite—as Bryan alluded to. Kelly has the tools to spoil Pulver’s promotional debut in the same way that rising talents Tim Elliott and Brian Davidson did over the last 18 months. Kelly’s ground game is actually a notch above both of those fighters and his stand-up game is more than adequate against a fighter like Pulver.

While many fans, fighters and even media may not want to see Pulver hang up the gloves, eventually the 37-year-old is going to have to call it a career. After Kelly hands him the ninth submission loss of his career on Aug. 31, that time may be sooner than later.

HW: Andrei Arlovski (17-9) vs. Tim Sylvia (31-7)

Tatum: In all honesty, I’d love to find anyone, anywhere that was begging to see this tetralogy. Sylvia holds a 2-1 edge in their previous meetings, winning once by TKO and once by decision. Arlovski’s lone win came by a lightning-fast Achilles’ lock all the back at UFC 51. Both of these veteran heavyweights have had a bumpy road since falling out of favor with the UFC. Each made their way to Affliction and both fell to Fedor Emelianenko—a far cry from their days as UFC champion.

Arlovski continued fighting higher-level competition under the Strikeforce banner, but dropped four straight fights before finally turning things around in ProElite. The Belarusian still possesses great striking technique and an underrated ground game, but his chin has failed him over and over through the years.

Tim Sylvia (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

Sylvia, meanwhile, has managed to win seven of his last eight, but his level of competition leaves something to be desired. That’s a big reason why he finds himself competing outside the United States, despite his pleas to be brought back to the UFC. His towering 6-foot-8 frame gives him a significant reach advantage over nearly every opponent, but it won’t be new to Arlovski.

In a battle for relevancy, one of these former stars has to come out on top. Expect a far less exciting fight than their UFC meetings, with Sylvia taking a slow-paced, grinding decision win.

Henderson: The outcome of this fight depends in large part on which version of Sylvia shows up. Will it be the out-of-shape fighter that fell in a mere nine seconds to aging former boxer Ray Mercer and lasted just 32 seconds with TUF alum Abe Wagner? Or will it be the in-shape fighter who reigned over the UFC’s heavyweight division and is now motivated for one more run at the Octagon (or at least its sister, the Strikeforce cage)?

If we get the out-of-shape fighter, this one absolutely goes to the glass-chinned Arlovski. If it’s the latter, then we might have a fight on our hands, though it’s still one most people won’t be clamoring to see.

I actually think Sylvia’s near shot at Strikeforce and a fight with Daniel Cormier, only to be dissed and dismissed days later by UFC President Dana White and Strikeforce’s brain trust, might have lit a fire under “The Maine-iac.” If Sylvia shows up to this fight out of shape, he can kiss his career goodbye, and he’ll only have himself to blame.

As for Arlovski, where do I begin? His four-fight losing streak probably should have been five, as his 2008 affair with Roy Nelson under the EliteXC banner featured a questionable stand-up call by the referee which may have aided in Arlovski turning the tide on his round-bellied foe. Then, there are his two recent wins—both lingered into the third round before the former UFC champ was able to score the finish. Yet, he was fighting the king of journeymen, Travis Fulton, and Ray Lopez, a 7-3 fighter who is better suited for light heavyweight. Talk about not instilling much confidence. Arlovski’s last truly impressive win came against Ben Rothwell in 2008.

That’s not to say Sylvia has done any better. Arguments could be made that his victories over Andreas Kraniotakes and Paul Buentello top anything Arlovski has done in the last four years, but you’d have to go back to Sylvia’s 2007 win over Brandon Vera to really hit on a big fight for the former UFC champ. Still, I think that motivation from Zuffa’s snubbing will really play a vital role in this affair and give Sylvia the edge. And Arlovski, with that questionable chin, might give the big man the perfect opportunity to put an exclamation mark on his quest to rejoin the big show. Sylvia will take advantage, as he’ll land a head kick that puts Arlovski to sleep midway through this affair.

LW: Eduard Folayang (11-2) vs. Felipe Enomoto (6-4)

Henderson: There are plenty of fighters on this card that U.S. fans will recognize and watch this event to see—the Gracies, Andrei Arlovski, Tim Sylvia, Jens Pulver, Phil Baroni and even Bibiano Fernandes. One fighter they shouldn’t sleep on, however, is Eduard Folayang.

Folayang is the reigning URCC welterweight champion and the star member of Team Lakay. His last outing ended in a controversial split decision loss to Ole Laursen, who also happens to be the only fighter Felipe Enomoto has defeated in his four most recent outings.

One FC describes Folayang as being the Philippines’ MMA equivalent to fellow countryman and boxing superstar Manny Pacquiao. It might be a stretch, but the decorated Wushu practitioner is definitely a big name for Filipino MMA. His losses are a bit concerning, but the recent defeat was hotly contested and Folayang has delivered “Fight of the Night” performances in both his appearances thus far under the One FC banner.

