Another mouth-watering clash has been booked by Asia’s leading mixed martial arts organisation, ONE Fighting Championship, with the fearsome firepower of Cambodia’s Khim “Black Dragon” Dima set to take on the fanged fury of fellow flyweight Saiful “The Vampire” Merican of Malaysia in ONE FC: War of Nations at Kuala Lumpur’s Stadium Negara on March 14.
Khim Dima lost his second bout at ONE FC last month in Manila, succumbing to a first-round barrage of blows from Filipino Ruel Catalan, who emphatically avenged the fight between his brother Rene and the Cambodian last October, which was recorded as a no contest. Rene had to be carried from the cage on a stretcher following a series of strikes to the back of the head deemed as excessive by officials.
Now the Black Dragon has a chance to wreak his own vengeance on Malaysian Muay Thai star Merican, who beat Dima’s A Fighter team-mate Tok Sophon by unanimous decision in November.
However, the 22-year-old Banteay Meanchey native will be weary of his opponent, who is back in front of his home crowd and chasing a third straight MMA victory.
“The only hope I have to win the battle is by using Cambodian kickboxing [Kun Khmer]. That’s the only strength that I think I have to defeat my rival,” Dima told the Post.
As a veteran of more than 250 Kun Khmer fights, Dima’s victories include a points decision against Merican on March 19, 2011, at TV3 Arena in Phnom Penh.
“Having had experience of fighting with [Mercian] before in Kun Khmer, it seems much harder to fight in the cage as I’ve been fighting as a Cambodian boxer much more than fighting in the cage with free combat,” said Dima.
“In my last bout, I could compete with my rival both in strength and tactics and I was even taller than him. But I admit that [Catalan’s] punches were heavily punishing.
“To win the battle in March, the solution is still the same – to use my kickboxing skills. I’ll try to avoid fighting on the ground as much as I can. With that, I can beat [Merican] as I did before in our Khun Khmer match.”
Dima, who is a second-year law student at Build Bright University, noted he had been training for the past three months at the Old Stadium, with daily sessions on Monday to Friday from 4-6pm. From 2-4pm, he trains in Kun Khmer.
A Fighter trainer Chan Hun told the Post: “After Manila, Dima has fought and won all of his [local kickboxing] fights. We have been working on a lot of different things just to improve his all round ability – nothing in particular. We will go into this fight confident, especially knowing that Dima has already beaten Saiful.”
The 27-year-old Merican, who hails from Terengganu in northeastern Malaysia and now heads up the eponymous Merican Muay Thai Gym in Kuala Lumpur, says he is also focused on utilising his stand up proficiency in March, but is working on improving his groundwork.
“You can expect fast, non-stop action from me. I hope to add another win to my MMA record,” he told the Post by email.
“It will be an interesting match. I know MMA in Cambodia is fairly new but gaining more popularity over the past year. Fighting Tok Sophon in my last fight proves that Cambodians have the skill to go far in this sport.”
Having been given the nickname “The Vampire” from a fight fan due to his “fast and deadly kicks” and ability to draw blood from opponents, Merican reached the pinnacle of his career thus far when he achieved a number one ranking from the World Muay Thai Association at 57 kilograms in 2009.
He will take another welcome boost from his Malaysian home crowd, who spurred him on to victory over Sophon two months ago.
“The chants of fans and family always give me added strength,” he said.
ONE FC announced the flyweight bout last Friday, along with an all-Malaysian lightweight contest between posterboy Peter Davis (7-3) and Wes Java (2-1).
Nine bouts have been confirmed for the ONE FC: War of Nations card, which will be headlined by the Brock Larson v Nobutatsu Suzuki match-up for the inaugural ONE FC welterweight world champion belt.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY CHENG SERYRITH