If Rahul “The Kerala Krusher” Raju has proven anything in his past performances, it’s to never write him off — especially during times when he looks down and out.
With his back against the wall, Raju dug deep to score a second-round submission victory over Mongolian debutant Otgonbaatar Nergui in the opening bout of ONE: BATTLEGROUND II, which aired from the Singapore Indoor Stadium on Friday, 13 August.
The match started with low kicks from Nergui, as he tried to press the Juggernaut Fight Club representative to the Circle Wall. But Raju changed levels, scored the first takedown of the night, and looked to utilize his Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu skills.
Nergui, however, wasn’t in the bottom position for long. He quickly transitioned to the butterfly guard, created some space, and used the technique to spring back to his feet. Then, while clinched up with Raju, the Mongolian connected with a knee to the gut, cleverly hit an inside leg trip, and instantly got into full mount.
From there, the Mongolian bruiser went to work. He landed some big shots from top position before Raju finally escaped, but not without eating a few punches as they separated.
Back on his feet, the Singapore-based Indian wasted no time trying to get the fight to the ground again, but Nergui was prepared this time around and stuffed a double-leg attempt.
With a minute remaining in the first round, Nergui unloaded a jab-left overhand combo and then a spinning back kick that pushed “The Kerala Krusher” against the Circle Wall. The frame came to a close with Raju trying for another takedown, but Nergui defended it well once more.
“The Kerala Krusher” quickly made his intentions known as the second round opened, as he unloaded a head kick that Nergui barely avoided.
Wanting to continue the pressure, the Indian once more went for a double-leg takedown, but the Mongolian defended by attempting a guillotine choke of his own – which for a moment looked deep enough to threaten a finish.
However, Raju displayed his survival instincts and rolled out of the choke, eating a solid uppercut and a left hook for his troubles.
Still, the Indian certainly appeared to be in a lot of trouble. He was breathing heavily and looked a step slower, but he was determined to show that he was not finished. He shot for another takedown attempt, but Nergui saw it coming and reversed the position to land knees and short hooks.
The fight looked all but over, but one low kick changed everything.
What started out as an advantageous weapon for Nergui ultimately proved to be his downfall, as Raju checked his foe’s low kick and landed a takedown.
On the ground, Raju was not to be denied, as he worked to Nergui’s back, wrapped his legs around his waist, and locked in a rear-naked choke to secure the comeback submission win at 3:54 of round two.
The win was a massive one for Raju, who snapped his two-bout losing skid with a resounding finish win over the tough Mongolian.
Coincidentally, all of Raju’s wins in The Home Of Martial Arts have come from rear-naked chokes, sending a message to his future opponents that he should never be underestimated when the match hits the ground.