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ONE Flyweight Muay Thai Grand Prix – The Contenders

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With the recent success of the featherweight kickboxing Grand Prix, ONE Championship sets it’s sights on showcasing it’s star-studded Muay Thai Flyweight division in the promotion’s latest Grand Prix. With the already highly anticipated event taking place on the 20th of May this year, lets meet the contenders of the ONE Flyweight Muay Thai Grand Prix!

ONE Flyweight Grand Prix Contenders

Rodtang “The Iron Man” Jitmuangnon

The current ONE Championship flyweight Muay Thai champion and headline of the main event, Rodtang puts his belt on the line to cement his dominance in ONE’s flyweight division. Entering the flyweight Muay Thai Grand Prix with a jaw dropping record of 267-45-10 the Thai has taken the combat sports world by storm in recent years.

Like many of Thailand’s great fighters, Rodtang’s journey started young at the tender age of 7. Whilst viewed as brutal to many, Thai’s start their careers young, opting to fight their way out of poverty. Looking to the bright lights of the Muay Thai stadium as a way out of the daily fight for survival in Thailand’s poverty stricken areas. Despite his all-out, violent Muay Mat style, the Thai native was once a timid youth, who avoided conflict whenever possible, it would not take long for this to change.

By age of 10, his fight career was fully in motion, pushed for the need to help provide for his family. Out growing his small town gym in Pattalung, Rodtang set his sights to the infamous Jitmuangnon gym in Bangkok. This elite gym is known for its rigorous training and tough fighters, from the likes of Panpayak and Nuenglanlek. It was here that the “Iron Man” was forged.

After securing the MAX Muay Thai 125lbs and Omnoi Stadium 130lbs championship, the Thai would face Japanese standout Tenshin Nasukawa in a classic Muay Thai vs Kickboxing showdown. Rodtang would lose to the hometown hero in a close and somewhat controversial decision loss, but the seeds where planted for a new international star.

Following his success, Rodtang would find international recognition when he joined his current home at ONE Championship where he has already beaten two Grand Prix contenders: Walter Goncalves and Jonathan Haggerty. His awe inspiring iron chin and ferocious fighting style would make him an immediate favorite to win the Grand Prix.

Fighting Style:

Rodtang is the definition of a Muay Mat stylist, the term used for fighters who utilize heavy boxing and powerful leg kicks to break down the opponent. This ultra aggressive fan-favorite style combined with his unbreakable chin and iron will has caused many to wilt under the barrage of bone breaking kicks and devastating heavy handed combinations.

Jacob Smith

Hailing from the rough streets of Birkenhead, Merseyside, UK Muay Thai standout Jacob Smith looks to make a statement in his ONE debut against the champ, Rodtang in the main event. Using Muay Thai to avoid the vicious cycle of drugs and criminal activity that plagued his hometown, the Brit made a name from himself on the national stage in order to achieve glory and support his family.

Training out of the highly acclaimed Bad Company Gym, with fellow Northerners Liam Harrison and Andy Howson, Smith has much in common with his Thai opponent, primarily in the form of his elite conditioning and rigorous training. Even though he will be a heavy underdog, his skill set should prove a difficult nut to crack for the highly talented Rodtang.

Fighting Style:

Much like his Bad Company comrade Liam Harrison, Smith is an effective leg kicker. Using his high pressure and sharp hard-hitting hands in combinations with his fast, relentless leg kicks to break opponents. This clash of two front-foot heavy styles will lead to fireworks in the main event.

Jonathan Haggerty

Former ONE Flyweight Muay Thai Champion Jonathan Haggerty, is a beautiful fighter to watch. Mirroring his rival Rodtang, Haggerty also started at the age of 7. The second Brit in the Grand Prix, Haggerty has proven himself as one of the best fighters in the world, under the tutelage of his father (an ex-fighter himself) and the Knowsley Academy. The young UK Muay Thai ace dominated the UK fight scene, with his first taste against elite competition coming in the form of doctors stoppage finish to fellow Grand Prix contender, Superlek.

Despite this loss, the “General” cemented himself as a top fighter after he defeated the living legend, Sam-A Gaiyanghadao to win the ONE Flyweight belt. His reign was cut short, with back to back losses to Rodtang. However, the Londoner came back to his winning ways with impressive victories over fellow contender Taiki Naito and Mongkolpetch.

Jonathan Haggerty will look to avenge his losses against Rodtang in this high stakes tournament.

Fighting Style:

Haggerty is a Muay Femur stylist, the term for Muay Thai’s technicians; the Muay Thai equivalent to Western boxing’s pure boxers, for example Muhammad Ali and Floyd Mayweather. Haggerty is an aggressive technician who uses crisp hands, sharp kicks and his trademark tomahawk elbow and forceful teep kick.

A master at all ranges, Haggerty will also be a heavy favorite in the Grand Prix.

