Since winning the ONE Flyweight Muay Thai World Title in August 2019, Rodtang “The Iron Man” Jitmuangnon has been a marked man.
Now, he and seven of the division’s top contenders will compete in the ONE Flyweight Muay Thai World Grand Prix, beginning with the quarterfinal round at ONE 157: Petchmorakot vs. Vienot this Friday, 20 May.
If Rodtang ultimately wins the prestigious tournament, he’ll add the silver belt to his trophy case. But if he’s eliminated at any point, the Grand Prix Champion will also earn the next shot at his World Title gold.
Before the action goes down at the Singapore Indoor Stadium, the Thai megastar breaks down every quarterfinal matchup – starting with his own.
Rodtang Jitmuangnon Vs. Jacob Smith
Rodtang will meet British Muay Thai Champion Jacob Smith on the main card of ONE 157. These two athletes were supposed to square off last year at “ONE on TNT I,” but that contest was scrapped due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Now, the rising Englishman is finally set for his ONE debut, and his first appearance will come against the division’s most feared striker.
With an undefeated record in ONE Super Series, there’s no question that Rodtang is a heavy favorite in this battle, but he isn’t counting out the newcomer.In fact, he previously referred to Smith as the “most dangerous” striker in the Grand Prix, and he continues to stand by those words.
“The Iron Man” told ONEFC.com:
“His Muay Thai techniques are very good. I think he’s as good as Jonathan Haggerty. I can’t underestimate him. He’s different from other foreigner Muay Thai fighters. He has an aggressive style, similar to mine. I have to be very careful.
“His weapons, especially his punches and kicks, are fierce. He specializes in all forms of Muay Thai. But his weakness is his knees. His knees are not that good. But he could cause some trouble for me.”
Jonathan Haggerty Vs. Walter Goncalves
Top-ranked contender Jonathan “The General” Haggerty and #3-ranked flyweight kickboxer Walter Goncalves will face off for a spot in the Grand Prix semifinals – and potentially, for a chance to gain redemption against Rodtang.
“The Iron Man” has beaten Haggerty on two occasions. He dethroned the Englishman to claim the ONE Flyweight Muay Thai World Title by unanimous decision and then defended his gold with a third-round TKO in their rematch.
As for Goncalves, Rodtang battled him across five intense rounds to retain his ONE World Title. It was an incredibly close contest, with the Brazilian droppiing a narrow split decision.
The reigning king is very familiar with both men and expects their main card clash to be tightly contested.
“For the Jonathan vs. Walter fight, I can say that Jonathan will be at an advantage for his powerful weapons. If Walter focuses on being defensive, Haggerty would finish him. But if Walter decides to press forward, Haggerty might be in trouble.
“[Goncalves] is fast. He has all kinds of Muay Thai weapons and a wide variety. But he has a bad habit of running away from toe-to-toe [fighting]. And he took a long break due to injury. He might be rusty.”
Superlek Kiatmoo9 Vs. Taiki Naito
Although Rodtang has yet to face #2-ranked contender Superlek “The Kicking Machine” Kiatmoo9 or #4-ranked flyweight kickboxer Taiki “Silent Sniper” Naito, he’s been paying close attention to both strikers.
“The Kicking Machine” is already a four-time Muay Thai World Champion who’s proven himself on the famed Bangkok stadium circuit, and many pundits are picking him to win the entire tournament.
For his part, “The Iron Man” isn’t so sure. He expects Japanese rising star Naito to pose a tough test on Friday, and he’s waiting to see whether his compatriot can adapt in this lead card showdown.
“Superlek has solid Muay Thai basics. He specializes in using his shins. But I don’t know if ONE’s style is compatible with Superlek’s style or not. So it’s his job to adjust his style to meet ONE’s style as well. I don’t know if we can say he’s a favorite in the match because foreign fighters are so hungry to win – all of them want is to be number one. I, myself, dare not say that I am a favorite either.
“Taiki’s one of the best in Muay Thai. He’s got techniques, diverse weapons, accuracy, and fight intelligence. He can’t be underestimated. But if comparing to others, I think his attacks may be weaker.”
Savvas Michael Vs. Amir Naseri
Michael comes into this bout with a stellar 43-4 record, multiple Muay Thai World Titles, and a reputation for attacking relentlessly.
Meanwhile, Iranian-Malaysian phenom Naseri is one of the only non-Thais in history to win an Omnoi Stadium belt, went the distance against legendary striker Saenchai, and is well-known among hardcore Muay Thai fans.
With all that in mind, Rodtang is eager to witness this intriguing battle on Friday.
“For me, it’s rare to see a tall fighter like [Michael] daring to trade weapons with opponents. His strength and aggressive style are so compatible with ONE. His long reach is also advantageous. But his weakness is that he misses a lot of his attacks, and that leaves [him open] to be counterattacked. And he often shows signs of pain when he is hit. Let’s see how he will perform after a long break.”
“[Amir] is newcomer. I still don’t know him much. But if he is selected by ONE to be part of this tournament, then he is worthy. ONE will never put weak fighters against elite fighters. ONE will only select the best to fight with the best. He might be new to ONE, but he might be a dark horse – who knows?”