The Vietnamese-American star used her sharp striking to edge past the strong wrestling of “The Indian Tigress” and win via split decision at ONE: DANGAL, which aired on Saturday, 15 May.
With the loss, Phogat will no longer compete in the Grand Prix later this month, while Nguyen made good on her pledge to be “nobody’s warmup fight.”
“Killer Bee” got off to a flying start with an aggressive punching attack and some hard knees as her Indian rival tried to close the distance. But Phogat found an opening when she slipped under a big left from Nguyen, connected with a knee to the body, and moved out to her rival’s back.
“The Indian Tigress” then dragged the Vietnamese-American down to the canvas, where she controlled her rival with an inside wrist lock that allowed her to maintain position and land punches.
Nguyen eventually scrambled back up, only to be taken down again with a double-leg straight away. Phogat chipped away from inside the guard but could not rack up much damage against the savvy “Killer Bee,” who constantly looked for ways to make space and escape back to her feet.
The Vietnamese-American came out strong again to start the second frame and nailed her foe with a pair of thudding straight lefts. Another crunching knee came through for the Xtreme Couture athlete, but “The Indian Tigress” used it to rush into a double-leg takedown and get the match back on the mat.
Phogat stuck to “Killer Bee” like glue and chipped away with short strikes, which were met by Nguyen’s own punches from the bottom. The Evolve MMA product then passed her rival’s guard and dropped some hard knees from north-south position.
With a minute left on the clock, Nguyen managed to turn over to her knees and work back to her feet, where she ended the round with a flush left high kick to the jaw and some heavy punches that shook Indian sensation.
While Phogat had the lion’s share of the control in the contest, Nguyen had landed the most significant strikes, which meant the fight was still up for grabs in the final frame.
“Killer Bee” was a little bit more reserved with her output, as she knew that any over-commitment to her strikes could result in a takedown from the Indian star.
Still, she whipped in her jab-cross and left knees, while Phogat tried to score with her improved boxing — particularly a looping overhand right on the way in. The Evolve athlete then pushed her rival to the Circle Wall, but Nguyen stayed upright and made the Indian pay with some hard elbows.
The 31-year-old Vietnamese-American star eventually shrugged herself free and away from the Circle Wall, and then she upped the tempo with striking in an attempt to make a late impact with the judges. Conversely, Phogat looked to be waning, but she ate the shots well and fired back with her last reserves.
With seconds remaining, “The Indian Tigress” landed a final double-leg takedown and tried to cause a little bit more damage before the bell rang.
It was razor-close, but two judges sided with an elated Nguyen, who earned the well-deserved split decision victory after some hard-fought recent battles that went narrowly against her.