Cambodian mixed martial artists (MMA) Em Sovannahry and Chan Rothana both grabbed emphatic victories in front of a packed crowd at the Axiata Arena in Kuala Lumpur on Friday night as part of ONE Championship’s Destiny of Champions fight card.
In the opening contest of the night, Cambodian-American Sovannahry took just 1 minute 10 seconds of her ONE debut to finish her Ukrainian opponent Iryna Kyselova in their women’s catchweight bout at 63.5kg.
The 26-year-old fighter, based out of Long Beach, California, impressively dealt with Kyselova’s wrestling prowess, scoring a takedown before latching herself onto the back of the Ukrainian. In back mount, Sovannahry relentlessly landed solid head blows, forcing the referee to call an early end to the fight.
“I am feeling very good,” Sovannahry said in her post-fight interview. “We are working on it but my main goal was to work with punches and not allow grappling. When she did grappling, it’s my responsibility to stop it. She got me by the head but got a takedown.
“I have so much pride when I am representing Cambodia and can win the fight. I hope I can go visit or fight in Cambodia one day,” she said, adding that her next immediate plan was to “eat lots of food”.
Hunger to win
Sovannahry noted she would wait to see what ONE Championship would offer her next year. “I keep hearing that Cambodians are excited to have Cambodian fighters on the card. I am really excited too,” she added.
In the next matchup, Chan Rothana made a stunning return to the ONE cage by surviving a series of heavy strikes, takedowns and submission attempts in the first round to record a second-round stoppage of Indonesia’s Abro Fernandes.
It’s been nearly a year since the Cambodian last featured on a ONE fight card, but he showed true grit and determination to overcome an early onslaught from his bantamweight rival.
With less than a minute left in the second round, Rothana’s superior striking turned the tide in his favour and a final flurry of punches and kicks capped off with a devastating knee put Fernandes down for good.
“I was nearly knocked down because his punch was so hard,” admitted the 32 year old afterwards.
“But I tried to gather my fighting spirits and kick back in combinations. I could then regain my composure and attack my opponent. In the second round, I could escape his grappling and we were both very weak. But he looked weaker than me. With my hunger to win, I could finish him.”
Muay Thai legend Yodsanklai IWE Fairtex put together a highlight-reel performance in the main event, dominating Luis Regis of Australia to win by first-round knockout.
Yodsanklai came out of the gates aggressively, pressuring Regis against the cage fence.
A one-two combination hurt Regis, followed by three unanswered uppercuts on the inside that dropped the Australian. Regis was out before he hit the canvas and Yodsanklai was awarded the scintillating knockout.