Two of Cambodia’s most exciting fighters continued their rise in Mixed Martial Arts by bringing back a pair of famous victories from Thailand’s premier MMA promotion Full Metal Dojo in their weekend Bangkok showpiece “FMD 15: Come Out to Play”.
Still undefeated in MMA, Meas Meul was victorious in his lightweight match against Malaysian Invasion Mixed Martial Arts Season 1 champion Allen “Solomon” Chong, submitting his decorated opponent by the tightest of rear-naked chokes at 2:51 into Round 2.
Meanwhile Tharoth Sam, who goes by the name “Little Frog”, won her women’s catchweight match (-54kg) against crowd favourite Kaewjai Prachumwong.
Tharoth, who had previously turned out at ONE Championship, slipped in a submission armbar 4:47 into Round 1 to score the win.
“Sport makes friendships. Fighting makes you stronger,” said an emotional Tharoth in her post-fight comments. “If you believe in it and it makes you happy, keep fighting for it.
“Always respect your opponents because they also put in their effort too.”
The nature of both victories was particularly sweet for Chan Reach, the pairs’ trainer and head coach at Phnom Penh-based fight school Cambodian Top Team.
Traditionally accomplished strikers, increasing the aptitude for Khmer fighters’ ground game, grappling, and jiu jitsu has been among his foremost concerns.
“We have improved in our grappling and winning both fights by submission shows how far we’ve come,” said Chan Reach.
“The biggest upset that no one expected but Meas Meul himself was that he submitted a submission artist and a BJJ brown belt who trains under a legitimate BJJ coach.
“His grappling improvement is credited to his training partners over at H/Art Academy Jiu Jitsu in Phnom Penh. They have played a big role in our CTT fighters’ improvement in grappling,” he added.
Coaches at the academy said they were delighted to play a role in the evolution of Cambodian fighters.
“It’s good to see Cambodian fighters really take this seriously and look to improve all aspects of their game so they have every chance of succeeding as any of the top fighters from anywhere else in the world,” said Vivaddhana Khaou, a coach at the academy.
“We want to see these guys reach for the stars and if we can help them to do that, great!”
Richard Arthur, a co-founder of FMD and who is a keen believer in Cambodian fighters, said the future was bright for MMA in the kingdom.
“Tharoth Sam and Meas Meul came to FMD and put on stunning performances yet again, confirming their place as two of the best fighters in Asia. Cambodia’s MMA warriors always bring it to the FMD cage and it’s an honour to have them here,” said Arthur.
“We look forward to inviting more mixed martial artists from Cambodia to compete in ‘Kumite 3000’ in 2018, our new Asian MMA Fight League in collaboration with Fox Sports Asia.”
Chan Reach concurred with Arthur’s assessment: “I see Meas Meul being a dominant force in Southeast Asia in the near future.
“He is 7-0 now and the sky is the limit for this kid. He has been the underdog in all of his fights and has come out on top.
“He has a 100 percent finish rate, so you know he is a finisher and his fights are never boring. He will be back in training starting tomorrow waiting for another fight. He is a free agent and currently isn’t signed under any promotion.”
For now, coach Chan Reach will let the dust settle before pondering the next move for his impressive stable of fighters.
“We have many talented fighters from Meas Meul, Thai Rithy, Sim Bunsrun and Little Frog [Tharoth] just to name a few,” said the Brooklyn-native.
“We want to prove that Cambodia and Cambodian Top Team is a legit team and is one to look out for.”