In just 15 months, Rodtang “The Iron Man” Jitmuangnon has established himself as one of the best and most exciting martial artists in the world.
The Thai hero has not had a dull moment in The Home Of Martial Arts as he has defeated six opponents to become a global superstar and the ONE Flyweight Muay Thai World Champion.
He will need to be back to his brilliant best to overcome Jonathan “The General” Haggerty in a long-awaited rematch for his belt, but as he has shown in his greatest performances on the global stage, it will take something special to stop the 22-year-old next Friday, 10 January.
#1 Debut Destruction
Rodtang exploded into the ONE Super Series flyweight division with a storming performance against Sergio “Samurai” Wielzen in September 2018.
The Dutch-Surinamese sensation came into the match with a reputation as a highly-skilled World Champion, but he had no answer for “The Iron Man’s” aggression at ONE: CONQUEST OF HEROES in Jakarta, Indonesia.
Wielzen was more than willing to trade toe-to-toe, but he quickly regretted that strategy when he was put down by a left hook to the temple in the first round.
That left the Sityodtong Amsterdam representative with a mountain to climb, and he never came close to re-establishing parity with his rival as he was hit with almost everything in the Phatthalung native’s extensive arsenal.
He kept coming forward, but Rodtang stayed in control and pushed his opponent back with unrelenting pressure. With seconds to go, “Samurai’s” will appeared to be broken, and he was put on his back again with another hard punch that sealed the unanimous decision beyond doubt.
This win showed the world – and fellow flyweights – that Rodtang would be a force to be reckoned with.
#2 Battling “The Gladiator”
“The Iron Man” returned to the Circle a few months later to take on Fahdi “The Gladiator” Khaled, and the power in his hands was on full display once again as he put his rival down in the first stanza.
That punch set the tone of the rest of the bout at ONE: HERO’S ASCENT as the Thai superstar took control of the contest. Though the Tunisian athlete did not back down, he was beaten to the punch and dumped hard when he tried to stifle his adversary’s offense in the clinch.
Rodtang wanted an all-out war and looked frustrated as Khaled backed up and looked to counter, but he made sure the fans in Manila, Philippines had plenty to cheer as he marched forward to engage through all three rounds.
Rodtang never looked like he would relinquish control of the contest, and his reward was another decision that maintained his trajectory toward the gold.
#3 Hometown Heroics
Against Sok Thy last May, Rodtang showed fans just how devastating his strikes could be.
Last May 2019, “The Iron Man” finished the Cambodian Kun Khmer World Champion in the second round at ONE: WARRIORS OF LIGHT after he hit him with the full force of his low kicks.
The Thai did an exceptional job of controlling the ring and punishing the legs of his Cambodian opponent from the opening bell. Even when Sok Thy tried to counter, Rodtang was unfazed and returned fire with interest.
By the end of the first round, the damage showed as the Cambodian limped to his corner. “The Iron Man” saw his opponent was hurt, and so did his hometown fans, who roared him on as he picked up where he left off after the restart to claim his long-awaited first win by stoppage in ONE.
It was also his fourth straight success, which put him at the front of the queue for a World Title tilt.
#4 Bout Of The Year
At ONE: DAWN OF HEROES, “The Iron Man” stepped up to challenge Jonathan “The General” Haggerty. for the ONE Flyweight Muay Thai World Championship, and fans were treated to the most thrilling ONE Super Series match of 2019.
Haggerty came out strong in the opening rounds as he used his reach to keep the stockier, more powerful Thai on the outside, but Rodtang’s fans knew it was only a matter of time before he found his range and turned the tide.
He finally broke through in the third period when he began to land his trademark punishing hooks to the head and body that had the talented Englishman on the back foot.
The pressure continued to build, and he made the decisive breakthrough in the first of the championship rounds. A clean right hand to the jaw sent Haggerty crashing onto the canvas and put Rodtang within touching distance of glory.
The battle was far from over, but the 22-year-old navigated a tense final frame to walk away with the unanimous decision and the ONE Flyweight Muay Thai World Title.
#5 Cementing His Reign
Many martial artists say an athlete only becomes a ‘true’ World Champion when they defend their belt, and Rodtang achieved that on a stage befitting of his talents.
Goncalves started strong and even landed a thumping head kick, but that only fired up “The Iron Man” to surge into top gear and make his challenger pay for having the temerity to try and relieve him of his strap.
Rodtang put in some heavy blows to the body throughout the bout and poured so much offense onto the multiple-time World Champion, he had to chase him around the Circle to continue his assault.
Even when Goncalves scored with another flush head kick toward the end of the bout, he could not crack his opponent’s chin, and he was forced to absorb yet more strikes as he ended up on the wrong end of the judges’ scorecards like so many others.
With another performance like this, it is hard to imagine how Rodtang will not still have the gold around his waist when he leaves the Impact Arena at ONE: A NEW TOMORROW.