The ONE Muay Thai Flyweight Grand Prix Semi-Finalists

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ONE 157 was a martial arts spectacle. ONE’s Muay Thai-heavy card had the great Petchmorakot and Prajanchai defend their titles against top European talents in Jimmy Vienot and Joseph Lasiri in the main event. However, it was the Flyweight Muay Thai Grand Prix that caught the combat sports world’s attention with its action-packed striking masterclass in the Grand Prix’s quarter-finals. Here are the ONE Muay Thai Flyweight Grand Prix semi-finalists.

Muay Thai Aces Advance to Semi-Finals of ONE Flyweight Grand Prix

ONE 157 Quarter-Finals

To kick off the Muay Thai mayhem, the flyweight Grand Prix alternate bout took place as the second fight of the main card. Kyrgyzstani up-and-comer Sherzod Kabutov used his unorthodox kicks and speed to outclass the battle-tested Bosnian Denis Puric. It was the range control and dominant jab which was the standout feature of Kabutov’s win, as Puric looked to land bombs. If a pull-out occurs then Sherzod Kabutov would be an interesting addition to the ONE Muay Thai flyweight Grand Prix semi-finalists.

The first official fight of the Grand Prix saw the young Savvas Michael take on Omnoi Stadium champion, Amir Naseri. Savvas completely outclassed the Iranian-born Malaysian with startling ease, making a huge statement as he showcased his elite skills in this one-sided bout. Savvas Michael’s well-timed leg kicks, range control and elusive movement seemed to be too much for Naseri, whose primary goal was to land a big overhand. Naseri, though out-classed showed heart, as he battled through a nasty broken nose, courtesy of Savvas’s superior boxing.

Superlek vs Taiki Naito was a fairly close battle at first, as ‘The Kicking Machine’ Superlek tried to break his Japanese opponent with his baseball bat-like kicks. Naito countered well, sweeping the standing leg several times. Though mostly defensive, Naito looked solid throughout. However, when Superlek upped the anti and asserted his aggression through the clinch, we saw the tide change quickly. The Thai superstar landed some vicious elbows to cut his tough Japanese opponent and dominated in the clinch. Superlek won decisively, as he cemented his position as a key contender of the ONE Championship Muay Thai flyweight Grand Prix semi-finalists.

Late replacement Josue Cruz, took over from the former ONE flyweight Muay Thai champion Jonathan Haggerty, due to the British Grand Prix hopeful succumbing to health issues. Walter Goncalves refused to let the change in opponent hurt his chances to move on through the tournament, as he took out the Mexican in the first round with a liver-busting left hook to the body. He earns his position in the semi-finals opposite Thai favourite, Superlek.

Finally, Muay Thai monster Rodtang put his title on the line against British pressure fighter Jacob Smith in the final Grand Prix bout of the night. Rodtang treated the viewers to an elbow seminar, as he met Smith’s forward pressure with his slashing elbows. Rodtang’s technically sound beatdown of the tough Merseyside native showed  why he is the current champion.

Savvas Michael – The Underdog

After his loss to fellow Grand Prix contender Taiki Naito, Savvas took an almost 2-year hiatus to re-define his career. The Cypriot Muay Thai standout put on a performance of a lifetime, as he completely dominated Naseri in the quarter-finals. The tallest of the contenders, Savvas used his natural size advantage and impeccable movement to outclass Naseri with ease.

Naseri’s telegraphed attack on the lengthy Savvas led to the Iranian’s undoing, as Savvas managed to land powerful leg kicks to counter the heavy-set lead leg, which to Naseri’s credit didn’t do much to deter the durable Omnoi stadium champion. His superior boxing caused the most damage to Naseri, whose overextended boxing attempts were countered easily by Savvas who beat his man to punch every time.

Although an underdog among the ONE Muay Thai flyweight Grand Prix semi-finalists, Savvas shouldn’t be overlooked by any of the four contenders. He takes on the tournament champion Rodtang in the semi-finals, the biggest fight in the 23-year old’s career. Will Savvas cause one of the biggest upsets in Muay Thai history?

Superlek – The Favorite

Picked as a favorite to win the entire Grand Prix by his fellow contenders (if they didn’t win themselves of course), Superlek put on a technical performance against the skilled Taiki Naito. Having lost in his ONE flyweight kickboxing title fight against reigning champion Ilias Ennahachi, Superlek looks to finally capture a belt within the promotion.

Superlek picked his shots well against Naito, whose timing of the low kick swept the Thai legend often, early in the fight. Superlek upped the aggression in the second and third round, dominating in the clinch and landing big with his elbows, a weapon Superlek stated would be the Naito’s undoing before the bout. ‘The Kicking Machine’ kicked, elbowed and clinched his way into a decision victory, taking Naito out of the tournament.

The fans are mostly hoping to see an all Thai affair for the final, and with both Rodtang and Superlek earnings their place in the semi-finals, the fan’s wishes may come true. However, Superlek has a tough task ahead as he faces ONE Muay Thai flyweight Grand Prix semi-finalist, Walter Goncalves.

Walter Goncalves – The Sleeper

Earning the only finish of the quarter-finals, with a perfectly placed left hook to the body, Walter Goncalves looks to be the sleeper of the tournament. Having given Rodtang one of his toughest fights to date, the small-statured powerhouse beat tournament newcomer Josue Cruz, knocking the Mexican out of the Grand Prix.

Walter Goncalves gained a lot of respect from fans after taking on the unenviable task of facing a late replacement. This Latin American Muay Thai showdown was a quick affair, a testament to the Brazilian’s ability to adapt. Though his fight with Jonathan Haggerty was highly anticipated, the fans should have an equally interesting clash between Goncalves and Superlek. It will be intriguing to see how Gonçalves’s performance in the semi-finals against Superlek compares with his performance against Rodtang in 2019.

Rodtang – The Champ

Once again, Rodtang proved why he is a must-see fighter. Beating Jacob Smith from pillar to post, Rodtang had a comfortable outing in the quarter-finals. The pressure heavy style of the Brit was met with a masterclass of elbows in the clinch, creating some major cuts on Smith’s head and face. Rodtang looked his usual unstoppable self, despite his recent loss in his mixed rules bout with MMA flyweight G.O.A.T, Demetrius Johnson.

The Muay Thai phenom is looking to the green pastures of MMA, so this may be one of his last times competing in the martial art that made him famous the world over (at least for the foreseeable future). Regardless of what Rodtang does with his career, winning the Grand Prix will further reinstate him as one of the best Muay Thai fighters of this generation.

The powerhouse Rodtang will face a hungry Savvas Michael in the semi-finals of the Grand Prix, as the battle commences for the ONE Muay Thai Flyweight Grand Prix Championship.

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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