On Friday, 20 May, eight of the world’s best strikers will showcase their attributes when they compete in the ONE Flyweight Muay Thai World Grand Prix quarterfinals at ONE 157: Petchmorakot vs. Vienot.
Although, the format of the Grand Prix will work a little differently than previous tournaments in ONE Championship.
The divisions World Champion Rodtang “The Iron Man” Jitmuangnon – will participate in the tournament and look to claim the coveted silver belt, rather than awaiting the winner as is the usual format, adding to the excitement if Rodtang is eliminated, the Grand Prix Champion will challenge him for World Title gold next.
Before the action kicks off at the Singapore Indoor Stadium this coming Friday, we take a look at all four quarterfinal matchups.
Rodtang Jitmuangnon vs. Jacob Smith
This clash pits the biggest Muay Thai star on the planet against one of the most talented Muay Thai competitors outside of Thailand.
ONE Flyweight Muay Thai World Champion Rodtang Jitmuangnon is 267-42-10 as a professional, while British Muay Thai Champion Jacob Smith comes into their battle with a 14-5-1 striking record.
While Rodtang has yet to lose under Muay Thai or kickboxing rules in ONE Championship, he’s been close on a few occasions.
In fact, “The Iron Man” has recorded four split-decision wins inside the Circle, with the narrowest result coming against fellow Grand Prix participant Walter Goncalves. For five rounds, the Brazilian went toe to toe with Rodtang, never once backing down.
We come to expect that same forward style from Smith, who many believe resembles a young Liam “Hitman” Harrison with his leg smashing low kicks.
If Rodtang gets into the Englishman’s head early, he could cruise to an easy victory. But if Smith can keep his emotions out of this fight, his aggressive skill set could carry him to a massive first-round upset.
Jonathan Haggerty vs. Walter Goncalves
Both former opponents of the Champion, former ONE Flyweight Muay Thai World Champion and current #1 contender Jonathan “The General” Haggerty meets #3-ranked flyweight kickboxer Walter Goncalves in a clash that could move either striker toward the covered rematch with Rodtang.
This promises to be a war, where we will see two of the most exciting flyweight Muay Thai strikers on the planet go toe-to-toe.
Haggerty has been a devastating force in the weight class for many years, with his only losses in ONE coming against Rodtang in a pair of famous World Title contests.
Aside from that, he’s beaten four top-ranked opponents with his offensive push kicks and downward elbows.
Goncalves, although owning an 0-2 record in ONE, is always a dangerous competitor. Holding a 65-7 career record, the Brazilian loves himself a good ol’ fashioned scrap, and he’ll undoubtedly get that against “The General.”
Haggerty will look to keep Goncalves on the outside with his push kicks and then hop into range for his downward elbows, if this is the case the Brazilian could be in for a long night.
But should Goncalves find the range for his punches, he could send a shockwave through the former divisional King and produce a tournament worthy shock.
Superlek Kiatmoo9 vs. Taiki Naito
This quarterfinal match up promises the biggest contrast of styles, the matchup between #2-ranked flyweight Muay Thai and kickboxing contender “The Kicking Machine” Superlek Kiatmoo9 and #4-ranked flyweight kickboxing contender Taiki “Silent Sniper” Naito.
As his nickname suggests, Superlek is feared for the accuracy and power in his kicks.
Using said kicks to rack up a 127-29-4 striking record and a 4-1 slate in the ONE Circle, defeating the likes of #3-ranked flyweight Muay Thai contender “The Angel Warrior” Panpayak Jitmuangnon.
“The Kicking Machine’s” only real setback in ONE came in his World Title challenge of reigning flyweight kickboxing king Ilias Ennahachi.
Now back on the hunt for Muay Thai gold, expect the 26-year-old Thai to ignite the Singapore Indoor Stadium with his explosiveness.
On the other side of the circle, Naito takes a completely different approach to Muay Thai – although just as dangerous.
“Silent Sniper” holds a record of 5-1 in ONE Championship so far, with his only loss coming against Haggerty.
He holds notable wins over fellow Grand Prix competitor Savvas “The Baby Face Killer” Michael and former ONE Flyweight Kickboxing World Champion Petchdam “The Baby Shark” Petchyindee.
Savvas Michael vs. Amir Naseri
Savvas Michael will look to rebound from back-to-back losses against Taiki Naito and Lerdsila Phuket Top team – but he’ll face a difficult quarterfinal task in promotional newcomer Amir Naseri.
Michael has endured a tough start to life in ONE, although he owns a 41-4 career record and multiple Muay Thai World Titles.
The 23-year-old Cyprus native has spent the past couple of years soaking up valuable knowledge from the elite trainers and fighters at Petchyindee Academy.
Naseri is the least-known man in the quarterfinals, but nobody should look past this dangerous debutant.
The 30-year-old’s well-rounded skills earned him the 140-pound Omnoi Stadium Championship, which made him only the third non-Thai in history to accomplish the feat.
If Michael can find a way to get past the reach of Naseri and work his knees, he could soften up his opponent and make it easier to finish him off with kicks in the later rounds.
But if the ONE newcomer showcases the form that bolstered his name in Thailand’s Muay Thai scene, he could find his way to the ONE Flyweight Muay Thai World Grand Prix semifinals.
ONE 157 promises to be a seriously exciting event with some of the biggest talent in MMA.
Who will take the silver belt? can Rodtang prevail or will the phenomenal champion finally suffer defeat in the ONE circle?.
Image Credit (ONE Championship PR)