ONE Championship has set the stage for Jonathan Haggerty’s first title defence as their Flyweight Muay Thai Champion. Facing Haggerty is Rodtang Jitmuangon, the young 22 year old has been on a streak of wins ever since arriving at ONE Championship beating every fighter placed in front of him. That being said, Haggerty is also undefeated in ONE and caused a significant upset when he beat Sam-A for the title back in May. Still, Rodtang has the potential to be the stiffest competition Haggerty has faced so far in his career.
The lead leg and the elbows
As we have described in previous previews for Haggerty, the key to his style is his short stance and his light lead leg which is drawn close to the rear leg. The heavy emphasis of weight on the rear leg allows him to use the lead leg with a greater amount of speed. You can see this in both his fights and sparring sessions where he heavily relies on the lead leg round kicks and front teep.
The front teep can be quickly raised to either jam an opponent to prevent them from throwing a kick or if the opponent’s base is solid it can act as a wall to push Haggerty backward out of range. The lead leg round kick is also extremely fast and powerful. As the majority of fighters are right handed and fight in an orthodox stance, it often is fired into the open side of the opponent. If an opponent simply tries to walk through the punishment, they will find themselves on the end of several left switch kicks followed by a teep should they get too close. In Haggerty’s previous bout on ONE Championship with Joseph Lasiri, we can see a master class in this style of fighting before he got drawn into more dangerous exchanges.
Since he has been fighting under full Thai rules, Haggerty has been fairly aggressive with his elbows. This has reached new heights in ONE, with much of the later rounds in his bout against Sam-A spent toe to toe in an effort to cut the Thai. Haggerty is is particularly found of the rear downward elbow. Bringing it down on the top of the opponents head, this resulted in giving Lasiri a count after he got caught by a Damien Trainor style jumping downward elbow.
If he is ever caught out of position with his back partially facing his opponent, Haggerty often spins for an elbow. Either catching the opponent or forcing them to reconsider moving to capitalise on the exposed back of Haggerty. Once again this can be seen frequently in his sparring session footage.
It is easy to understand why Rodtang is called the tank once you have witnessed just a handful of his fights. The Thai seems unperturbed by the possibility of taking damage and often blitzes through his opponents resistance. Coupled with his tendency to start screaming at his opponents mid bout, and your left with a fairly intimidating challenge from the outset.
Rodtang’s bread and butter is his left hook and right low kick. His left hook is extremely accurate and the smaller 4oz gloves gives his opponents minimal protection against this particular strike. Even in a Southpaw vs Orthodox matchup where the opponent can duck under their lead shoulder as protection the left hook often lands. For example when Rodtang nearly finished Sergio Wielzen in the first round of their bout.
Rodtang also has an interesting setup, often throwing a double jab but leaving it in the opponent’s face. This then causes the opponent to try close their hands across the front of their face rid themselves of this annoyance. Once the hands are no longer defending the side of the head, Rodtang targets it with the left hook.
Against Sok Thy, Rodtang also displayed his powerful low kicks. Both fast stinging lead leg kicks to the front leg of Sok and more powerful rear low kicks to the outside of Sok’s thigh. Indeed it was somewhat of a surprise that Sok’s corner even sent him out after he was barely able to walk after the first round of punishment.
Rodtang’s final standout point is how he is able to rag doll most of his opponents as they try to find a safe haven in the clinch. Instead of focusing on knees and elbows from within this position, Rodtang prefers to trip or dump the opponent and get the bout back to where he can force the action in the open. Fahdi Khaled spent much of his fight with Rodtang on the floor as he simply couldn’t compete against Rodtang’s striking or clinching. Each time he was floored it took him longer and longer to get up as was beaten down over the three rounds.
A tough matchup for both fighters?
Simply put, there are no ‘easy’ matches for anyone once they get to the elite tiers of Muay Thai. There is a reason that even the best Thai fighters ever to compete have their fair shares of losses smattering their records. On the face of it, Rodtang is facing by fair his toughest opponent on ONE Championship so far, but Haggerty could be in for a long night if Rodtang is allowed to perform his usual game.
Haggerty is an orthodox fighter, immediately this eliminates the possibility of him using the lead shoulder to roll the left hook. Whilst the right hand can be rolled with Haggerty’s left shoulder, his open side is extremely vulnerable to one of Rodtang’s favourite strikes. Haggerty’s narrow stance also means that is it more pronounced when he begins to box, greatly extending out of his regular stance, making timing the low kicks whilst the lead leg is heavier an easier task for Rodtang.
Haggerty’s only decision loss was to Ja Kiatphontip on Yokkao 28. On that occasion Ja’s constant pressure didn’t allow Haggerty to settle and use the light lead leg to its full effect. Instead Ja marched through it and wore Haggerty down through constant pressure, something Rodtang enjoys greatly.
However, whilst Ja wore down Haggerty progressively in the clinch, Rodtang is more likely to want to wear the Englishman down with strikes. As we have already explored, Rodtang prefers to dump opponents rather than clinch and knee like Ja. Haggerty’s light lead leg is also ideal to check incoming low kicks and counter the strike after checking with the mid to high round kick. In addition, whilst it is wise to be wary of Rodtang’s left hook, Haggerty’s right hand has proven a deadly weapon. Dropping Sam-A twice with the right cross.
If Haggerty can keep Rodtang’s pressure at bay with his lightening left kicks and teeps, it will be a strong indication of how the bout will go. However, if Rodtang prevents Haggerty from settling as Ja did, through constantly pushing him back and refusing him the space and time to set his short stance, it could be a long night for Haggerty.