“Dynamite” Eko Roni Saputra has proven to be an elite-level grappler on the global stage, but he also wants to show that his stand-up skills are capable of putting opponents away.
The Indonesian rising star will face Chinese striker Liu Peng Shuai in a flyweight mixed martial arts contest at ONE: BATTLEGROUND II, which airs on Friday, 13 August, and he wants to extend his four-bout winning streak with some new tricks.
In this exclusive Q&A, Saputra sounds off on his evolving skill set, his upcoming bout with Liu, and how he wants to finish this fight at the Singapore Indoor Stadium.
ONE Championship: You’ve said that you’re a bit more relaxed and calmer ahead of this bout with Liu. Why is that?
Eko Roni Saputra: Throughout all of my bouts, I feel that I am more relaxed and focused than before because I have been sharpening my striking and learning more about the techniques in that department.
Going against Liu Peng Shuai, since he will focus on striking, it will come down to me trying to use my training to match or even surpass him in that area.
ONE: So, you’re switching your focus to striking. What triggered that move?
ERS: I see this as a challenge for me to focus on striking because, in some of my previous fights, I have been more focused on the ground game — one punch and aiming for a takedown. That is why I would like to combine my attacks with more striking than grappling.
ONE: Is this influenced by your trainers at Evolve, or did this come from your own initiative?
ERS: There wasn’t any talk about changes from my trainers.
This is MMA, so we definitely have to master not only the ground game, but also how to succeed in the striking game. If we only focus on the ground game, it would be extremely lacking, so I am more challenged by perfecting my striking. So far, I feel that it is progressing well, and hopefully, I will get a good result.
ONE: Liu defeated another Indonesian wrestler in Elipitua Siregar. What do you see as his greatest strength?
ERS: I have studied his game plan, and of course my trainers were also swift to study his weaknesses and strengths. Afterward, we corrected every detail in my own game plan because he has also fought against my Evolve teammate Roshan Mainam and lost. But I am aware that this is not a [guarantee] that I will be able to beat Liu because anything can happen inside the Circle.
ONE: Did you receive any tips from Mainam ahead of this fight?
ERS: We did train together and let everything roll as normal, but there were no tips because I believe Liu will also study my game plan. For example, how I bring my game to the ground. Of course, Roshan and I also have different [techniques] and patterns, which is why I am more focused on sharpening myself, how to be calmer, and how to control the match.
ONE: What is Liu’s most dangerous weapon in this fight?
ERS: I predict that he will throw his knee whenever I shoot. Most strikers will wait for the right moment, when fighting a grappler, to counter the takedown attempt. But I will not let loose and be caught by his strikes. I will stay cautious and have prepared several strategies to win against him.
- 3 Dynamic Submissions From The Stars Of ONE: BATTLEGROUND II
- Miao Li Tao Plans To Outstrike Alex Silva: ‘Power Is His Shortcoming’
- How To Watch ONE: BATTLEGROUND II On 13 August
ONE: Can you tell us anything more about those strategies?
ERS: Of course, I will go with my striking [laughs].
ONE: From your own perspective, what is the biggest development in your striking arsenal?
ERS: I am now able to throw good kicks, and so far, I see that I have grown and developed so much from where I started. This has been tested in my sparring sessions with the World Champions at Evolve. However, I still feel that I need to learn so much more, rather than boasting about my skills. This is a game – whoever is stronger will win.
ONE: Your father was a boxing trainer. Did you learn anything from your days following him to the gym that you carry with you today?
ERS: I am grateful that I experienced some boxing training with my father. Right now, I feel that I actually have good power in my punches, so I guess my training back then did not go to waste, although he was only an amateur trainer, which was quite different from my professional coaches at the moment.
ONE: How do you think you will finish Liu?
ERS: I do not want to be too ambitious. I don’t want to rush. I will be calmer and more focused, and I will definitely play my striking game.
ONE: What round do you think you will finish him?
ERS: I will see every chance, and it could be faster than I expect. If there is a chance, I will finish him in the first round.
ONE: After this bout, do you think you will still challenge Chan Rothana and Gurdarshan Mangat?
ERS: I am definitely looking forward to those fights, but I am more focused on what I have at hand now. If I win this fight, if ONE allows me to fight those two, I will always be ready.
ONE: Any final messages for your fans back home?
ERS: For all of my supporters back home in Indonesia, please continue supporting and motivating me because I only have one purpose – to bring pride to Indonesians across the archipelago.