It took a little while for “Muay Thai Boy” Zhang Chenglong to hit his stride in his ONE Super Series kickboxing bantamweight match-up with fellow Muay Thai World Champion Panicos Yusuf on Friday, 10 May.
However, thanks to a spectacular final round, the 21-year-old Chinese striker claimed a massive victory at ONE: WARRIORS OF LIGHT, which emanated from the Impact Arena in Bangkok, Thailand.
Chinese phenom Zhang Chenglong turns in a spectacular striking display to clinch a unanimous decision win over Panicos Yusuf!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, 10 May 2019
The bout started in cagey fashion, with Yusuf looking marginally the more aggressive of the pair.
Zhang seemed content to sit on his heels and wait for the 33-year-old Cypriot to open up before responding with counters. This game of cat-and-mouse prompted referee Elias Dolaptsis to demand more action from the two strikers.
Yusuf, who was competing under the kickboxing rule set for the first time ever, had to adapt his striking style to compete without one of his most potent weapons — his elbows.
Nevertheless, the Cypriot looked comfortable inside the Circle as he used his kicking skills to great effect.
Those kicks came to the fore in the second frame, as Yusuf started to open up on the Top King Muay Thai World Champion.
Zhang received another call to up his work-rate from the referee, and he responded with a powerful kicking attack that forced the Cypriot back against the Circle.
Yusuf, himself a skilled counter-striker, pushed the pace for much of the round.
But the Chinese athlete showed glimpses of his striking prowess, including at the end of the stanza, where a beautiful combination of punches found their mark just before the bell.
The flow of the match completely changed in the third and final round.
Fired up, Zhang aggressively came out of his corner and unleashed more of his offensive arsenal. He dropped Yusuf with a big right hand, which forced the referee to administer a standing eight-count.
When the action resumed, the Chinese warrior immediately went back on the attack and floored his rival yet again with a solid left for the second knockdown in the round.
Knowing a third knockdown would result in an automatic TKO victory, Zhang went all-out for the win. He launched a flying knee at the Cypriot in a bid to claim a last-gasp stoppage finish. But Yusuf evaded the strike to send the bout to the scorecards.
When the judges’ scores were tallied, those third-round knockdowns proved to be a deciding factor.
The unanimous decision nod was awarded to Zhang, who improved his combined Muay Thai and kickboxing record to 48-12-1.