Four years ago, Geje “Gravity” Eustaquio stepped into the ONE Championship cage to battle Adriano “Mikinho” Moraes for the inaugural ONE Flyweight World Title, and was submitted in the second round.
On 23 June, almost four years on from that bout, Eustaquio returned – a little older, a little wiser and a much better martial artist – and defeat his rival in a rematch via split decision. In doing so, he became the undisputed ONE Flyweight World Champion.
The bout at ONE: PINNACLE OF POWER at Macau’s Studio City Event Center pitted World Champion Moraes with Interim World Champion Eustaquio in a unification battle, and the pair served up a match to remember.
They tussled back and forth in a gripping contest that went all the way to the scorecards.
Eustaquio made a statement in the opening round as he showed he wasn’t afraid to engage with Moraes on the mat.
He survived the Brazilian jiu-jitsu world champion’s guillotine choke attempt, then avoided an armbar – all while looking to land powerful ground and pound on the reigning champion.
In the stand-up exchanges, “Gravity’s” wushu-based striking game was more effective than Moraes’ Muay Thai-style strikes, as he let his hands and feet go without fear.
Eustaquio looked far more relaxed than in their first meeting, and the Team Lakay-trained star’s more confident approach forced Moraes to change tack.
In the second round, he switched things up to lean on his grappling skills, and it almost had an immediate effect
The American Top Team-trained World Champion mounted Eustaquio and looked to lock up a rear-naked choke.
However, “Gravity” kept his composure and gave referee Olivier Coste a thumbs-up from underneath his opponent to let him know he was comfortable, despite Moraes’ attempts to squeeze him into submission.
Moraes pressed forward again in the third round, looking to lock up his man in the corner and drag him to the mat, but once again, Eustaquio’s improvements were on show. He used his improved takedown defence to keep the bout standing.
“Mikinho” eventually got the takedown he was looking for midway through the round, and immediately transitioned to Eustaquio’s back. He worked for a submission, but “Gravity” showed his grit as he defended well and the match-up moved into the championship rounds.
Moraes’ grappling became an increasingly dangerous factor in the contest as the bout progressed, and the Brazilian began to have more success with his takedown attempts.
The script was flipped and the pro-Eustaquio fans were on their feet once again as the Filipino fought his way back to his feet. They roared with approval as he then picked the World Champion up and attempted to slam him to the mat.
Moraes tried to counter with spectacular techniques of his own, as he twice attempted flying knees. However, he could not find his mark and the bout progressed into the fifth and final round.
Moraes went on an all-out attack at the start of the last stanza, slamming Eustaquio to the mat and locking up a tight guillotine choke.
The interim champion refused to quit and managed to escape the hold once again.
Whatever the Brazilian tried on the mat, Eustaquio seemed to have an answer, as the Filipino escaped two kneebar attempts in the final minute of the contest.
The final bell came and while the judges deliberated, the pair kneeled together and shared a moment of respect before the verdict was announced.
When the decision came, Eustaquio’s hand was raised. The judges were divided on the final outcome, but two ruled in his favour.
“I came to Macau with one vision, one mission, and that is to get this,” said the newly-crowned champion, pointing to his belt.
“The moment I started 14 years ago, it looked impossible for me to stand up in front of you and get this belt.
“But for 14 years in the making, guys, impossible is not a word. It’s just a reason.
“Anybody can be a World Champion as long as you have the drive and the attitude.”
Eustaquio showed that he had those qualities, and as a result, the Filipino star finally fulfilled his dream of becoming ONE World Champion.