The two most recent fights between Kevin Belingon and Bibiano Fernandes have had satisfactory outcomes. One ended in a split decision win for the Filipino, the other in a disqualification win for the Brazilian.

It means there is a real lack of closure going into their fourth contest at ONE: ‘Century’ on Sunday. Both men landed with illegal strikes in the last fight but only Belingon was disqualified.

In the previous match both men could make a strong case for having earned the decision win but only Fernandes missed out. So it is no surprise that the Brazilian will be seeking some closure on Sunday,

“I’m so glad of the number four (fight) because I keep improving my stand-up against Kevin (and) I know if I have patience I can finish him,” he said.

Unfinished business

Fernandes finished the first fight in under a round. At the time there was nothing to suggest he would ever have anything approaching unfinished business with Belingon.

But the Filipino earned a rematch, and then pushed the Brazilian far harder than he had in the first fight. The trilogy bout was stopped before anyone had any real indication as to how it might unfold and the Brazilian understands that a fourth fight was necessary,

“A lot of people want to see this fight. The fight is for the fans, a lot of Filipinos are not happy (and) a lot of people want to see the fight.”

Fighting for an Asian promotion means that Fernandes is always going to be something of an outsider. While Belingon enjoys at times frenzied support from the Filipinos there are very few Brazilians attending ONE Championship events.

Japanese dreams

But Fernandes remembers watching all the Brazilian legends in Pride, and then went on to make his name with Dream. So the 39 year old would not have it any other way,

“Everybody in Brazil always wanted to fight in Japan. It was the dream to go there for all of the fighters because of the culture and the history of martial arts.”

Fernandes has fond memories of his time with Dream. In 2009 he entered the promotion’s featherweight Grand Prix after just five professional fights but went on to win the tournament,

“It was a great thing in my life. I really showed that I can fight. I was coming over from jiu–jitsu, and I had to fight really tough guys. I showed that I can be a great fighter.”

To win the tournament he had to defeat three top Japanese featherweights as well as Joe Warren. They are moments that Fernandes will never forget,

“Beating Joe Warren was one of the greatest moments. He was a really great wrestler but he talked a lot of trash before the fight (and) I went in and beat him in less than a minute with my jiu–jitsu. The final with (Hiroyuki) Takaya was so hard, but I got the victory,” he recalls.

Modern rivalry

Dream has long since died. But Japanese MMA is enjoying something of a renaissance with both Rizin and ONE Championship putting on shows of a size and scale their predecessors would have admired.

And Fernandes is not short of rivals in the modern era either. After three fights Belingon is surely number one on the list and the Brazilian says he knows exactly what to expect on Sunday,

“Kevin is a good challenge. I have to be very smart because I know he likes to catch and run. He waits for the moment and he throws his right hand, he waits for the moment to do his kick.”

There are sure to be Filipinos in attendance at the Ryogoku Kokugikan on Sunday. But the Japanese audience has a long memory and many of them will remember Fernandes’ exploits during the Dream era.

It will be the Brazilian’s 13th time fighting in Japan. It’s a country Fernandes is very familiar with and he’s determined to put on a show at ONE: ‘Century’ this Sunday.

“I have a lot of fans there, and I can’t wait to go back and perform for them.”