However, the Filipino strawweight contender admitted things could have gone very differently.
Filipino warrior Rene Catalan makes it SIX wins in a row with a devastating TKO of former ONE World Champion Yoshitaka Naito at 4:32 of Round 1!Watch the full event on the ONE Super App ???? http://bit.ly/ONESuperApp | TV: Check local listings for global broadcast
Posted by ONE Championship on Friday, March 8, 2019
Catalan handed former ONE Strawweight World Champion Yoshitaka “Nobita” Naito the first stoppage defeat of his mixed martial arts career in Yangon, Myanmar, but an issue with his back surfaced early in the contest and almost forced him to submit.
“The game plan was to try and strike with him, and knock him out with a straight punch in the first round, maybe in the second,” the Manila resident explained.
“[But] in his first takedown attempt, I nearly tapped because I felt my back cramp up.
“I was 99 percent sure that I was going to tap. The pain was so intense and I couldn’t breathe properly, but then he tried to adjust and he rolled. That’s where I got my wind. I really maintained my position so I could recover, and I never let up.”
Despite suffering immense back pain, Catalan managed to fend off Naito’s concerted takedown attempts and eventually achieved top position on the Japanese grappler.
The Filipino is a Wushu World Champion who is best known for his elite striking, but the work he put in with his wrestling coach, Roque Verangel Mana-ay Jr., paid off in that crucial battle for grappling supremacy.
“I know that [Naito’s] grappling is on a high level,” he confessed. “But with my wrestling training with coach Roque, I was able to pin him down.”
Once he achieved top position, “The Challenger” worked in search of a finish. When he connected with a huge knee on Naito, the bout turned decisively in the 40-year-old Filipino’s favor.
“There was an opening for a knee — that’s why I went for it,” he continued. “Then I never stopped because I didn’t want to go to a second round.”
Fortunately for Catalan, he secured a first-round TKO stoppage victory to extend his impressive win streak to six and position himself as a legitimate contender for the ONE Strawweight World Title, which is currently held by Japan’s Yosuke “Tobizaru” Saruta.
By defeating Naito, the Manila resident pushed himself closer to accomplishing his goals of capturing ONE World Title gold and becoming a two-sport World Champion.
“Naito is a very tough athlete. He is a former World Champion for a reason,” he said.
“I’m very happy that I’m getting closer to fulfilling my ultimate dream to become a World Champion. As I’ve said before, I will overcome all challenges to make it a reality.”