Smokin' Jo Nattawut

Lion Fight 37 Recap & Clips: Smokin Jo Nattawut Edges Petch in a Battle of Thai Masters

 Two international stars of Muay Thai stood toe to toe and went to war in the main event of Lion Fight 37 on AXS TV, as 397 fight legend Petch sought to wrest the promotion’s 155 pound super welterweight belt from defending champion and Thai countryman Smokin’ Jo Nattawut. This one was a good old fashioned Thai ass-whoopin’ contest, as both fighters stood in the pocket and traded thunderous body shots during the first round. Nattawut managed to tag Petch with a stinging head kick in the first, before the two men returned to a mano-a-mano kicking duel as things picked up late in the second. Petch showed off plenty of solid defensive technique, checking most of Nattawut’s kicks, and it was anyone’s guess what the local judges were seeing as these two Muay Thai masters went to the stools following a back-and-forth round two.

The action stagnated a bit in the third, as both men seemed to have gauged his opponents’ rhythm and much of the frame took place as a battle of attrition in the clinch. Petch just kept smiling away as the two traded body kicks and swung hands in the middle of the ring. The fourth stanza started off with Petch dinging his man with a stinging step-in elbow, but about a minute later Nattuwat struck back with an elbow of his own. The legend landed the best punch of the fight so far 1:50 into round 4, a sharp right hook that landed flush on the champ’s temple, and UFC Hall of Famer Pat Miletich thought that the two warriors were dead even as they prepared for round 5.

Petch looked to be fresh as a daisy as round 5 kicked off, and he cracked Nattuwat with a couple of nice body shots that had the Georgia resident shooting in for the clinch with two minutes to go. But Petch took the opportunity to grab a body lock and score a powerful dump takedown halfway through the final frame.  Petch typically fights at a lower weight than this, but the bulked up veteran continued to dominate with his grappling skills as this technical and well-matched fight became a clinch battle in its latter moments.

This Lion Fight super welterweight title bout went to decision, as both of these technicians showed off far too much toughness and defensive wizardry for the other to inflict serious damage. All three judges saw the bout as a 48-47 unanimous decision victory for the defending champ, Smokin’ Jo Nattawut (63-7-2) who picked up one of the biggest victories of his career against a very disappointed Petch (345-52-1), who looked sure that he had done enough to steal the strap from the Lion Fight regular. Rematch, anyone?



Lion Fight 37 Co-Main:  Paul Banasiak (5-0) vs. Chip Moraza-Pollard (4-0), 185 lbs Title Bout

Two undefeated American Muay Thai talents went to war in the co-main event of Lion Fight 37 with the promotion’s cruiserweight belt in store for the winner.  Rangy Connecticut native Paul Banasiak used his height advantage to offer kicks and punches from distance early on, while CES MMA veteran Chip Moraza-Pollard worked to weave into distance and used good head movement to avoid damage. Moraza-Pollard landed a nasty body-hook combo late in the first frame that staggered Banasiak briefly and probably earned him the first round 10-9.

Banasiak got more aggressive and powerful with his attacks as the second round opened up, but Moraza-Pollard returned fire with precise technical punches.  Banasiak made a little bit of headway with single kicks, but he didn’t seem to have a solution for the Massachusetts native’s defensive prowess or his slick counters.  Banasiak did a much better job of making the fight ugly in the third round, as he forced action in close through much of the round and finally managed to land a damaging shot on Moraza-Pollard’s jaw with a left hook late in the frame. This fight was 29-28 for Moraza-Pollard on my scorecard (and Pat Miletich’s AXS Fights scorecard) as Banasiak’s cardio and toughness finally seemed to be turning the fight around a bit in the late rounds.

Moraza-Pollard fired back with three nasty hooks that cracked Banasiak and backed him into the corner in the opening minute of the fourth.  After about a minute of back-and-forth action in the clinch, the two men returned to the center and landed nice body kicks in the middle of the frame. Both men found the target with good punches in the final minute of the fourth as the cardio started to flag and defensive movement went along with it. Moraza-Pollard seemed to have his man on the ropes in the final moments of round 4, and this was a likely 10-9 for Chip and 39-37 overall for the Team Sityodtong rep heading into the final round of this title tilt.

