On the 3rd of May, Jonathan Haggerty will face possibly his biggest test to date. He will be facing Sam-A Gaiyanghadao for ONE Championship’s flyweight Muay Thai title. The Thai is a multiple time Lumpinee champion and has amassed over 360 victories in the sport. This alone provides an indication of why Haggerty is being considered the underdog by a considerable margin.
Having already reviewed Haggerty’s latest performance for ONE Championship, it is interesting to dissect how Sam-A dealt with the same opponent, the aggressive Joseph Lasiri. The most obvious difference between this bout and Haggerty’s was Sam-A’s southpaw stance. As we talked about, Haggerty generally prefers a short orthodox stance with a light lead leg to allow him to use a quick front teep and switch kick. Sam-A prefers a slightly longer stance which allows him to move more quickly to cut the angle on his mostly orthodox opponents.
Multiple times during his bout with Lasiri, Sam-A would throw either the left straight to right hook or double up on a jab whilst moving forward on a diagonal right angle. The punches had no power as such but were used to fluster Lasiri whilst Sam-A obtained the dominant angle. Once this had been achieved Sam-A let loose with his left kick leaving Lasiri no option but to shell up against the blow.
Lasiri played into Sam-A’s game somewhat with his overly aggressive style, often marching forward with a total disregard for his opponents positioning. Sam-A often simply took a diagonal step backwards to his right, cutting off Lasiri’s right hand and kick. Whilst this led Sam-A into Lasiri’s left hook, the Thai countered this by constantly reaching for Lasiri’s lead hand with his own. The smaller gloves allowed him to effectively control the wrist of Lasiri, mitigating the risk of a left hook. At the end of the first round, Lasiri attempted to use the left hook to cut off Sam-A who rolled the punch over his shoulder and counter with his own left hook over the top of Lasiri’s.
This lead hand control can be seen best mid way through the first round. Lasiri lunged in when Sam-A’s back was close the cage fence. Using the wrist grip on Lasiri’s lead arm, Sam-A diverted the Italian’s momentum past him and turned him a complete 180 degree. Sam-A now controlled the centre of the ring, counteracting the forward movement of Lasiri.
Yet another option for Sam-A with his lead hand was to stand his ground when Lasiri stepped in. Sam-A then folded his right elbow over Lasiri’s shoulder to deliver a hard elbow to the temple. This broke the contact allowing Sam-A to pivot off and denying Lasiri a more grinding clinch battle.
Having found his rhythm, Sam-A became more aggressive in the second round, walking Lasiri down and powering left high kicks. This forced the Italian to keep a high guard focused around the side of his head. The threat of the high kick and the smaller gloves opened up the way for Sam-A’s left straight which he began to throw when he achieved the dominant angle. Dropping Lasiri multi times to win the TKO victory.
The immediate benefit Haggerty holds over Lasiri is his more measured approach, Lasiri would walk forward if the kitchen sink was thrown at him until he either managed clinched you or was knocked down. Whilst impressive from a toughness point of view, it is a one dimensional style. Haggerty has proven to be able to fight on the back foot and more defensively adapt than Lasiri.
At the very least this should prevent as many obvious openings for Sam-A to take advantage of. That being said, Haggerty does occasionally over extended himself when pushing forwards, for instance lunging into the fence in is eagerness to finish Lasiri in the first round. Keeping this in check with an opponent such as Sam-A is a must in order to prevent easy counters.
Sam-A’s stance does leave him open to the low kick to the inside of his thigh, an easy way to prevent him feeling to uncomfortable would be to pick at this in the opening rounds. Haggerty will likely need to lengthen out of his usual stance else run the risk of Sam-A out circling him with the quickness a longer stance allows.
Haggerty also needs to do his best to mitigate Sam-A’s rightwards movement to take the dominant angle. Hooks are typically the go to solution but that will depend on keeping the hand free from the probing lead hand of the Thai. The probing lead hand potentially gives Haggerty the opportunity to feint the responding jab before coming over the top with a hook. Even if it does not result in the knockout blow, it might deter Sam-A from constantly probing for a quick angle cut.
Whilst a tall order for Haggerty, it is by no means impossible. He has proven he has the talent and determination to compete the best. Win or lose, he will be competing against one of the best Thai boxer of this generation, an incredible experience regardless of the outcome.