In Thailand’s Muay Thai circuit, it’s not out of the ordinary for fighters to compete against each other five, six, or even nearly a dozen times. The philosophy is this: If two athletes match up well, pair them up again and again.
Up until now, they’ve faced each other a whopping seven times, but their eighth showdown won’t come from matchmakers. Instead, it’s simply fate.
After impressive – albeit different paths – through the ONE Flyweight Muay Thai World Grand Prix, Superlek and Panpayak will meet in the tournament finale at ONE on Prime Video 3: Lineker vs. Andrade on Friday, 21 October.
With their massive clash just weeks away, here’s how the two men reached this point, and what we can expect at the Axiata Arena in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
A Shake-Up In The Quarterfinals
Naito is the #4-ranked flyweight kickboxer and holds notable victories over former ONE Flyweight Kickboxing World Champion Petchdam Petchyindee and current #4-ranked flyweight Muay Thai contender Savvas Michael.
However, Superlek seized the unanimous decision with his precise body kicks and counterattacks.
But in retrospect, they shouldn’t be called counters at all because the Thai knew exactly what his opponent was going to throw before he did and had weapons lined up to falter them.
On that same night, Panpayak was scheduled to face Josue Cruz in a ONE Flyweight Muay Thai World Grand Prix alternate bout, but Cruz was called into the quarterfinals to replace a sick Jonathan Haggerty against Walter Goncalves.
Panpayak, however, would soon experience a change of luck.
A Last-Minute Replacement In The Semifinals
Superlek was set to face Goncalves and Rodtang was scheduled to take on Michael in the Grand Prix semifinals at ONE on Prime Video 1 this past August.
But earlier that day, Rodtang failed to provide a sample for ONE’s mandatory hydration test and wasn’t allowed to weigh in. One man’s loss, as they say, is another man’s gain.
Panpayak got the last-minute call to step in for Rodtang against Michael – and he accepted without question.
That night, Superlek became the first fighter in ONE to stop Goncalves, finishing him with a first-round two-piece KO.
And despite joining as a late replacement, Panpayak scored a dominant finish of his own with a powerful second-round elbow knockout of Michael.
With their respective wins, Superlek and Panpayak earned a spot in the ONE Flyweight Muay Thai World Grand Prix Championship Final, setting the stage for their upcoming eighth encounter.
What To Expect In The Grand Prix Finale
What can be said about two men who’ve faced each other seven times already? After all, they know each other’s tricks, strengths, and weaknesses. They know when the other is going to attack and when they are going to pull back.
But there is one thing Superlek and Panpayak don’t know – something we’ve seen countless times before, no matter how many hours fighters spend in the gym or how many times they’ve squared off.
What we’re talking about here is the element of surprise, and both of these Thai superstars are capable of flipping the switch at any given moment.
Sure, Panpayak is ahead in this series (4-2-1), but their next matchup offers the biggest reward yet.
Not only is the Grand Prix silver belt on the line, but so is the chance to challenge reigning ONE Flyweight Muay Thai World Champion Rodtang.
So, what can we expect from Superlek and Panpayak in the ONE Flyweight Muay Thai World Grand Prix Championship Final? Fireworks.