On 10 May, the ONE Bantamweight Muay Thai World Champion outclassed Japanese challenger Hiroaki “Kaibutsukun” Suzuki over five rounds to win a unanimous decision and defend his belt for the first time in front of his Thai fans in Bangkok.
Nong-O’s most dangerous and effective weapon throughout the match was his powerful right roundhouse kick. For all 15 minutes, the Evolve representative landed that strike at will.
“I wasn’t really surprised he didn’t have an answer to my kick. Everything went according to the plan and directions from my corner,” he says.
“In the second round, I started to become confident that he wouldn’t be able to find an answer for my right kick.”
Performing in his native Thailand, a KO victory would have been the icing on the cake for the predominantly local crowd in the Impact Arena, as well as the millions of viewers watching worldwide.
However, despite the damage he absorbed, Suzuki hung on until the final bell, and Nong-O was wary of taking any risks against such a dangerous opponent.
“I followed the plan to the end. In all of my career, I have never underestimated my opponents,” he explains.
“I am always careful when I fight and don’t get too emotional. I make sure to stay in control.
“If there is an opportunity for a knockout, I will take it. If an opportunity doesn’t come up, I just focus on my style of being strong and picking my shots.”
This victory was Nong-O’s fourth in ONE Super Series, and proved that his methodical, powerful style is as dominant as ever, even after more than 20 years as a competitor.
Despite the wear and tear from more than 300 professional matches, Nong-O’s conditioning appears to be the equal of any athlete in The Home Of Martial Arts, while his competition IQ arguably exceeds all of his peers.
Now that he is on the global stage after a three-year break from competition between 2015 and 2018, he adds that he is more motivated to compete than he has been for years.
“My conditioning felt great. Everything came together, I felt like I had trained just enough, rested properly, and my cardio was on point. When it all came together, it gave me a lot of confidence going into this fight,” he explains.
“I feel so much more confident than when I first returned, and that confidence makes me want to keep competing.”
With his first successful title defense in the books, Nong-O took some time to be with his family before he returned to the gym.
Though he enjoys the chance to take a break from “the art of eight limbs,” he looks forward to the opportunity to welcome any worthy challenger to face him in the ONE Circle – and it sounds like a return to Bangkok for ONE: DREAMS OF GOLD could be in his plans.
“My plan was to let my body rest for one week. I went home to be with my wife and kids, and went to the temple to make merit with them. After that, it is back to work and training.
“I’d like to compete again around August. It is the perfect amount of time for me, not too long but not too soon either. I feel it would be optimal for my body, as I don’t want to rest too long.
“Whenever ONE Championship sets a date, I’ll be ready to fight anyone they put in front of me.”