Ok I finally got in gear and got going on this thing. So lets find out what happens when destinies collide and a tale of souls and gloves is weaved and eternally retold on the canvas within the square circle. (over top, huh? ..just a little?) Side note: The area was San Bernardino. If any of you ever get the chance to go there, slap the guy that suggested it. Moving on..
Kang En vs. Chike Lindsay-Ajudua: September 4th 2008 - San Manuel Casino, California.
So who's Kang En?
Kang's a veteran southpaw fighter based out of China. He's fought on K-1 Khan on several occasions and in the K-1 World Max in 2004. Kang actually beat Kognapa (a legendary fighter from Thailand) for the IKKC MT International Welterweight Title on Jan 15th, 2008. In that fight he pulled out a skillful come-from-behind victory that left Kognapa cut and bloodied, and forced a doctor stoppage in the later rounds.
On to the fight...
"Blue corner. Stand by." The final seconds of the last round tick down for the fight right before mine as I do my last bit of stretching. Khunpon walks over to place the monkon on my head. Before walking away he tells me to keep my hips down low in the clinch and sit my weight down. Of course I don't know anything about Kang at this point, but when he said that it hit me like a ton of light bulbs. A muay thai fighter coming out of China... I'll bet my favorite testicle that his style has a root in San Shou. That means look out for lots of sweeps, lots of throws, lots of trips. (that explains all the loud thuds and crashes I heard when he fought James Martinez while I was warming up for my fight with Bryce.) "Blue corner. You're up."
Round 1: I step in with a good jab to set the tempo. Kang immediately slides backwards with his right held low. "...Huh.. Let's see what happens with a double jab." Same thing... slides back with the hand low, but not too far away... just enough to make the punch barely miss or barely graze. We keep mixing it up with more techniques, but i feel myself not exploding the way I'd like to. Next time I step in with a jab he goes for a quick counter right hook. "so that's his game with that movement off my jab." Trick tricky. We clinch up and he immediately hip tosses me, ending up on the floor on top of me in head and scarf position. (Looks like I get to keep my favorite testicle... he's definitely a san shou guy.) Once we get back to our feet I know I need to throw him a lot so that the fight doesn't look lopsided in his favor in any respect. A few moments later I answer back with a throw of my own. The round gets punctuated with a hard right kick landed to the midsection of Kang as he steps in on me. The way that kick felt and the markings it left on his body let me know that I had a good chance to finish him in this way.
Round 2: I continue to be the aggressor in this round as Kang is content with hanging back to lean away and pot shot my with that right hook when I try to use my left hand. At this point the ring is starting to feel a little slick to me. I know I can catch him if I double and triple up on my jab before I finish with my combinations. I also know that as I step in with more than one jab I run the risk of him timing my with a counter right hook. I need to be able to step in with one or two jabs and step back out if he throws, and with the slickness of the mat I can feel myself continue to slide forward even after I'm done when I throw multiple jabs. I just can't risk it. I have to rely on the single jab and throwing my shots more one at a time. We continue to trade shots and slams. As the round creeps to a close Kang starts to find a home for his left low kick and begins to get the timing of my one-at-a-time strikes. Too little too late though and the round closes out with me ahead 2 rounds to none, but i don't like how close it is at this point.
Round 3: Kang starts stepping it up. He's moving forward and striking more confidently as he keeps finding a home for his left low kick. The shots don't affect me that much, but it's still not a good enough excuse for the lacking defense. (especially since my leg hurt like a b*!tch a few hours later when the adrenaline wore off.) I start firing back low kicks in retaliation. BOOM. He stumbles backwards as his body lurches forward: both legs almost knocked out from under him with every shot. Even so, he's outworking me and he seems to be finding it easier to see my one by one shots coming. (especially since I'm loading up with every right kick I throw to try to kick him in half) On top of that he's getting more and more confident with his counter right hook and he's using his push kick well to stop me as I advance forward. He's back in the fight when just a few rounds ago i was sure I could make quick work of him. The round finishes out and it goes to Kang.
I'm up 2-1. As I step out from my corner Khunpon's last words are fresh in my mind. "You win this round and you've got the whole thing." He's right... all I need is 3 rounds in the bank for a win, but I don't really care. All I care about is how confident he looked in the last round and how much I wasn't feelin' that. I don't want to out-point him.. I want to take that confidence away.Round 4: I start pressing forward more and more. He stands his ground and keeps going for the counter right hook. I start leading almost exclusively with the cross making that counter much less useful. After I catch him one or two good times with hard right hands he takes more care to move his head farther while throwing punches. My constant pressure and his conviction to stand his ground means that we're constantly ending up in the clinch after every exchange where we continue to trade throws just as before. We clinch up again and I see too much bodyweight on his right hand side... looks kinda like he's thinking about stepping across with his left leg and scoring another hip toss. "Gotta get there first." I toss him halfway across the ring and the crowd starts booing me. "what the hell is wrong with these drunk bastards? They love it when he throws me..." Every time he throws or trips me he lands on the floor with me, but when I throw him I do it thai style and remain on my feet. He ends up having to pick himself up from the floor twice as much as I do and looks more and more drained each time he has to rise to his feet. I feed off of that lack of energy and overtly show how much gas I have left: bouncing on my toes as the ref breaks us apart and relentlessly moving forward with energy at every opportunity. He keeps landing his push kick well to try to keep me back but I step back in every time after getting pushed back. As the round comes to a close it's apparent that his confidence isn't gone, but it's not half as high as it was before and I've taken back control of the flow of the fight.
Round 5: I keep the momentum going from the last round with constant pressure. My shots aren't set up particularly well or put together in very artful combinations, but the constant pressure is enough to make them successful. He continues to use his push kick well to keep me back. I step back in on him immediately after getting pushed back, and when he steps in on me I retaliate with my own push kick. Early in the round I let him step into a right leg push kick. He tries to catch my foot, but his face gives away pain as I find myself easily wrestling my foot out of his gloves. For the rest of the round I continue the pressure tactics with a greater emphasis on landing to the body. Towards the end of the round he goes down from a body shot. He's back up after eight, and we continue as before. I press him back into the ropes and catch him anticipating a right round kick. As he picks his shin up to check the kick and turtles up to brace for impact, I slide forward and around him. The moment his shin starts to come down, and his guard starts to loosen I shoot a right hand into his gut. He sinks to the canvas instantly. The ref starts counting and I head to a neutral corner ready to come back out swinging. He gets on 4 or 5 and my opponent's still curled up on the floor, grimacing and holding his stomach. Ref waves it off.
5th round TKO at 2'30" for the blue corner. I remember somebody telling me this was supposed to be an easy fight. Probably the same jerk who told me I'd be better off if I went to GA Tech. I go over and show my respect to Kang and his corner for a good tough fight after the doctor confirms he's fine.
So I'm still in the ring taking some post fight pictures and Dennis Warner comes over to congratulate me. As he does, Khunpon's there saying the next one's gotta be at 154. Music to my ears (they made me cut to 147 for this one). Dennis immediately says he agrees 154 is better... which means I guess all that speculation about facing Kongnapa just went right out the window. Which also means there was no reason I couldn't have pushed harder for a catch-weight at 150 to avoid me halfway killing myself in a semi-rural California parking lot with a sauna suit in 90+ degree weather. Oh well.. at least it was a nice parking lot. (it wasn't) Anyway I've heard rumblings about a much bigger fight, against a much stronger and younger Thai fighter than Kongnapa. ...For a really shiny belt. We'll see...
See more photos from the fight here