Combat Sports

ONE: Fists of Fury – Ennahachi vs Superlek Preview

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This Friday pits Ennahachi vs Superlek for the ONE flyweight kickboxing championship. On one side, Ilias Ennahachi is the Dutch-Moroccan kickboxer and current champion, new to ONE but having made one hell of an entrance. On the other is Superlek Kiatmoo9, a world champion in his own right, the 2012 Muay Thai Fighter of the Year, and with 156 fights to his name. Here we will cover the styles and habits of each of these fighters, and look at where the advantage lies.

Superlek Kiatmuu9

Superlek is relatively new to kickboxing. The majority of his fights have been in Muay Thai, but he hasn’t lost a bout since July 2019 and is sitting on a four-fight winning streak.

He is often referred to as ‘The Kicking Machine’ for good reason. This man loves the body kick. Whether on the lead, counter or at the end of a combination, it’s a staple of his game. This proved excellent in his bout against Rui Botelho, whose concern about the body kick left him vulnerable to the right hand and ultimately lost him the match. Against Panpayak, he flowed it off of combinations to drop in strikes and move out the side door (though this was likely eased by the less aggressive style of Panpayak – more on that shortly). Versus Fahdi, it was all done on the counter, showing a huge range of ways in which to implement the attack.

It’s interesting to look at this one recent kickboxing bout, against Fahdi Khaled. Here his defensive distancing was on point, but frequently had him backing up in straight lines and led to him hitting the ropes. With his hands, Superlek demonstrated some excellent check hooks but when leading was tied up almost every time. Though he adapted his style well to kickboxing, this clashing at the end of combinations may be a reliance on the Thai clinch that has not carried over so well.

I’d summarise Superlek’s style as aggressive, a little chaotic, but not the most effective ring general. He backs up to the fence when attacked and often moves forwards into clinching range when throwing hands, which could lead to some very exploitable habits. That said, I’ve not seen Superlek slow down for lack of cardio in a single bout. He’ll keep the aggression going from start to finish.

Ilias Ennahachi

Ilias Ennahachi is the reigning, defending flyweight champion. He hasn’t had any fights in ONE that isn’t title bouts, and even before ONE Championship, he defended his Enfusion kickboxing title. His last loss came way back in November 2017. Like Superlek, he has a wealth of experience and is on a hot streak of victories.

Ennahachi is light on his feet. He bounces in and out, changes stance, and is nimble enough to throw in the left high kick from orthodox without an ounce of wind-up. He’s also very hard to pin down, keeping off the ropes and exiting nicely. It’s up for debate whether he is tentative or calculated, but either way, he seems to be careful about where he enters exchanges, and that tends to pay off.

Ilias thrives in short-range exchanges but doesn’t get tied up. Against Petchdam was a beautiful example of this. The combination of body and head hooks from a shorter range lead to an excellent KO without a great deal of risk from the Dutchman. His style is all about level changes on offence, mixing in the left high kick, and being fantastically mobile and hard to pin down.

Ennahachi vs Superlek: Keys to Victory

What I’ve found to be a very recurring theme in any breakdown, is that whoever controls range and positioning is who I favour. This applies to any combat sport and any style of fighter. If you are the one who can dictate when and where the fight takes place then you are the one who can apply your techniques the best, irrelevant of what you are good or bad at. The control of time and measure comes before anything else, and that’s why I have to favour Ennahachi here.

Compare the two styles. Aggressively, the real difference is that Ennahachi will close the distance to a point, then land excellent shots to deal damage. Superlek, by comparison, will frequently come too close and end up in the clinch – this might have been purposeful in a Thai bout, but doesn’t carry over so well to kickboxing. He has shown nice work coming off the centre line at the end of combinations, but can put himself on the ropes by doing so. I’d expect the light-footed Morrocan to capitalise on that.

Defensively, you’re likely to see two different responses as well. Superlek will back up to the perfect distance, but it’s all in straight lines, while Ennahachi has an excellent awareness for his positioning. That said, Illias is not extremely aggressive, and won’t likely have Superlek backing up a great deal.

I’ve by no means written off the Thai fighter. His round kicks are excellent, and as I’ve said above, Ilias probably doesn’t have the aggression to keep Superlek backing up on to the ropes. To win, Suplerlek will have to be careful about his positioning, and really deny his opponent the chance to build up a lead with boxing aggression. Exchange for exchange, I imagine Ilias will do better, so for Superlek, it’s all about giving him more chances to land in exchanges, and being careful about where he places himself at the end. My money is on Ilias, but there’s plenty Superlek can do to change my mind.


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Featured Image Credits to ONE Championship

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Training martial arts since I was a fat child, Muay Thai since mid-2013, BJJ since mid-2015, and MMA since start-2016. Competing when I can, I'm more interested in the martial arts side of MMA, and write everything from style breakdowns, to highlights of martial arts culture, to concept pieces about what we learn from combat sports.