Two-division champion “Smokin” Jo Nattawut held tight to his super welterweight crown on Friday night as he dished out a vicious third-round finish to stop challenger Kengsiam Nor Sripueng in the main event of Lion Fight 35.
Before a packed house at Foxwoods Resort Casino in Mashantucket, Connecticut, and live on both AXS TV Fights and Fight Network, Nattawut (61-6-2) found his opponent’s weakness and exploited it in the third round as he bashed three consecutive knee strikes onto the left thigh of Kengsiam, which dropped the challenger to the canvas. Kengsiam (65-16-2), who is an active member of the Thai Air Force, cringed in obvious pain and the referee waved off the contest at the 2:40 mark. A stretcher was needed to carry out Kengsiam with a ringside physician diagnosing a suspected broken femur.
Nattawut, who fights out of Atlanta, Georgia, successfully defended his super welterweight title for the fourth time overall and second time in less than four months.
“When I hit him with the first knee (to the thigh) in the first round, I heard him breathe really loud. I knew he was hurt and I knew I would finish it that way,” said Nattawut, who is also the Lion Fight middleweight title-holder.
“I threw the knee hard and it was done. Everything I throw is hard. I train hard and I fight hard always.”
With his dual-title reign intact, Nattawut’s attention might seemingly turn to a long-awaited matchup with iconic multi-time world champion Yodsaenklai Fairtex. Yet, Nattawut chose to leave the options open for his next bout.
“To me, I’ll fight anyone, anytime, anywhere. I’m always ready,” he said. “Whoever steps in, I am here. I’ve got no one in mind … just anybody.”
In the co-main event, former Lumpinee Stadium champion Noruepol “Mr. GQ” Fairtex (180-46-5) returned from a lengthy layoff and went through a methodical matchup doing just enough to edge out Amadeu Cristiano (51-16). Noruepol, who was making his North American debut, controlled enough action along the ropes and threw in some crafty execution to take the unanimous decision (49-46, 49-46, 48-47).
Lion Fight 35 opened with lightweight prospect Jafar “The Cookie Monster” Toshev working through some initial nerves and then taking advantage of an opportunity in the third round against Yeison “Yayyoo” Berdugo to triumphantly capture his pro debut. The Uzbekistan native, who now lives in Brooklyn, New York, caught a kick and returned fire with a spinning backfist that dropped Berdugo to the canvas. Although Berdugo (2-3) tried in vain to get up but the referee reached the count of 10.
“Seven years of hard work has paid off,” said Toshev. “I have watched Lion Fight shows and I always wanted to be on one. This is a dream come true.”
A women’s super bantamweight encounter followed and was the hands-down Fight of the Night. Twenty-two-year-old Andra Aho of Estonia seemed overwhelmed in the opening moments of the bout against 37-year-old veteran Jeri “Fists of Fury” Sitzes, but a slickly thrown inside elbow caused a deep cut between Sitzes’ eyes and ultimately changed the course of the fight. Sitzes, who fights out of Springfield, Missouri, fired up her attack in the second and battered Aho at times, but Aho responded with another elbow that forced blood pouring out of Sitzes.
Now sporting a sizable ‘X’-shaped cut in her forehead, Sitzes was covered in blood early in the third but continually bullied Aho. Yet Aho responded with timely elbows to Sitzes’ head which caused the ringside doctor to take a second look at the cut. With less than 30 seconds left in the third round, the referee surprisingly called a halt to the battle, giving Aho (7-1) a TKO victory much to chagrin of Sitzes (33-14) and the disappointed crowd.
“I was surprised but there was a lot of blood,” said Aho.
In a cruiserweight tilt, rising star Chip “The Surgeon” Moraza-Pollard (3-0) used outclassed opponent Scott “The Charm City Nomad” Noble (1-1) as target practice for five rounds and the Plymouth, Massachusetts, product cruised to a lopsided unanimous decision (50-43, 50-43, 50-44).
Lion Fight returns to Foxwoods on Friday, April 28th with Lion Fight 36 topped by a showdown for the lightweight title as Dutch standout Sergio Wielzen puts his championship belt on the line against Thai rival Lerdsila Chumpaitour.