Sovannahry “The Sweet Savage” Em intends to make her sophomore appearance in ONE Championship an unforgettable occasion.
This coming Friday, 6 December, the Cambodian-American will square off against promotional newcomer Rayane Bastos at ONE: MARK OF GREATNESS, which broadcasts live from the Axiata Arena in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
The 27-year-old flyweight, who is undefeated in her young mixed martial arts career, plans to test her Brazilian opponent’s all-around skills. However, she is particularly keen to stand and trade with a striker from another martial arts discipline.
“I’m really looking forward to this. I think it’s going to be an exciting fight,” Em says.
“She is tough and she is down to brawl, which is awesome because she basically has a Muay Thai style of striking.
“It will be interesting to see that Muay Thai style against a more Western boxing style. She has a purple belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, so her ground game is going to be solid, too.”
Em, who is based in Long Beach, California, did not know what to expect when she traveled outside the United States to compete for the first time internationally in December 2018.
The flyweight was scheduled to face Russia’s Iryna Kyselova in her promotional debut at ONE: DESTINY OF CHAMPIONS in the Malaysian capital, and admittedly, there were a few butterflies in her stomach.
“My first two fights were local, and I had never been to that part of the world before,” the Cambodian-American explains.
“It was a long flight to get there, like 21 hours, but then, I’m fighting on the big stage for this huge organization. I wasn’t sure how I would respond to it. It was a much bigger crowd. I didn’t know if these potential pressures would get to me.”
Ultimately, those butterflies vanished once she stepped inside the Circle. Then, 81 seconds after the sound of the opening bell, she defeated Kyselova via TKO to earn her first victory in The Home Of Martial Arts.
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“I was just excited the whole time,” she continues. “The people there were amazing and the whole process was so smooth.”
Now, “The Sweet Savage” will re-enter the Axiata Arena and attempt to replicate that magical performance when she meets Bastos, who enters this flyweight mixed martial arts bout with a perfect 3-0-1 slate.
Admittedly, Em was not too familiar with her Brazilian adversary. With that in mind, she turned to her longtime partner for some assistance in the research department so she could learn as much as possible about her opponent.
“My boyfriend was just scrounging around on the internet to find whatever we could of the previous fights she has had in mixed martial arts, kickboxing, or whatever,” the Cambodian-American says.
“Fortunately, I was able to find some videos to study. She looks like a solid opponent.”
Em noticed Bastos comes from a Muay Thai background, which differs from her traditional boxing style of striking, and she also realized the Brazilian is quite talented in the grappling department.
This will undoubtedly be the most well-rounded athlete she has encountered in her career thus far.
While “The Sweet Savage” is preparing for a three-round war, she hopes this will turn into a striking battle and that she will emerge with another quick highlight-reel finish.
“In my head, the fights are going to go all three rounds — all three, five-minute rounds — just so that I’m mentally prepared for it to go that long,” Em says.
“I’ve been consistent at winning fights with my punches and my boxing background. I noticed that she is tough and totally okay with taking hits in order to throw back counters. I think my punches are just going to land so much harder than she is used to.
“If I can pull the trigger and win in the first round, as I’ve been able to manage in the past, then I’m not going to complain.”