Photo: Eunisse De Leon-Raymundo
Manila and Baguio have long been a hotbed for mixed martial arts on the island of Luzon in the Philippines. Manila because it’s Manila, and Baguio for being home to one of Asia’s top teams, Team Lakay. But down south in the province of Bicol, things are steadily heating up.
During the first half of the year alone, there has been a healthy number of events that went down in the region where Mayon Volcano sits, known around the world for its perfect cone. One of them is Big3 MMA Production’s Guerilla Evolution “Cage Wars,” with an inaugural offering that drew more than 4,000 spectators in June. Dubbed Cage Wars: Fight Night, it featured American Cody Young of Team Elite Fitness and MMA Vietnam demolishing Ariel Linchuco via ground-and-pound in round 2.
A thrilling showcase of nine bouts followed in August at Cage Wars: Battle of Legazpi City. The promotion’s sophomore effort pitted top local prospect Jayson Margallo against Malaysian import Mohd Rashiddin of Team Karabaw. Undefeated in 17 muay Thai fights, Rashiddin didn’t have a chance to display his standup as he succumbed to a rear-naked choke early in the first round (a rematch has been set on Oct. 27, this time at the Malaysian’s home turf, for Ultimate Beatdown Borneo 31: Way of the Pangazou).
In the co-main event, former One Championship standout Ruel Catalan connected when it mattered most to eke out a decision over aggressive grappler, Herbert Locre. The younger Locre might have the wrestling advantage with his powerful takedowns but their standup games are clearly worlds apart.
On Oct. 21, Guerilla Evolution will be back with “Cage Wars: Territorial Conquest,” featuring an all-Filipino matchup of Wallen del Rosario and Jake Baylon in the main event. Expect the fights to intensify further as flyweight, bantamweight and featherweight belts will be at stake in the coming months.
This time last year, the team behind Big3 MMA Productions tapped current and former UFC and One Championship stars Brandon Vera, CJ De Tomas, Jeremy Miado, Bernard Soriano and Ramon Gonzales to grace their event. Last August, they invited Wushu world champion and former Canadian Wushu national team coach Rene Catalan to give an inspirational talk.