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Khim Dima
Cambodia's Khim Dima (on top) grapples with a sparring partner during a training session at Old Stadium on Monday. HONG MENEA

Black Dragon flies off to ONE FC debut

Cambodia’s ‘Black Dragon’ Khim Dima took flight to Singapore this morning ahead of his debut bout in ONE FC’s mixed-martial arts cage on Friday.

The 22-year-old Banteay Meanchey native is set to face Filipino wushu master Rene Catalan in a flyweight (56.7kg) contest in front of an expected 12,000 fervent fight fans at the Singapore Indoor Arena as one of 10 match-ups on the card of ONE FC: Total Domination.

Local channel MyTV will start their coverage of the event from 6pm with the live action broadcast wrapping up at 10pm.

Khim Dima fights out of Phnom Penh gym A Fighter, which sent Long Sophy to Jakarta last month as Cambodia’s first representative at ONE FC. Sophy was submitted by Indonesian grappling specialist Max Metino in the second round. However, trainer Im Ouk holds greater hopes for his student this time.

“Overall, [Dima is] simply a better fighter then Rene [Catalan], and I have no doubt that he will be victorious on the night,” Ouk told the Post.

“I believe he will dominate the fight and probably knock out Rene. We haven’t brought any one special to help with Dima training, but we have been watching and studying his opponent closely to prepare him for the fight.”

The trainer also noted that, in the past four weeks, they had been trying hard to cut down from Dima’s usual 60kg to have him make weight in Singapore. “It hasn’t been easy for him,” Ouk added.

With Cambodians now given the chance to compete for the region’s leading promotion and the sport’s ever-increasing popularity domestically, plans are in motion to host more MMA events at home. Ouk has funded the construction of his club's own cage, which he designed and built, with the hopes of running fight nights under the name ‘A Fighter Championship’ on Bayon TV.

“Our show will be properly sanctioned from the Cambodian Amateur Boxing Federation,” he said.

Catalan poses tough challenge

Rene Catalan, a 34-year-old who hails from Santa Barbara in the Philippines’ central Iloilo province and is now based in Manila, holds MMA experience over his Cambodian rival after losing by arm-bar submission to Brazil’s Alex Silva in the first round of their ONE FC fight in Singapore on April 5.

That debut bout came shortly after Catalan’s wife succumbed to a four-year battle with hyperthyroidism, leaving him a widower with three children. He is also locked in dispute with the Wushu Federation of the Philippines over remunerations for international tournament medals and retirement benefits.

This time out, the Filipino is confident of turning his fortunes around.

“With every fight, you will bring in a slightly different game plan but overall, I feel like I am just improving my game and elevating myself to a different skill level,” he told the Post in an email.

“I don't think [Dima] has anything that can defeat me, game plan and all. I am a completely different guy to the one you saw in April.

“I understand he is a Kun Khmer boxing champion, which means he probably has good strikes. They are known for their elbows and knees so that is something I have to watch out for, but overall, I feel like I am superior to him in every element of mixed-martial arts. There is no doubt I will emerge victorious,” said Catalan, who is nicknamed D’Challenger.

“I specialise in a wushu discipline known as sanshou. It’s actually very similar to mixed-martial arts in that it has strikes mixed with throws.

“I think my least experienced aspect will be submissions on the ground. But if you watched my fight earlier this year, I held my own for the most part against a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt (although I did get caught). I feel like I am so much better than I was then and won't make the same mistake.”

When Catalan is not competing, he is coaching, having completed stints with the Canadian national wushu team and as the head coach of Fighting Empire Gym in Beijing.

Friday’s Total Domination event is headlined by one of the year’s most eagerly anticipated clashes, a bantamweight unification bout between ONE FC world champion Soo Chul Kim (7-4) of South Korea and interim champion Bibiano Fernandes (14-3) of Brazil.

The undercard will also feature the second female fight of ONE FC’s two-year history with hometown hero Sherilyn Lim taking on Ann Osman as part of three matches between Singaporeans and Malaysians.

In the co-main event, ONE FC lightweight world champion Shinya Aoki (33-6) of Japan has shed the pounds to make his featherweight bow against American Cody Stevens (11-5-1).

Friday's ONE FC: Total Domination Fight Card

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