In the main event of ONE 161 on Thursday, Petchmorakot Petchyindee looked to defend his featherweight Muay Thai belt against the challenger, Tawanchai PK Saenchai.
Petchmorakot, a former Lumpinee Stadium champion, had been the only champion in the history of the ONE Muay Thai featherweight division, and has defended his belt three times including a controversial split decision over Jimmy Vienot in his last bout. Meanwhile Tawanchai was the former Lumpinee Stadium Fighter of the Year and had been on a collision course with the champion ever since signing with ONE in 2020. The time had finally arrived for two of the most talented Thais in the world to face off in what, on paper, promised to be a thrilling fight.
Early on, Petchmorakot backed up Tawanchai and the pair of southpaws traded kicks to the legs and body. Tawanchai was the first to change it up and use his hands as he charged forward with a combination, but Petchmorakot avoided the blows by stepping backwards, stopping his pressure for a moment. Most of the scoring offense was leg kicks throughout, but those were often checked by each fighter. At the end of the round, mostly a feeling out process, it seemed the pressure and slightly higher volume of Petch probably won the round, 10-9.
Tawanchai made more use of his push kick to deflect the pressure of Petchmorakot in the second round, in one early instance pushing the champ halfway across the cage. Soon after, Petchmorakot turned up the heat and landed a big right. Tawanchai seemed to get incensed as he started returning violent combinations, landing some as he got on the front foot and pressed Petchmorakot back. The champion was not to be cowed however, and the fight really got going as they traded full power strikes in the pocket. Exciting, lightning fast attacks went back and forth between both men and it was almost impossible to tell who was getting the better of the exchanges. To close out the close round, Tawanchai got through with a big combination after catching a kick of Petchmorakot.
Tawanchai and Petchmorakot opened the next round trading with as much speed and intensity as the last. Tawanchai started it off with a big left hand and seemed to be scoring more in the opening minute. He then landed a big left that seemed to stagger Petch and tossed him over his hip onto the ground immediately after, but received a warning from the ref for an illegal dump technique. A massive elbow and left hand landed from Tawanchai next. Anyone with a lesser chin than Petchmorakot’s would surely have been knocked out. The champ returned with his own clean elbow strike and combination after a brief clinch exchange before getting dumped to the canvas again from the clinch. It seemed Tawanchai had definitely landed more clean shots and landed harder when he connected during the third round.
Early in the fourth round Tawanchai may have hurt the champion off of a caught kick by returning with a head kick of his own. Petchmorakot, as ever, was able to stay standing and clinch to recover. He began to return to his forward pressure but Tawanchai was largely evasive enough to not get stuck against the fence and was fast enough to counter with clean strikes even as he got tagged. But soon it was apparent that Tawanchai was slowing down and getting tired from the high pace of the fight. He could not keep up the volume of the second and third rounds. Petchmorakot finished strong as he caught two kicks and landed straight lefts to the chin of the challenger off of each one near the end of the round. But at the very end of the round Tawanchai got on the front foot and threw a flurry of blows, landing a couple, right before the bell.
The scorecards could have been all over the place going into the final round, but it had the feeling of a fight that was tied up. Kicking off the fifth round was a big counter hook from the challenger that landed clean and pushed Petchmorakotback, but the ever-durable champion used his superior cardio to get right back on the offensive, pushing Tawanchai back, who now looked more tired than ever. The pace had definitely slowed from both men but the drama was high in such a close fight and every strike was crucial. Petchmorakot’s pressure was constant early and he was landing more. However, in the final minute Tawanchai got on the front foot himself and landed a solid head kick. The champion was not to be outdone, though, as he countered that kick with a clean hook and landed two more massive straight left hands to the chin of the challenger in the last ten seconds of the fight, likely sealing at least the final round in his favor.
The scorecards could be all over the place at the end of this thrilling war, and fans everywhere were surely on the edge of their seats as they awaited the verdict. When Dom Lau read the scorecards, it was a unanimous decision in favor of Tawanchai PK Saenchai, to the clear surprise of Petchmorakot whose 965-day title reign had now come to an end. ONE Chairman and CEO Chatri Sityodtong put the belt over the young man’s shoulder and he collapsed onto the ground as golden confetti covered the body of the new featherweight Muay Thai champion.
Official Result: Tawanchai P.K.Saenchai def. Petchmorakot Petchyindee (c) by unanimous decision – For the ONE Muay Thai Featherweight Championship