Rodtang and the Woes of Cage Cutting

ONE Championship
Rodtang just can’t cut the cage. It affects every fight he has and he just doesn’t seem to learn. Rodtang is a very impressive fighter, he is the prototypical tough man boxer; he walks in with a chin made of meteorite and bombs in both hands, powerful leg kicks and an aggressive, no-nonsense attitude to fighting.

He has largely moved away from stadium competition, having never won the Rajadamnern or Lumpinee titles, and instead opts to fight internationally, mostly in caged Muay Thai. Caged Muay Thai was a rather novel concept that John Wayne Parr came up with (or U-K1 depending on who you ask). Muay Thai, in the cage, with MMA gloves.

Needless to say, it changes the game, to the point where you could effectively argue that what Rodtang is competing in isn’t the sport of Muay Thai. The change in arena and gloves mean what techniques are viable change, the scoring is different using a 10 point must system rather than stadium scoring. It’s not Muay Thai, but it’s certainly fun to watch.

When I covered the upcoming bout between Israel Adesanya and Alex Pereira, a key area of focus was that the cage is a more open space, given Adesanya opportunities to escape from his power punching opponent. This is something that the best of Rodtang’s opponents have figured out.

In order to cut the cage you need lateral footwork. You need it to cut off a ring too, but Muay Thai isn’t hugely known for its presence of lateral footwork to begin with, so while Rodtang is a ferocious ‘Muay Mat’ style fighter, he’s never really been walking down opponents. He was known for his knockout power, but since he began fighting in a cage, the knockouts have disappeared. Rodtang goes to a decision near enough every time.

The truth is, he wins those decisions because though he’s not able to get knock outs, he is usually the better fighter on the day. He is still able to overwhelm opponents with aggression even if he can’t actually stop them. There are fighters though who have really tested Rodtang and his inability to cut off the cage and trap an opponent.

Walter Goncalves took Rodtang to a split decision. For five rounds Walter was on his bike, getting potshots at Rodtang who charges full steam ahead like a raging bull. Rodtang was just not able to trap Walter at all. So what did he do? He did the same thing he did against Jonathan Haggerty, which was complain to the referee that the opponent was ‘running’.

Fight fans will complain about running, but ‘running’ is what gave Lyoto Machida and Anderson Silva some of their most impressive knockouts. Not to mention the strange and unusual boxer and kickboxer, Kyotaro.

The truth is that Rodtang was just not able to master lateral movement and for a long time did not seem to even be improving. His more recent fights have seen him against Tagir Khalilov, and his ring cutting has seemed to improve, but Tagir wasn’t as committed to staying back and was instead trying hard to take the fight to Rodtang.

In the, admittedly silly, mixed rules bout against Demetrious Johnson, Rodtang did a better job at getting Johnson to the cage, but Johnson is a fighter who has always struggled with his own defensive movement, for all his fantastic ability, Mighty Mouse finds himself with his back to the cage in nearly every fight he’s in.

Johnson was able to make up for his lack of defensive movement though by sheer fact that while his clinching isn’t the same level as Rodtangs, he has enough clinch and wrestling experience against Rodtang to at least defend himself for the first round, before he inevitably took Rodtang down in the MMA round of the fight.

So far Rodtang is still winning the decisions, and he usually does deserve the win, but it’s easy to feel a little frustrated watching Rodtang as he is so clearly a cut above his current level of competition, yet just hasn’t quite adapted to the format that he is fighting in. If the rest of his career as a fighter is contested in the cage, then it’s something he is going to have to get good at, but then who’s to say, maybe he’ll return to traditional Muay Thai, maybe even make another shot as a Lumpinee or Rajadamnern title. That would be something to see.

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