Eddie “The Underground King” Alvarez traveled all the way to the Philippines for last Friday’s ONE Championship: Dawn of Heroes lightweight semifinal.
A capacity crowd of about 15,000 was on hand at Mall of Asia Arena to cheer Alvarez’s opponent, Filipino Eduard “Landslide” Folayang, in the World Grand Prix mixed martial arts bout.
And when Folayang dropped Alvarez to the canvas with a strong right leg kick and began to “ground and pound” just 1:25 into the bout, it seemed like there would be an early end.
There was, indeed, an early end, but it was Alvarez who was able to “sweep” out of danger and put Folayang on his back, then on his stomach before applying a rear naked choke, causing “Landslide” to tap 2:16 into the bout.
After referee Olivier Coste raised Alvarez’s hand in victory, the Kensington native expressed his glee during an in-ring interview.
“I imagined this, I pictured it in my head,” he said. “My coaches, I hired a mindset coach, Vinny Shoreman. We seen this. We seen this in my head. We persevered. We dealt with adversity, and we pulled out the ‘W.’ ”
Alvarez, 35, a former North Catholic High School wrestler who had two successful appearances on MTV’s Bully Beatdown, improved to 30-7 in MMA, with 16 knockouts, eight submissions and one no contest. He is a former lightweight champion in UFC and Bellator, and has beaten eight former world champions.
Folayang, 34, a former high school teacher, fell to 21-8.
Alvarez, a former Morrell Park resident now living in Southampton, signed with ONE Championship last October. The following month, the promotion announced an eight-man field for a lightweight Grand Prix. In December, the announcement came that Alvarez would fight Russian Timofey Nastyukhin.
That bout took place in March, and Nastyukhim scored a first-round technical knockout.
Last month, though, Nastyukhim had to pull out of the semifinals with an injury, and Alvarez was inserted back into the tournament.
The bout with Folayang, shown live on bleacherreport.com, was scheduled for three five-minute rounds, but the ring girls had nothing to do other than pose with Alvarez after his victory.
“My coaches, my team, thank you guys so much,” he said.
Jamie Alvarez, Eddie’s wife and his biggest fan, was among the relatively few in the arena cheering for the American.
“Final words,” he said in the ring. “I know all my kids are watching at home. Eddie, Anthony, Alister and Aniston. I love guy guys. My wife’s right here. We’re going to Palawan tomorrow (though poor weather forced them to travel to Boracay). I love you, Manila.”
Alvarez won’t be back in Manila in the final, but will be in a familiar ring, as he returns to Tokyo’s Ryogoku Sumo Hall, where he suffered the loss to Nastyukhin.
First, there will be some time for recovery.
Alvarez did not attend the post-fight news conference. Instead, he headed to a local hospital, perhaps to be treated for the leg kick or punches delivered by Folayang.
In addition, his coach, Mark Henry, tweeted after the fight that Alvarez entered the ring that night with an ankle injury.
The championship fight will see Alvarez face off with Saygid Guseyn Arslanaliev on Sunday, Oct. 13, in what will be ONE’s 100th show. ••