Eduard Folayang (One FC)

Enomoto, fighting out of Switzerland, has speed and power, but he also lacks consistency. His submission win over Laursen came during a stretch that also featured one decision loss and two submission defeats by way of armbar. Felipe, whose brother Yasubey fights for M-1 Challenge, stands at just 6-4 over his career. His background is in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, boxing and Muay Thai.

Folayang definitely has the more impressive record, but his close fight in a losing effort against Laursen leads me to believe that this will be another nail-biter. In another “Fight of the Night” effort, Folayang should edge out Enomoto on the scorecards.

Tatum: As Bryan noted, both of these fighters have struggled with consistency and it may depend on which version of each enters the cage on fight night.

Enomoto has largely lived in his brother’s shadow in the MMA world, and rightfully so. He has yet to make the leap to next level and his submission losses are concerning. However, against the decorated striker Folayang, it’s unlikely that he’ll have to worry too much about the ground game. But the Swiss fighter may have his chin put to the test.

Most MMA fans aren’t familiar with the art of Wushu, but rest assured that Folayang is one of its best combatants. His flashy striking arsenal has led him to seven of his 11 wins and he’ll look to put those skills to work against Enomoto.

Being that Enomoto has exhibited durability on the feet in his career, I agree with Bryan that this fight will see the scorecards and it will be the Filipino Folayang getting his arm raised.

BW: Bibiano Fernandes (11-3) vs. Gustavo Falciroli (12-3-2)

Tatum: I broke this fight down as the Fight of the Week, and although Falciroli may not have the biggest name in the bantamweight division, the Brazilian-born Australian transplant has been wreaking havoc in the land down under.

What does that mean against the former Dream featherweight and bantamweight champion, Fernandes? Well, not much. Falciroli has a strong grappling game, having earned his black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in his native country before his move. However, against Fernandes he faces a multi-time World Champion who will have an answer for anything he can offer on the mat.

Where this fight will be won is on the feet. Fernandes isn’t known for his finishing ability on the feet, but he certainly has the more fluid stand-up attack. As evidenced in his most recent outing against Antonio Banuelos, Fernandes unleashes lightning-fast combinations. Training under the tutelage of Matt Hume, the “Flash” has really matured as a striker and will look to showcase that further in this fight.

Gustavo Falciroli (Taro Irei/Sherdog)

Why is that important? Because Falciroli does have one-punch knockout power. Although both fighters are grapplers by trade, Falciroli has finished fights with his hands on more than one occasion and Fernandes will have to be wary of that.

Regardless of Falciroli’s past accomplishments in Australia, the bottom line is that Fernandes is a top-10 135-pound fighter. As evidenced by his brief courtship by the UFC, Fernandes is on another level, and only Falciroli’s durability will save him from being finished. Look for Fernandes to take a lopsided decision.

Henderson: “Lightning-fast.” That pretty much sums up Fernandes’ game. From his takedowns to his transitions, and beyond. The bantamweight’s best asset is his speed. It has helped him in jiu-jitsu competition and now in mixed martial arts. This man has amassed what likely amounts to twice his own body weight in gold.

To say that Fernandes will have the answer to Falciroli on the ground might be an understatement. Yes, Falciroli is a black belt, but his accomplishments fall extremely short when compared with Fernandes. If this fight goes to the ground, Falciroli is going to be in trouble—and given Fernandes’ speed, Falciroli might not even realize just how much trouble until he’s already tapping.

But Rob is correct—Falciroli has a chance if this remains vertical. The problem is that while Falciroli does possess knockout power, he’s just as much of a grappling-oriented fighter as his counterpart in this bout. Fernandes tends to struggle against foes who are known for their striking–he eked out split decisions against Hiroyuki Takaya and Joachim Hansen and lost in a rematch with Takaya.

Not only is Fernandes a top-10 bantamweight, but it’s telling that he even gave featherweight legend Urijah Faber a hard time, dominating Faber during the former WEC champion’s prime before a deep cut forced a stoppage loss for Fernandes. It shows just how much potential Fernandes has. Falciroli might be a prospect in his own right, but he’s just not in Fernandes’ league, and he doesn’t have the striking game to push Fernandes into uncomfortable territory, regardless of the power of his punches.

This will be a chance for the former Dream champ to frustrate fans who hoped to see him in the UFC, as he will dazzle in One FC’s spotlight. Fernandes will become the first fighter to submit Falciroli…don’t blink or you might miss it.

Quick Picks
WW: Phil Baroni (14-15) vs. Rodrigo Ribeiro (9-9)

Henderson: Anytime Phil Baroni fights, one of two things will happen. A) Baroni will knock his opponent out. Or B) Baroni will punch himself out early and the fight will become hard to watch. Unfortunately for the “New York Bad Ass,” option B tends to happen more often. Ribeiro is a third-degree black belt who has added striking to his repertoire while training in Singapore. That makes him dangerous to someone like Baroni. However, both men’s strengths do not take advantage of a glaring defensive hole in the other’s game. Baroni will look strong in the first half of this fight, but will fade down the stretch. It’s probably headed to the judges’ scorecards, and that might not be good for Baroni. Ribeiro via split decision.

