SINGAPORE - He showed plenty of heart and grit.
And although he pushed his vastly more experienced rival to the distance, the odds were simply too high for Singapore's mixed martial arts fighter Amir Khan to overcome, as he lost via unanimous decision to Eduard Folayang in his One Championship lightweight (up to 77kg) world title match at the "Conquest of Champions" event in Manila on Friday night (Nov 23).
The 24-year-old was bested over five rounds by the veteran Filipino fighter, who hoisted the belt for the second time in his career.
"I think I did well keeping my distance, but I got sucked into his game, getting his elbows during the clinch. I have to go back and look (at the fight), recover, and see what's next for me," said Amir.
After a cagey first round, Folayang, who held One's lightweight title for almost exactly a year from November 2016, started to assert his dominance.
In the last 90 seconds of the second round, the 35-year-old landed spinning first, elbows to rock Amir and send the over 15,000 partisan fans at the Mall of Asia Arena into delirium.
That set the tone for the third and fourth round, with a flurry of kicks and punches from Folayang inflicting more damage on the Singaporean, who refused to show any sign of weakness, and valiantly tried to conjure up some offence.
And, in the fifth round, Folayang utilised his wushu background - he won medals in the sport while representing the Philippines at the SEA Games and Asian Games - to keep Amir at bay with a series of highlight-reel kicks to the body.
The outcome improved Folayang's MMA record to 21 wins and six losses, while Amir now has 11 wins and four losses.
Amir was gunning to become the first homegrown Singaporean world champion in One Championship.
Singapore's only world champion in One Championship is reigning women's atomweight (up to 52kg) champion Angela Lee.
Lee, born in Vancouver to a Chinese Singaporean father and a Korean mother, is based in Hawaii.