Fighter of Interest: Andre Soukhamthath

FRESNO, CA - DECEMBER 09: Andre Soukhamthath celebrates his victory over Luke Sanders in their featherweight bout during the UFC Fight Night event inside Save Mart Center on December 9, 2017 in Fresno, California. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

As the first fighter of Laotian heritage to fight in the UFC, “The Asian Sensation” carries the weight of a country when he enters the cage. Many fans became acquainted with this dangerous striker from his performances in New England’s greatest promotion, CES MMA.

After going 1-2 in the UFCAndre Soukhamthath (pronounced Sook-am-tah) will now be used to prop up UFC President Dana White‘s new favorite prospect, “Sugar” Sean O’Malley.

As the old adage goes, “If you want to make the MMA gods laugh, tell them your plans.”

This is Fighter of Interest, where underrated fighters from an upcoming event are brought to light.

UFC 222 Fighter of Interest: Andre Soukhamthath

Although he was raised in the Blackzilians (RIP) camp for much of his career, Andre Soukhamthath does not quite fit the usual archetype of a Henri Hooft striker. His style is defined by patience. Andre is such a good counter striker, sometimes he’ll wait on his opponent. Otherwise he is hanging just outside mid range and picking his spots cautiously.

Much of Soukhamthath’s natural skillset is from his long tenure as a soccer player. Naturally one would assume soccer lends itself to footwork, kicks and cardio. However, he was a goalie. While those typical elements are present, Andre has shown off tremendous reflexes and really emphasizes timing in all of his techniques.

Andre is a fighter who works primarily with a stiff, long jab. He commits to a careful counter punching game, usually sticking with one or two shots at a time. He has excellent technique and power on his knees and low kicks, but you seldom see them.

This is part of what makes Andre so intriguing, he’s a fighter who seems to have a lot of hidden tools that continue to blossom with each fight.

A Killer in Progress

Everyone learned how dangerous Andre Soukhamthath can be in his five round war for the CES bantamweight title. Andre loves simultaneous counters, it allows him to use his reflexes to catch his opponent unaware mid-strike, at their highest vulnerability. This is how he caught Kody Nordby with one of the most beautiful intercepting jump knees you’ll ever see.

Usually Andre is trying to hit counters with his jab, moving his head and throwing it hard when he sees his opponent making their move.

This was a problem in his UFC debut against Albert Morales, who was leading with outside low kicks which took his head off center as well. While Andre showed some great adjustments in that fight, he doomed himself in a critical third round. After hurting Morales with four thousand consecutive left hooks to the body, Andre attempted to cement the round with some offensive wrestling, which resulted in Morales getting top position to win the round, and the fight.

Learning from his mistakes, Andre was much more willing to lead in his next fight in Mexico City with Alejandro Perez. His boxing looked sharp, he was brimming with confidence, and a lot of pressure was being generated from his constant, adjusting footwork. Andre even scored knockdowns off lancing jabs that caught Perez coming forward with his chin out, THRICE.

There was a major issue in this fight. Andre very rarely attempted to or was able to check the low calf kicks of Perez, who threw hard, early and often. The damage accumulated to Andre’s legs made it difficult to stay off his back, where Perez gained enough time to convince the judges he deserved the victory, a highly debatable outcome.

LAST FIGHT: Def. Luke Sanders via TKO (Punches) at 1:06 of Round 2 

Luke Sanders is a tremendous prospect in his own right. A tremendous multi-sport athlete, Sanders came to the UFC 11-0 as the unified RFA and Legacy FC bantamweight champion. Fired up to redeem himself, Soukhamthath accepted the bout on short notice.

Andre opened the bout with his characteristically slow start, which spelled trouble early. Sanders was pushing the action, pressuring to draw counters, and landing clean when Andre opened up. Sanders dominated the first round.

After an 0-2 start in the UFC, Andre Soukhamthath was not about to let his career slip away. He opened the second round applying his own pressure, and started to get into exchanges with Sanders, who still appeared to be getting the better of each meeting.

Until he didn’t.

In one chaotic moment, Andre read Sanders’ advance, slipped inside, and fired off a counter hook while Sanders was winding up his next shot. It was not Soukhamthath’s best performance, but it showed his versatility, his heart, and an ability to change the momentum of a fight.

NEXT FIGHT: vs. Sean O’Malley at UFC 222

An alumnus of Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series and Snoop Dogg‘s favorite fighter, there is plenty of hype around “Sugar” Sean O’Malley. It should be understood by fans that this fight is only getting PPV main card treatment because of said hype.

It’s not that there isn’t a lot to appreciate in this matchup of bantamweight strikers, but 1-0 vs. 1-2 in the UFC is not usually indicative of main card billing for such a big show.

The fight itself is dicey for Soukhamthath. He’s made great strides, but O’Malley moves very well, and will run through Andre if he shows some of the same deficiencies.

The key in all of Andre’s great moments has been pressure, he has great reflexes but it is not good enough to hang back and wait until his opponent is ready to throw. If Andre can pressure with feints and footwork, he can draw the offense of O’Malley early, and be ready to react and counter.

It is worth noting that O’Malley trains at the MMA Lab with Benson Henderson and company, a group that loves their low calf kicks. Hopefully Soukhamthath has addressed that hole in his game, or he’s in for a rough night.

You can watch Andre Soukhamtath vs. Sean O’Malley on Saturday, March 3rd at UFC 222. They will face off in the third fight of the main card. If you like to see hype trains derailed, and action striking battles, tune in around 11:30 EST.

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