The term “world class” gets tossed around a lot in today’s mixed martial arts scene. You hear about how people are “world class” wrestlers, boxers, or whatever, who have decided to cross over to MMA. Sometimes it’s true, but often it’s not. Usually, the world class fighters of the world stay in their respective sports, because they’re good at those sports, and it makes very little sense for them to switch to a new game where they aren’t as good, and will probably make less money. But sometimes, someone truly world class does make the switch over.
There are two major stadiums in Thailand for Muay Thai: Lumpinee and Ratchadamnoen. Fighting at either one means you’re fighting with some of the best fighters in Thailand. Being a champion at either one means you’re one of the best in the world.
Malaipet is a Lumpinee champion, and you can see it in this fight. He has a very Thai style of movement: calm, relaxed, stalking footwork that lets him carefully pick his shots and pick his opponent apart. He accepts the fact that he’s going to get hit, and goes with it. And he’s clearly strong and flexible as hell, as evidence by the split/sprawl he uses to stop the single takedown his opponent attempts.
Also interesting: when he comes in, the announcer introduces him as “Malaipet Team Diamond”. In Thailand, fighters often take the name of the camp they fight out of as their last name, particularly in the ring (I would fight as Jake Sityodtong, for example). It’s neat to see that tradition carry over into a mixed martial arts fight.
I confess to not understand Kwan’s strategic thinking at all—he’s in an MMA fight with one of the best strikers in the world, and tries to hang with him for three rounds. While I give him a lot of respect for being able to keep standing after eating that many leg kicks (one of which would probably drop the average person like a stone), Kwan had to know he was losing the stand up fight. I guess he proved he could “hang” with Malaipet in the sense that he survived without getting knocked out, but the object of the game is to win, not to survive.Definitely interested to see more of Malaipet in the mixed martial arts scene.