Tatum: Much like the aforementioned Pulver, father time catches up with everyone. Baroni is no different. The 36-year-old is just 1-5 since 2008 and despite another stint with the UFC, the veteran hasn’t looked like himself in years. The sport has simply passed him by, and if Ribeiro can weather the early storm and make Baroni use up his very limited gas tank, the Brazilian will cruise to a decision victory.

176 lb: Gregor Gracie (6-2) vs. Nicholas Mann (4-1)

Tatum: This catchweight affair is an intriguing fight. Gracie marks the next fighter to carry on the Gracie legacy, and thus far the 25-year-old has been successful. However, in his last outing, also under the One FC banner, he dropped a decision. He’ll look to get back on track against a much bigger opponent in Mann, who is dropping down from competing at middleweight and even light heavyweight. Mann will have the edge on the feet, but he’ll be outclassed on the mat. Look for Gracie to score a second-round armbar finish.

Henderson: Gregor might be the one Gracie I can’t put my confidence in, even against competition like Mann. After all, Gregor already has two losses on his record, including a knockout loss to a striker who now holds a record that sits at the .500 mark. Gracie might be the better grappler, and his wrestling gives him a chance to get this fight to the ground, but Mann’s size and striking abilities might put an end to this fight before Gregor can drag him to the ground. Although a Gracie win wouldn’t shock me, I see Mann taking this one via TKO as Gregor’s cardio fails him in the final round.

BW: Kevin Belingon (9-1) vs. Soo Chul Kim (5-4)

Henderson: Kevin Belingon was thrown into the fire in his first One FC appearance at the promotion’s third event, where he took on—and lost to—Masakazu Imanari. Belingon is a Wushu practitioner and trains with a talented group, including Eduard Folayang and Roy Docyogen at Team Lakay. Soo Chul Kim has surprised some tough opponents in his time as well, so he’ll be a legitimate test for Belingon. Belingon’s biggest disadvantage may lie in size, as he could cut down to flyweight without trouble. Despite being the smaller fighter, Belingon has a great skill set and will have the crowd on his side as he works toward another victory.

Tatum: Losing to Imanari is nothing to be ashamed of, and the talented Filipino will look to get back on track against his South Korean counterpart. Belingon may be at a size disadvantage, like Bryan said, but he’ll also have a significant speed advantage in this fight. That will lead to an exciting fight with Belingon having his name called when the scorecards are read.

WW: Igor Gracie (5-2) vs. Jung Hwan Cha (8-6-1)

Tatum: What do you get when you match a Korean with suspect submission defense against a high-level Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioner? A mismatch, of course. Both fighters prefer to use their ground attack, but the difference is that Cha has been submitted four times in his career, while Gracie has never been finished in his young MMA career. Although Cha has faced high-level fighters like George Sotiropoulos and Dong Hyun Kim, he doesn’t have any wins that lead me to believe he’ll be able to hang in this fight. Gracie brings this fight to the ground and quickly chokes Cha unconscious.

Henderson: Igor’s MMA career started with two losses in his first three outings, but he fought tough opponents in that span. Since then, he’s put together a nice string of wins. His foe, Cha, holds a win over Ryo Chonan, but Rob pointed out the glaring weakness in the South Korean’s game—his submission defense. Given that Cha also prefers to win via submission, he might put himself in some bad spots. That will be a mistake against a Gracie, and Igor will take advantage by snagging a submission midway through the fight.

FW: Honorio Banario (6-1) vs. Andrew Benibe (4-2)

Tatum: In a matchup of Filipino fighters that have made a name for themselves under the URCC banner, look for Banario to bounce back from an embarrassing first-round submission loss in his One FC debut to knockout his countryman Benibe.

Henderson: Banario is yet another member of Team Lakay to be featured on this card, and having a set of training partners who easily rank as the top Filipino fighters will surely help him against Benibe. I also see Banario emerging with his hand raised.

FW: Mitch Chilson (3-1) vs. Shannon Wiratchai (2-0)

Henderson: For as touted as these two are for their Muay Thai skills, they have combined for three submission wins, all by way of rear-naked choke. It’ll be an all-around test of their skills, with one earning the first signature win of their young careers. Wiratchai’s judo background might be all he needs to put Chilson in a bad spot and lock in a submission, helping the youngest fighter in One FC to remain undefeated.

Tatum: I’m going to agree with Bryan that despite their accolades on the feet, this fight is likely to be decided by the fighter who has the more complete skill set. That points toward Chilson, who should be able to put Wiratchai on his back and rain punches from the top on his way to a stoppage victory.

Top Photo: Bibiano Fernandes (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)