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Lethwei in the USA: LT Nelson vs Estevan Payan!

LT Nelson vs Estevan Payan fight poster. Courtesy of Sparta Sports and Entertainment.

On September 19th, 2020, Sparta Sports and Entertainment will be making combat sports history once again when they present Sparta Wyoming 3 in Cheyenne, Wyoming! The main event of the evening will be the first-ever US sanctioned Lethwei bout featuring LT “Smash” Nelson vs Estevan “El Terrible” Payan. Sparta Sports and Entertainment debuted BKMMA in the US in August and will be looking at making another historic debut in September. Sparta continues to bring fans what they want to see!

Not familiar with what Lethwei is? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered!

What Is Lethwei?

Lethwei, also known as The Art of 9 Limbs, is a combat sport developed in Myanmar that is similar to Muay Thai but much more brutal. In Lethwei, you can strike with your fists, elbows, knees, shins/feet, and head. Yes, that’s right, headbutts are legal! In addition to that, Lethwei fighters do not use gloves, just tape and gauze! So we’ve got headbutts and bare-knuckle action all in one fight! There is also no ground fighting in Lethwei but fighters can use trips, sweeps, and throws, to incapacitate their opponent.

There is also a special “injury” time-out that allows a fighter a 2-minute recovery period if they get knocked out. This timeout is scored as one count and can only be used once per fighter and may not be used during the final round of the fight. If a fighter is down for three counts in a single round, they lose. If a fighter is down for four counts in the entire fight, they lose. Due to these rules, Lethwei strongly encourages action, which means Sparta fans will absolutely fall in love with the sport.

Lethwei superstar Dave Leduc and MMA legend Ras Butten.
Lethwei superstar Dave Leduc and MMA legend Bas Rutten. Photo courtesy of Dave Leduc’s Twitter.

Lethwei is relatively new to mainstream combat sports fans. Up until 2016, Lethwei was relatively unknown. That is until “The King of Lethwei” Dave Leduc came along. Leduc is an absolute star in the Lethwei world. His fights in the World Lethwei Championship are always a must-watch and he is determined to take this sport to the upper echelons of combat sports. Undoubtedly Leduc will have a close eye on this fight, as breaking into the US market is huge for the sport of Lethwei.

Now that you know a little more about Lethwei, let us talk about the two warriors stepping into the cage!

LT Nelson

LT Nelson. Nelson vs Payan
LT Nelson. Photo courtesy of Glory Kickboxing.

“Smash” Nelson is a very familiar name to Sparta fans. The South African born fighter has won Sparta’s Lightweight and Welterweight King of Sparta tournaments. For those that aren’t familiar with Sparta’s tournaments, they consist of a boxing match, followed by a kickboxing fight, and then an MMA bout. All in one night! Win all three and you get $10,000 in your pocket. And he won them twice! “Smash” won the tournament first in 2018, and then again in 2019. In addition to that, Nelson has fought in multiple matches for Sparta dating back to 2012.

LT is currently signed to GLORY Kickboxing and has a 9-2 professional kickboxing record to go along with his 9-7 MMA record. He trains at Pound 4 Pound Fitness, as well as at Easton Training Center with Elevation Fight Team. Nelson also trains his jiu-jitsu at 303 Training Center and does his strength and conditioning at Absolute Personal Fitness. LT trains with some top-level strikers, grapplers, and coaches regularly and will be very ready for this scrap.

This man is no stranger to combat, even competing in Bellator on two separate occasions. 2020 hasn’t been the best fighting year for Nelson, as he’s lost two boxing matches this year. However, “Smash” now has a chance to cement his name in combat sports history by being the winner of the first-ever sanctioned Lethwei match in the US! In his way is a very experienced and ready Estevan Payan. Can LT smash “The Terrible” and make history on September 19th?!

Nelson’s official prediction: “I believe this is going to be an exciting fight and I am always looking for the KO. So I believe I will knock him out with a big right hand or knee to the face or body!! Also, I can’t wait to try out some headbutting!”

Estevan Payan

Estevan Payan. Nelson vs Payan.
Estevan Payan. Photo courtesy of Valor Bare Knuckle.

“The Terrible” Payan is a very experienced fighter and former US Army Staff Sergeant based out of Arizona. His first professional fight occurred all the way back in 2007 for a regional Arizona promotion called Rage in the Cage. Payan has been a part of some big promotions in his career since his debut. Payan even fought at the first-ever Bellator event, Bellator 1, back in 2009. He won that fight by split-decision. He followed that win up with a loss at Bellator 6 that sent him back to the Arizona regional scene until five wins in a row earned him a chance at fighting for Strikeforce.

Estevan made the most of his Strikeforce opportunity by winning both of his fights for the promotion before earning his chance in the UFC. Unfortunately for Payan, the UFC was not kind to him. He suffered three straight losses in the span of 11 months and was out of the UFC without getting a win. Combat sports hasn’t been very kind to “The Terrible” after his UFC appearances, as he has only won four of the 15 fights in various disciplines since then according to Tapology. However, one of those four wins did come in a bare-knuckle boxing match! This means Payan has some experience in bare-knuckle action, which he should be able to use to his advantage! Will “The Terrible” make sure his name is in combat sports history books come September 19th?!

Payan’s official prediction: “The fight will end early and violently.”

How To Watch Nelson vs Payan

Sparta Wyoming 3 Event Poster
Poster courtesy of Ashlee Moreno

The Outlaw Saloon will play host to Sparta Wyoming 3 in Cheyenne, Wyoming. This event will be available to watch in person and on PPV! Tickets and the PPV are both on sale now at Sparta Sports and Entertainment’s website. Be sure to follow Sparta Sports and Entertainment on social media for more Sparta Wyoming 3 announcements!

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Follow me on Twitter @jefflswartz2 and Instagram @jefflswartzmma for more MMA news and discussions. Also, make sure to follow @OT_Heroics for all of your sporting needs. Don’t forget @MMA_OTH for all things MMA.

Come discuss this and much more at the Overtime Heroics forums!

Jeff Swartz MMA
Jeff Swartz is an MMA writer for Overtimeheroics.net. With a focus on the UFC, Jeff also covers regional Colorado MMA promotions. Jeff also occasionally writes pieces about the Baltimore Ravens.
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