Whether it was the crowning of a new Kickboxing World Champion, the passing of the torch to a new Muay Thai titleholder, or the debut of an instant top-ranked contender, 2021 had it all for passionate supporters of the striking arts.
Leading up to the bout, which aired live on prime-time television in the United States, Rodtang was on a hot streak in The Home of Martial Arts.
Not only was he holding the ONE Flyweight Muay Thai World Title and a 9-0 record in ONE Super Series, but he was also coming off a dramatic split-decision win under kickboxing rules against a game “Samingpri” Tagir Khalilov two months earlier.
Williams, on the other hand, was tasked with making his ONE Championship debut against the seemingly invincible flyweight king.
“Mini T” wasn’t short on experience, though, and he had previously won the WMC Muay Thai World Title and various Australian championships during his illustrious career. Also, he spent time training and competing in Thailand, so he was well-versed in “the art of eight limbs.”
That said, many fans who were unfamiliar with Williams figured that “The Iron Man” would claim a decisive victory over the Aussie. But those who had seen “Mini T” in action knew the fight would be closer than identical twins.
When the bell sounded for round one of their 61.5-kilogram catchweight contest, it was Williams – not Rodtang – who swung fast and hard.
Over the first three minutes, “Mini T” hit the flyweight king with crisp right hands that even caused a flash knockdown. To everyone’s surprise, Rodtang hung back and absorbed the shots, with little counterwork to offset the Australian’s early rally.
The second frame told a different tale, though.
Rodtang returned to his old form, put on the heat, and dropped Williams to the canvas with a left hook for the first and only official knockdown of the match. The debutant rose quickly, but before the action continued, referee Olivier Coste administered an eight-count.
Once the action resumed, the Aussie marched forward and fought from within the fray with elbows. “The Iron Man” obliged and threw the same, except his strikes caused the more visible damage.
Williams wasn’t out of the battle yet and at the start of the final stanza, he tagged the Thai with a two-piece combo that shook him.
The intense back and forth had both men charged up as they approached the end, and Rodtang called the Australian on to engage more as he swung for the finish. “Mini T” refused to wilt, and the fight concluded with a heated exchange.
At the final bell, the respect between the two warriors was evident. And though Rodtang ultimately scored the unanimous decision win, Williams won the hearts of ONE Super Series fans everywhere.