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ONE: No Surrender II Preview: Mehdi Zatout Vs Leo Pinto

Zatout vs Pinto comes in as the co-main this Friday on ONE: No Surrender II, and what a co-main it is. There’s no shortage of slick striking here, so don’t sleep on this kickboxing bout; there’s a good chance it can steal the show.

Zatout – Climbing for gold

The bright lights are no stranger to Zatout. He has clocked over 100 bouts in kickboxing and Muay Thai and having battled against the likes of Saenchai. The Algerian now trains out of Thailand full-time, and he has taken more than his fair share of trophies – French, European, world titles, he now looks to climb the ranks and get to the fabled ONE Championship gold.

His latest match came in January against the Chinese Han Zi Hao, taking a close victory via split decision. He looks to continue that winning streak and put him in spitting distance of the belt. One more after could earn him a go at the champ.

Zatout is careful, crisp, and mobile (bar his frequent showboating). His most dangerous weapons are undoubtedly his quick hands, and though he doesn’t take many risks his mobility requires a wider stance and leaves him vulnerable to leg kicks. Versus Han Zi Hao he faced very little danger, and Hao struggled to hit with any counter shots. Careful footwork and lateral steps won Zatout the fight against bull rushes and aggression. Pressuring Zatout is the right move to force a response, but to corner and draw out an attack before he is prepared would be better. Tukkatatong, for example, managed to draw overcommitted attacks and from there land effective counters. Zatout suffers most damage against the ropes, or when tired and less able to move his feet; Pinto could learn from that.

Pinto – A chance for revenge

Frenchman Leo Pinto, despite being 10 years younger, is a veteran in his own right. Leaving formal education at 15, he has known a full-time training for a long while and was the youngest Farang to ever compete in the fabled Lumpinee stadium.

This is only Pinto’s second bout in ONE, and his first fell short of expectations in January where he lost to one of Zatout’s pupils. This is his shot at getting back in the winning column and having his vengeance. He came in too confident the last match and wasn’t nearly careful enough with his own defense. That was half a year ago though, and he’s done a lot to work on that in the meantime.

Pinto is more eager to engage than Zatout; his defense relies less on footwork, and more on deft head movement, but his eagerness to deal damage leaves him vulnerable to counters. Have a look at his match versus Adam Noi, and the head kick he took in round one. Pinto pretended that it didn’t hurt, but he never brought that fight back. Though he did keep up the aggression, each time he attacked he took damage – it was far from a risk-free approach, allowing him to switch levels to the leg kicks but leaving himself exposed.

The Matchup

Zatout vs Pinto will be a battle of skill, and both should know the key to defeating the other. Zatout requires careful application of pressure to be beaten. Tukkatatong was measured, drawing out the attacks of the Algerian, and cracking the counters in. Hao, by comparison, moved forwards on a straight line with aggressive bull rushes. Pinto might do well to exploit Zatout’s wider stance with leg kicks, but it’s not likely to happen. I just don’t think Pinto is careful enough as a fighter to draw out poor responses. Zatout will play the matador here, with a likely repeat of the match against Han Zi Hao. If you ask me, Zatout walks away from this one with the win, and one step closer to the title.

Follow me on Twitter @DiserensRobert or @CombatThoughts, or Instagram @DiserensMMA or @CombatThoughts. Follow @OT_Heroics for more great content, be sure to check out the Overtime Heroics Forums page to join in on the discussion!

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