Combat Sports

ONE: Fists of Fury | Rodtang Jitmuangnon vs Alejandro Rivas Preview

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Image for ONE: Fists of Fury | Rodtang Jitmuangnon vs Alejandro Rivas Preview

The Super series madness is in full effect as ONE returns on February 26th, showcasing some of the best strikers the sport and organization have to offer. Of course, an event like this is not complete without Thai superstar Rodtang, the ONE flyweight Muay Thai king will try his hand in kickboxing this time, beginning his quest for a 2nd belt as he welcomes 20-year-old Spanish prospect, Alejandro Rivas, to the promotion. In this piece, I will break down this contest and highlight just how big of an opportunity this is for both guys.

The Rundown

Let’s start with Alejandro. From the outside looking in, a 20-year-old guy coming into ONE championship and fighting a Muay Thai icon with 6 times the amount of experience he has seems crazy. In all honesty, it is. Alejandro hasn’t even really matured as a fighter properly yet and he’s being thrown to the wolves but hey, what a huge opportunity for him it is. Rivas really broke onto the scene when he was 17 years old, upsetting the masses and defeating K-1 featherweight champ Yuta Murakoshi as a heavy underdog. He hasn’t fought since 2019 but I’m sure he’s been firing on all cylinders in the gym, using the time away to refine and mold his skillset into that of a world-beater. This is probably the toughest debut he could have asked for, but one that will answer a whole host of questions.

Now for Rodtang, Muay Thai’s golden boy, this is a guy who has one of the most fan-friendly styles I have ever seen, with the accomplishments to match. Since joining ONE in 2018, Rodtang has had 8 fights in the promotion and not dropped a single one of them. Within those 8 fights, he’s become the ONE Flyweight Muay Thai world champion and defended his belt 3 times. He has fought some of the top names in combat sports and is without a doubt ONE of the best strikers on the planet. This time though he won’t be fighting under the ruleset he is used to, he is drifting off to the world of kickboxing, seemingly looking to make a run at a 2nd belt, held by Ilias Ennahachi who will be headlining this very card. Should a statement-making win earn him a title shot already? It sure is possible.

Stylistic Breakdown

Alejandro Rivas

Looking at Rivas’ style is a lot harder than looking at that of Rodtang’s, first of all, the tape of Rivas is very limited, on top of that he hasn’t fought for 2 years and thus he may have adapted his style and adapted his game in that hiatus. Having said that this could work to his advantage as everyone knows what Rodtang does and how he fights yet no one can stop it, Rivas is much more of a mystery.

The fights we saw of the Spaniards in 2019 showcased his 17/18-year-old self, he has had time to evolve and he could come out with a completely different approach here to catch the Thai off guard and grab this opportunity with both hands. From what I’ve seen he likes to fight on the outside and attack in surges, not at all afraid to jump into the pocket and trade shots which is how we saw him drop Murakoshi in the first round. It has to be said though, this is something that would pay right into Rodtangs’ game and probably wouldn’t end well for the prospect.

Rodtang thrives off that granite chin and those heavy heavy hands, he loves to slug it out with people, his hands are his main tool. He’s broken-down guys like Haggerty and Petchdam with that relentless pressure and constant volume. When Rivas fought Yoshiki Takei he seemed very comfortable to sit back and play a patient game on the outside and it ultimately cost him, Takei swarmed him, mixed up his punches nicely and drilled into the body with Rivas offering little to no resistance. Maybe this was a result of inexperience and a large step up in competition but who knows. Fighting a guy like Rodtang in the way Rivas has fought in the past is a dangerous game, he won’t be able to match the Thai shot for shot and so I think a more cerebral approach needs to be adopted. Granted he does have fast hands but he needs to use them in twos and threes and then dip out, staying in the pocket will do no good.

Investing in the legs may also somewhat slow the advance of the Thai as well as bodywork which will open up some of those kicks to the head. A finish is going to be tough but, in this sport, anything could happen. A very very tall order for the prospect on his one debut but never say never, if he fights smart and attempts to dictate the pace, who knows what we may see.

Rodtang Jitmuangnon

Now for the Muay Thai king. Rodtang may be straying away from Muay Thai for a bout and going over to kickboxing but the premise in his skillset is pretty much the same, the kicks and punches are still there and they are his keys to victory.

Rodtang Jitmuangnon punches Petchdam Petchyindee Acadamy during ONE: No Surrender | Image via ONE Championship

The confidence this man radiates is incredible, I mean he obviously feels certain he’s going to win this with no issues, and I get the feeling that ONE does too given the fact that they have double booked him, already set to defend his Muay Thai belt against Jacob Smith in April. Looking at the present though, I do think that Rodtang has a skill set that is way too much for Rivas at this stage in his career. Granted, I know Rodtang is only 3 years older than him, but the guy has over 300 fights and has already achieved a ridiculous amount. In the Muay Thai world, 3 years for a young Thai competing is like 10 years elsewhere, their work rate is incredible.

Rivas isn’t a pressure fighter and I think this plays right into Rodtang’s game, I expect him to walk forward and use that intelligent footwork to box him in and give him no escape route. He will then employ that powerful boxing, digging to the body which sets up the headshots. Combined with the huge gas tank Rodtang has, it is a lethal combination. I also expect that his clubbing leg kicks will make an appearance, chopping Rivas down to essentially make him a sitting duck. The pressure, the boxing, the granite chin, and those venomous kicks, it’s a ruthless combination of tools that have been refined over 300 fights, I do expect Rodtang to get his kickboxing journey off to a winning start. I believe he will overwhelm Rivas early on, wear him down for a round or so and then go in for the kill. By no means am I writing Rivas off, I just think this is an incredibly tall order at this stage in his career.

Summary

So, Rivas gets his big break on the big stage but with one of the most difficult debut matchups, I have ever seen. If he fights in a cerebral manner and doesn’t get drawn into the carnage driven game that Rodtang forces, he could very well find some success, I just feel that hard-nosed style Rodtang brings to the table, all the refined tools he has honed, as well as the sheer experience deficit will be too much. Will Rivas surge into stardom with a monumental upset or will Rodtang get off the mark in a new sport and put the division on notice?


Promotional and Featured Images Credits to ONE Championship

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