One of the best muay Thai fighters in the world had to dig deep in order to retain his Lion Fight super welterweight title as “Smokin” Jo Nattawut was fortunate to escape with his belt on Friday night. Challenger Petchtanong Banchamek gave him everything he had in his vast repertoire but all three ringside judges scored in favor of the Atlanta-based Thai warrior in the Lion Fight 37 main event on AXS TV.
“Petch” was nearly flawless inside the ring as he raked the champion with dozens of vicious leg kicks and shots to the body. Neither man was able to ever seize full control of the action as it was a brilliantly tactical affair between two elite fighters in the sport. Nattawut was slightly more aggressive, whereas “Petch” landed the cleaner, more telling blows.
In the end, the judges thought that Nattawut (63-6-2, 16 KOs) was slightly more effective and gave him the verdict via tallies of 48-47 across the board. Several in attendance at Foxwoods Resort Casino booed the decision, claiming that Banchamek was robbed. Banchamek fell to 345-52-1 with 100 KOs.
The Lion Fight 37 co-main event was a thriller as a pair of unbeaten Americans fought tooth and nail for the vacant cruiserweight title. As it turned out, former CES MMA fighter Chip Moraza-Pollard was the better man as he out-pointed Paul Banasiak over five rounds, but it wasn’t easy.
“The Surgeon” picked apart the taller Banasiak early and often, but “The Reaper” rallied back into the fight and made it a brawl down the stretch. With both cruisers going toe-to-toe in the closing seconds of the final round, a right head kick floored Banasiak (5-1). The Connecticut fighter beat referee Brian Miner’s count and survived until the end, but Moraza-Pollard (5-0) won a unanimous nod with scores of 48-46 and 49-45 (twice).
In other action, Amine Ballafrikh (9-3) dropped Johncy Lindor (2-1) in the first with a body and then won via second-round TKO after Lindor badly injured his left ankle; Eric Rocha (4-3) obliterated Alexander Olave (4-4) by dropping him three times and winning via TKO in just 45 seconds; Steve Walker (1-0) stopped Lewis Rumsey (0-1) from a barrage of strikes at 2:04 of the first; and Geoffrey Then (2-0) beat late-replacement opponent Soap Am (3-1, 1 KO) via unanimous decision (48-47, 50-45, 49-46).
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