Rocky Ogden had few answers for the icon of “the art of eight limbs” as the Thai superstar displayed exemplary defense and outstanding offense to dominate the evening’s co-main event and walk away with the ONE Strawweight Muay Thai World Title in Singapore.
It was the third time Sam-A has struck gold in The Home Of Martial Arts and made him a two-sport World Champion in the strawweight division, but this success meant more than his capture of the ONE Strawweight Kickboxing World Title in December.
“I’m so happy to win the Muay Thai World Title, as it is my nation’s sport. By winning, I was able to make a name for the people of Thailand and myself,” he says.
The 36-year-old was also much more pleased with his performance, which is perhaps no surprise considering he has practiced his homeland’s signature discipline for more than 20 years.
“I felt so much better in this fight,” he adds.
“I was able to stay strong for five rounds, I had a good game plan and followed it and was able to throw combos better.
“I was waiting for him [in the first round]. I wanted to see what he was going to bring and figure out his rhythm. I wasn’t in a hurry.”
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Sam-A’s strategy encouraged Ogden to start the match aggressively, but his attempts to impose his offense were met with increasingly more potent counter-attacks from his rival.
After the restart, the gulf in class became more apparent as the Evolve representative got into his groove and struck with every weapon in his arsenal.
“By the second round, I started to pick up the pace. I started to figure him out and started to get active,” Sam-A continues.
“By the third round, I was very confident I would beat him. I started to really let go and throw hard, heavy shots. I was faster, he wasn’t able to block my kicks. I was able to see everything he threw and pick my shots. Whether it was with elbows, knees, punches or kicks, I felt in control.”
By the time the athletes reached the championship rounds, it was obvious the young Australian would need a finish to claim the World Title.
Though Ogden increased his aggression and never stopped coming forward, it was the Buriram native that looked most likely to get the stoppage.
“I just really went for it in the fourth and threw everything I had,” Sam-A says.
“When I had him against the cage and started throwing elbows, I really thought I could finish him there, but he just wouldn’t go down. That was when I reassessed the fight because I knew then I couldn’t knock him out. He recovered so quickly even though I was hitting him with a lot of clean shots.
“He’s youthful, has a big heart, and came to fight. I couldn’t stop him, so I just kept fighting to win and get points, knowing I was ahead and could win like this.”
Even though Sam-A was forced to readjust, he did not dial down his intensity because he knew that could open the door for his opponent to capitalize.
Despite being 16 years Ogden’s senior, he had the energy reserves to find another gear and maintain his pressure until the contest came to a close after five rounds.
“I kept going forward, I didn’t want him to breathe,” he adds.
“I tried to intimidate him so he wouldn’t want to come in. I didn’t want to give him a chance to turn the fight around. You can’t fight like it’s Thailand, you have to keep going and give it your all even if you are ahead. I also wanted to test my conditioning and see how far I could go.
“I was so much better conditioned this fight than my last. I was able to stay active in my training without any long gaps in activity. It was a lot of fun! I just felt great there and was able to enjoy myself, but it was so weird fighting in an empty stadium. I think if there was a crowd there I would have fought even better.”
There was no doubt whose hand would be raised before the result was announced, but even though Sam-A was the clear winner, he emerged with a ton of respect for his young rival.
Ogden is still only 20, so the three-time ONE World Champion expects to see him challenging for top honors in the years to come.
“Rocky is awesome. He’s got a big future ahead of him, I think he will go very far,” the Thai hero says.
“He’s very determined and embodies what it means to be a fighter. He’s hard-working, dedicated, has grit and can endure a lot.”
For now, the Australian will have to settle for status as a contender thanks to Sam-A’s capture of both World Titles in the strawweight class.
Plus, now that he is back in the rhythm of regularly competing – he has had three bouts in little more than four months – he is looking forward to defending his belts for the rest of the year.
“I have to know my duty and what my job is. Whether it is kickboxing or Muay Thai, as a champion I have to train even harder,” he says.
“Kickboxing is a little concerning for me because I still have a lot to work on, but it’s okay. I’m moving forward gradually. My experience from Muay Thai really helps me.”