On Friday, 8 November, the Filipino strawweight earned the biggest win of his career with a second-round knockout of Gustavo “El Gladiador” Balart in Manila, Philippines.
Though the hometown hero was up against an Olympic Greco-Roman wrestler, his grappling defense was on point, and that allowed him to put his top-class striking skills on display.
“I’m really happy with my wrestling defense,” the IFMA Muay Thai World Champion says.
“That’s what we worked for. I know he’s an Olympian wrestler, but we really worked hard for that.”
The Catalan Fighting System representative was able to stay on his feet, but his opportunities to land a decisive blow were limited because he was constantly trying to stop the Cuban athlete’s takedown attempts.
When he did find some room to breathe, he only had a moment to strike, which means he was surprised when he seized the opportunity to connect his right shin to his opponent’s temple with just 17 seconds left in the second stanza.
“The Ilonggo” did not set up his match-ending strike with a feint or probing punch, or throw when Balart’s hand was down. However, the kick was so powerful, the impact was enough to shut out “El Gladiador’s” lights in an instant and spark jubilation from him, his corner, and the crowd.
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“I didn’t expect that to happen so quickly, but that was my target – to score a head kick,” he says.
“I was luring him low, his guard opened, and I got the head kick.”
Unfortunately for the Catalan clan, this was their only victory of the night after the 29-year-old’s brother, Rene “The Challenger” Catalan, was unsuccessful in his attempt to take the ONE Strawweight World Title off Joshua “The Passion” Pacio in the night’s headline attraction.
Despite that result, “The Ilonggo” reveals that the team still left the Mall Of Asia Arena with their heads held high.
“We’re still happy even if kuya Rene did not get [the win],” he says.
“I know that he did everything, and he knows that as a team we did everything we could for this night. We both implemented our game plan so we’ll go home happy.”
Now, full of confidence, and riding the momentum of one of the best knockouts of 2019, Catalan is excited to return to action.
Friday, 31 January would seem like the ideal date as it would give him the opportunity to compete in front of his compatriots again at ONE Championship’s first Manila event of 2020.
Until then, or whenever he gets the call to enter the Circle again, he will work hard to improve his skills so he can follow his brother’s footsteps and challenge for his division’s top prize.
“If they would give me another chance, I will accept and display the same fire that I showed in this match,” he says.
“There’s still a lot of things to add to my game. I know that there are still things that I need to improve, particularly in jiu-jitsu, because there are a lot of great athletes on the ground.”