A series of straight rights backed Banasiak into the corner as the ultimate frame kicked off, though “The Reaper” managed to fire back with a handful of jabs and kicks.  A pair of clinch elbows to the dome scored for Moraza-Pollard just over a minute in, as the tiring Banasiak had trouble offering much offense in return. Finally he mustered the offense to land a combo culminating in an uppercut, but Moraza-Pollard was unfazed. The two undefeated gentlemen continued tossing throughout the 15th minute of this action-packed title contest, and Moraza-Pollard put a nice cherry on top of the fight with a couple of glancing head kicks in the final moments. Then a flush high kick to the dome smashed Banasiak and knocked him down in the final second of the fight!

Banasiak managed to make it to his feet with a grin on his face as the fight went to the judges, and with the final round knockdown the 49-45, 49-45, 48-46 unanimous decision in favor of Chip Moraza-Pollard (5-0) was academic.  Very patient and technical performance from Moraza-Pollard, who earned the Lion Fight belt in the face of a gritty challenge from Paul Banasiak (5-1) – who certainly had nothing to be ashamed of with a strong effort of his own on this night.


Lion Fight 37 Fight 4: Johncy Lindor (2-0) vs. Amine Ballafrikh (8-4), 135 lbs

Aggressive Moroccan Amine Ballafrikh pressed forward from the start and had success in the first round as he tagged Florida’s Johncy Lindor with all sorts of shots including a front kick to the face and a step in spinning elbow. Lindor stayed composed in the face of the relentless attacks, and managed to land quite a few counter shots of his own.  Ballafrikh took a 10-8 in round two with a nice toe to the solar plexus about a minute in that dropped Lindor to a knee. “The Freak” pressed for the finish after scoring that knockdown, as he worked the midsection from range and from the clinch but couldn’t quite get Lindor out of there before the second stanza ticked away.

Ballafrikh tallied his second knockdown about 30 seconds into round 3 with a slashing inside leg kick to that took out Lindor’s left knee.  The Moroccan kept on the pressure with high kicks, liver kicks, and dumps, and finally with about 37 seconds left in the frame he clocked the spinning Lindor with a punch that dropped him and earned the TKO. Brutal stuff from Amine Ballafrikh (9-4), who was clearly the more powerful and technical kickboxer and who didn’t give Johncy Lindor (2-1) even a moment to breathe throughout this lopsided bout.


Lion Fight 37 Fight 3:  Eric Rocha (3-3) vs. Alexander Olave (4-3), 145 lbs

Three knockdowns in 48 seconds were all that it took for Eric Rocha to blast through Alex Olave (4-4), who ran into a huge right hand eight seconds in and never really recovered. From there on our it was pretty much target practice for Rocha until Big Dan Miragliotta stepped in for the merciful stoppage. Explosive stuff from the Canadian Eric Rocha (4-3), who was expecting a war but ended up blowing his opponent straight out of the water.


Lion Fight 37 Fight 2:  Lewis Rumsey (0-0) vs. Steve Walker (0-0), 210 lbs

Although he debuted in kickboxing at this Lion Fight 37 event, Lewis Rumsey is a familiar face to east coast MMA fans as he holds a 13-15 record including recent losses to Brian Rogers, Adam Milstead, Dan Spohn, and Zu Anyanwu. Meanwhile Steve Walker is a sculpted, debuting titan who enjoyed an 8.5 inch reach advantage over the 5’10 MMA journeyman.  Rumsey spent the brief fight throwing wild windmills and spinning backfists, and even managed to drop Walker with a short left hook that referee Brian Minner erroneously called a s lip. But once Walker got back up he started firing ridiculously hard left head kicks that had Rumsey covering up and forced the TKO stoppage in the first round. Spectacular pro debut for the 31 year old big man Steve Walker (1-0), who went from complete unknown to intriguing man to watch in the Lion Fight ranks.


Lion Fight 37 Fight 1:  Geoffrey Then (1-0) vs. Soap Am (3-0-1), 140 lbs

In the opener of the Lion Fight 37 main card, Connecticut’s own Geoffrey Then put the pressure on Massachusetts native Soap Am for all five rounds. Then battered Am with combos and sharp leg kicks, and whenever he worked to the clinch the stocky Then bullied his man to the corner and dumped him to the mat at will. Am (3-1-1) retaliated when he could, and he probably landed the best single shot of the fight with a step-in elbow in the fourth. But this was Geoffrey Then’s (2-0) fight, as his cardio was ironclad until the final bell and in the end his fans cheered on as he was awarded the 50-45, 49-46, 48-47 unanimous decision.

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