Walter Goncalves

The dangerous Walter Goncalves is another standout in the ONE flyweight division. From the slums of Fortaleza, Brazil, the youngster had more interest in fighting with his peers, in the dog-eat-dog environment he called home. Looking to hone his fighting spirt, his father enrolled him into the local karate dojo, where Goncalves first realized his great potential.

His switch to Muay Thai was natural, as the country has produced some of the best Thai boxers in the world. This decision brought him to live in his new sport’s place of birth, Thailand. Here the Brazilian immersed himself in the Muay Thai lifestyle, training in the fight factory region of Phuket, under the legendary Lumpinee and Rajadamnern Champion, Sagadphet. Goncalves fought in over 70 fights, winning over half via KO and winning world titles along the way.

Now back in his home country, the ONE Championship knock out artist looks to capture the Flyweight title in the highly competitive Grand Prix.

Fighting Style:

Goncalves is an incredibly athletic fighter, with a high KO ratio. The Brazilian is effective at closing the distance, using his explosivity and heavy hands to overwhelm. He is good at using all aspects of Muay Thai, with a slightly unorthodox twist.

Superlek “The Kicking Machine” Kiatmoo9

The second Thai in the Grand Prix, Superlek is one of the best strikers in the world. Growing up in Buriram province in Thailand’s beautiful North-East, Superlek has been surrounded by greatness since birth, with the legendary Singdam as his uncle. Looking to follow in his uncles footsteps the young Superlek bagged his first fight at the young age of 8. Another Muay Femur, the Thai used his impressive skills to rack up over 100 wins to his name.

After capturing multiple titles at Lumpinee Stadium (one of the highest accolades in the sport), the great Superlek turned his attention to the global stage of ONE Championship. His next goal is to add another world championship to his already extensive collection.

Fighting Style:

Much like his famous uncle, Superlek is master kicker. His range control with the lead teep and whip-like right round-house kick is used to break down his opposition whilst scoring high within the Muay Thai scoring system. The Thai expertly mixes targets with the right kick, battering the legs and arms, sapping the gas tank to the body, or even shutting down the opponent with an un-telegraphed head kick. His skills in the clinch are also a major weapon in his arsenal.

 Taiki “Silent Sniper” Naito

Inspired by the great Japanese kickboxers he watched in his childhood, Naito looks to add his name to the long list of Japanese kickboxing greats. The Shoot Boxing Super Bantamweight Champion, began training in karate at a young age. After witnessing the wave of legendary Japanese kickboxers Taiki Naito looked to join the professional ranks, a goal his mother was supportive of, if he could capture a national title under his own sport of karate first. Naito fulfilled his mothers requirement and thus set on his journey to become a professional kickboxer.

Winning his first major title at 18, the Japanese champion has fought some of the best strikers in Japan. After being set back with a loss to fellow contender Jonathan Haggerty and a win over Michael Savvas the Japanese stand out is in an interesting position within the ONE Grand Prix; where the “Silent Sniper” sets his aim for the title.

Fighting Style:

Like most Japanese kickboxers, Naito does everything with clinical precision. His emphasis on crisp boxing and effective head movement will make an for an interesting stylistic match up for all the contenders. Naito also has some decent sweeps that he can utilize within the clinch.

Michael “The Baby Faced Killer” Savvas

“The Baby Faced Killer” Michael Savvas is another strong contender within the ONE Flyweight Grand Prix. Standing an imposing 5 foot 10, Savvas will have a size advantage over the rest of the competition. After spending his childhood in his native Cyprus, the rangy fighter made his move to Thailand, inspired by the great fighters of Siam. Training at the famous Petchyindee Academy, this iron-sharpens-iron environment has formed a formidable fighter.

Before his 20th birthday, the Cypriot had amassed an impressive record of 36-2, he was signed shortly after to the ONE Super Series. The former ISKA European Champion and x2 Toyota Marathon Tournament winner, will look to add the prestigious ONE flyweight title to his collection.

Fighting Style:

Using his reach to full effect, Savvas is an expert at catching his opponent at the full range of his punches. Known for investing his shots to the body with his effective liver hook and knees, “The Baby Faced Killer” is a well rounded and dangerous entry to the ONE Flyweight Championship Muay Thai Grand Prix.

Amir Naseri

The Malaysian-Iranian Muay Thai star has fought the very best the sport has to offer, with the great Saenchai being his most notable adversary. The Omnoi Stadium Champion, Naseri is a ferocious competitor, with thunderous KO power. He will be making his promotional debut in the ONE Flyweight Grand Prix, where he will pit his all action style against Michael Savvas in the first fight of the tournament.

Fighting Style:

As stated before, Naseri has an aggressive style and great finishing capabilities. When he smells blood, Naseri combines his heavy hands and powerful kicks to finish the show in devastating fashion. An exciting addition to the ONE flyweight division.

Main Image via ONE Championship. 

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Life long martial artist and fan of combat sports, currently competing as an amateur Muay Thai fighter. Besides fighting, I love travelling the world and writing.

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