Breaking Down The ONE Flyweight Muay Thai World Grand Prix Semifinalists
The ONE Flyweight Muay Thai World Grand Prix began with eight of the best flyweight strikers on the planet. But after the quarterfinals went down at ONE 157 in May, that number was halved.
The math might be easy, but predicting how the four semifinalists will fare in the next stage of the tournament isn’t.
Here, we look at the current state of the ONE Flyweight Muay Thai World Grand Prix before the action continues later this year.
The Tournament Favorite – Rodtang Jitmuangnon
Going into the Grand Prix, most fans picked reigning ONE Flyweight Muay Thai World Champion Rodtang “The Iron Man” Jitmuangnon to capture the tournament’s prestigious silver belt – and rightfully so.
No fighter has beaten the Thai superstar under ONE Super Series rules, highlighted by his 11-0 record in the all-striking league.
In the quarterfinals, Rodtang pawed at hard-hitting opponent Jacob Smith, showing complete dominance yet careful restraint. Onlookers got the feeling that he could’ve finished the Englishman, but instead, the 24-year-old fought smartly and earned the clear-cut unanimous decision.
Fans have never seen such a methodical performance from “The Iron Man.” It not only showcased his development as a competitor, but it also sent a message that his intelligence can match his usually aggressive style.
As Rodtang progresses through the tournament, he’ll need to show more of that high fight IQ. After all, a careless semifinal scrap against #4 contender Savvas “The Baby Face Killer” Michael could leave him with an injury – even if he wins – and force him to withdraw from the Grand Prix.
That’s the last thing Rodtang wants. That’s the last thing fans want. So, expect the Jitmuangnon Gym athlete to show glimpses of his former self when necessary, but also to display his calculated striking when he meets the Cypriot rising star.
The Dark Horse – Savvas Michael
Michael will have his hands full in the semifinals. No one’s denying that. But his supporters are confident that his maturity as a fighter will power him to a win over Rodtang.
Against ONE newcomer Amir Naseri in the quarterfinals, “The Baby Face Killer” showed facets of his game that we’d never seen before. He seemed to play the part of a professional bullfighter while his Iranian-Malaysian opponent recklessly bounded around the Circle.
Michael attacked only when he needed to, and when the dust settled, he walked away with a breezy unanimous decision win that changed the trajectory of his career.
The Cypriot striker was just 1-2 in ONE Championship before that fight – losing to Lerdsila Phuket Top Team and Taiki “Silent Sniper” Naito – which made him a dark horse in the Grand Prix.
But with his impressive victory over Naseri, the WMC and WBC Muay Thai World Champion has emerged from the shadows and will step into the spotlight for a highly anticipated clash with Rodtang.
The Top Contender – Superlek Kiatmoo9
If any man in the ONE Flyweight Muay Thai World Grand Prix is a second favorite to win, it’s #1-ranked contender Superlek “The Kicking Machine” Kiatmoo9. The Thai sensation is 4-0 under ONE Super Series Muay Thai rules and owns four World Titles outside of the organization.
As his nickname suggests, the right kick is what makes him so dangerous. It’s a simple technique, but Superlek’s opponents have learned that there’s a difference between knowing what’s coming and actually defending it when he unloads.
Naito found that out firsthand in the tournament quarterfinals. One after another, “The Kicking Machine” disengaged his right leg from the tension spring holding it to the canvas and battered the Japanese athlete’s arms and body.
It feels like Superlek is on a collision course with Rodtang – a fight everyone wants to see. But to challenge his Thai compatriot in the final, the 26-year-old must get past a man who won’t go down easily.
The Gritty Upstart – Walter Goncalves
Fifth-ranked contender Walter Goncalves has never had an easy fight in ONE Championship – and he’s never asked for one.
In fact, ever since the Brazilian narrowly lost to Rodtang by split decision in October 2019, he’s been hoping for another shot at “The Iron Man.”
The 24-year-old got closer to that goal with a stunning first-round knockout of Josue “Tuzo” Cruz in the ONE Flyweight Muay Thai World Grand Prix quarterfinals. But he still has to overcome Superlek – one of the toughest challenges he’s ever faced.
Goncalves will certainly be considered the underdog, but fans should never count out a man who took Rodtang through five grueling rounds of action.
When the Brazilian is on, he’s hard to turn off. When he’s in your face, he’s hard to turn away. If he can turn it up against Superlek and not give the Thai any room to kick, he might find himself standing across from his old nemesis in the final.