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Nong-O Vs Rodlek Preview: A Battle for Distance

This Friday sees Nong-O Gaiyanghadao face off against Rodlek PK. Saenchai Muaythaigym for the bantamweight title. This is the culmination of a Bantamweight tournament, which set four of the best Nak Muay on the planet against one another for a shot at the undisputed title, held by reigning champ Nong-O. Despite a rocky start and a loss to Saemapetch, an injury took his opponent out and Rodlek continued on to face Kulabdam and win in stunning fashion. Nong-O, by comparison, has not fought for over a year, when he finished Saemapetch Fairtex in November 2019. So where does the advantage lie in Nong-O vs Rodlek? In the tried and tested hands of the champion, or with the contender, ‘The Steel Locomotive’? 

Rodlek PK. Saenchai Muaythaigym

Rodlek’s style is aggressive, front footed, always on the attack. We covered it in this article previewing his match with Saemapetch. It’s all about punching into short-range kicks and knees, getting into his opponent’s face, and dealing damaging blows with his legs. He pressures his opponents and rarely takes a backward step. He’s also got a rock-solid chin. The number of fights blood streams down from his forehead and he just doesn’t seem fazed, still pressing ever forwards, I’m always stunned. So that’s his game plan – get in your face with punches, keep up the pressure, and really damage with short-range kicks or knees in the clinch. But how is he best countered? 

Let’s look at the differences in his last two matches. His battle against Saemapetch was ultimately a loss, but a very close match, due to Saemapetch shutting down his game at two points. On the outside, the jab was the weapon of choice. Rodlek is undersized for the division and doesn’t have the same range. That’s likely why he prefers the short range strikes. Tapping jabs combined with long body shots kept him from rushing in, while at short range, elbows were the choice. In latter rounds, Rodlek found more success when following up with knees for whatever reason – perhaps the change in level, perhaps just the threat of damage – but whatever it was it got him inside. He could really have done some damage there, but powerful elbows stifled combinations and forced a retreat before he really got going. The icing on the cake came when Rodlek failed to back up enough and escape. Slow exits from the inside left him vulnerable to counter shots, which is where Saemapetch did his best work. 

Compare that to Kulabdam. Kulabdam’s style looks similar to Saemapetch in a lot of ways, but with a few key differences. Swap out a lot of the jabs for low line sidekicks, and you have Kulabdam. This was somewhat effective in preventing Rodlek’s advance, but ‘The Steel Locomotive’ easily adapted and used leg kicks to get inside. Kulabdam also over-relied on the right hand, which Rodlek knew was coming and was easily able to defend. With fewer jabs and over-reliance on the right-hand power punches, Rodlek was able to close the distance and do damage with punches and knees on the inside. On the break, it was all about the lack of counters. Too slow on the trigger, Kulabdam was unable to land the damage that he needed to win the fight. That was brilliantly spotted in this fight preview.

So what are the takeaways? Rodlek might throw a lot of head kicks from range, but really he will hurt you the most on the inside. He needs to get in past the jab and work either his hands or knees to win. To counter, you either need to keep him at bay or have a powerful clinch and short-range attacks so that he doesn’t hang around. A real weakness has been exiting exchanges, so in this fight, Nong-O Vs Rodlek, being quick on the counter is the key. 

Nong-O Gaiyanghadao

Nong-O is the one and only Bantamweight ONE champion, defeating Han Zihao on February 2019. He has gone on to defend the title twice, once against Frenchman Brice Delval and once against Thai Saemapetch Fairtex. We’ll take a look at those last three matches to dissect his style. 

Nong-O has something of a double attack. He loves to lead with the right hand, with little in the way of jabbing, and really, really loves the right kick. It was devastating against Suzuki, who’s left side looked battered, beaten and raw by the end of the match. Most heavy shots were landed from the midrange, as his opponent hung around too long on either offence or defence, giving Nong-O the openings he needed. 

Against Delval, it was a similar story, but with more range. Delval is seriously tall for the division and had a lot of success with jabs and teeps. That’s not such an option for Rodlek, but I think it’s interesting to note the increase in the rate of jabbing from Nong-O, so he can do it when needed. Also interesting, Delval took the most damaging shots when on the retreat. That, at least, bodes well for the pressure addicted Rodlek who seems almost unable to back off. 

Finally, the match against Saemapetch. Nong-O displayed excellent skills with his elbows when in clinching range, which could prove an issue for Rodlek, but though he was at a clear speed disadvantage he was not so fast on the counter. Saemapetch was easily able to exit without receiving too much damage.

So how to sum up the style? Aggressive, but not such a pressure fighter as Rodlek. Nong-O likes to throw power shots but isn’t relentlessly advancing. He loves the right kick, and leads a lot with his right hand, but has displayed some good work with the jab and short-range elbows when needed. As a counter striker, he doesn’t have as much to offer as Saemapetch, but in this fight, Nong-O Vs Rodlek, he dominates the midrange and does his best work when his opponents retreat. 

Deciding factors  for Nong-O vs Rodlek

I think comparing Nong-O to Saemapetch is the best way to work out where the advantage is. At the range, Nong-O has displayed good jabbing, but it’s not nearly as utilized. That swings in Rodlek’s favor, who struggle to enter when there are needling jabs coming down the centerline. Versus Kulabdam, Rodlek did fine to cover up and enter when the left hand was thrown, so I don’t think those lead rights are going to prevent his forward momentum. The most dangerous spot is in the mid-range, where Nong-O can damage the most. Rodlek needs to not hang around there, but unless Nong-O has worked a lot on the jab that shouldn’t be an issue and Rodlek should find his openings. If he does stay there too long though, expect the thudding right kick to begin landing with power.

In Nong-O vs Rodlek, assuming Rodlek does close the distance, I think the real battle begins. Rodlek will need to land the damaging knees and low kicks, while Nong-O will need to stifle and then counter on the break. With stifling and countering the offense, he’s shown some good elbows at short range against Saemapetch – which may do the trick – but I’ve not seen enough of him in the past two years to feel confident about that. It’s so hard to know what someone has been working on when they haven’t fought for twelve months. Whatever it is that Nong-O can bring to win in the clinch, if he wins there he likely wins the fight. 

As Nong-O Vs Rodlek breaks there is a chance for counter striking, and bringing in the terrifying body kick, but Nong-O hasn’t been one to exploit those openings a lot in the past. He’ll need to dictate the range for longer to establish that right round-kick. Rodlek will need to close the distance and close it quickly. Once there he needs to damage and not get countered and ensure that he leaves the middle distance as quickly as he can. That’s essentially what Nong-O vs Rodlek is, a battle of range. 

Featured Image Credits to ONE Championship

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