The bantamweight muay thai world championship is on the line at ONE Championship: Immortal Triumph on Friday as Nong-O Gaiyanghadao defends his crown against Brice Delval in a classic matchup between a decorated veteran and a young star ready to solidify his spot at the top.
Here's what you should know about Nong-O Gaiyanghadao vs. Brice Delval ahead of their world championship clash.
First, it's important to understand the differences in this match compared to other martial arts bouts. Since it is a muay thai bout, the competitors are focused on striking through punches, kicks, elbows and knees. Grappling on the ground and wrestling are not allowed.
Instead of five-minute rounds, muay thai has three-minute rounds. Because Nong-O and Delval are competing with a championship on the line, this match can go up to five rounds.
Where and How to Watch
The event will be held at Phu Tho Indoor Stadium in Ho Chi Minh City. It will be the first ONE event in Vietnam.
Those in the U.S. can watch the contest for free on B/R Live.
The main card starts at approximately 9:30 a.m. ET.
Nong-O Gaiyanghadao vs. Brice Delval (bantamweight muay thai world championship)
Saemapetch Fairtex vs. Adam Noi (muay thai)
Nguyen Tran Duy Nhat vs. Azwan Che Wil (muay thai)
Beybulat Isaev vs. Anderson Silva (kickboxing)
Kulabdam Sor. Jor. Piek Uthai vs. Bobo Sacko (muay thai)
Chris Nguyen vs. Yukinori Ogasawara (muay thai)
Bi Nguyen vs. Puja Tomar (muay thai)
Weight: 132 pounds
ONE Record: 4-0
Nong-O Gaiyanghadao is a legend of muay thai. The veteran's record speaks for itself, with an astounding 314 total bouts and a winning percentage of 82 percent.
However, Nong-O has had a winding journey to get to Friday's title match. After dominating the muay thai circuit in Thailand, he took a three-year sabbatical to coach in a Japanese mixed martial arts promotion before returning to the cage last year for his ONE debut.
Nong-O, considered to be one of the best muay thai athletes of the modern era, has schooled three fellow veterans and up-and-comer Han Zi Hao since his return, earning unanimous decisions in all four bouts.
He's known for his clinical leg sweeps, earning points from judges throughout the match by sending his opponents crashing to the canvas. He's able to rely heavily on his opponent's positioning to use it against them, but he isn't afraid to force opponents to defend a barrage of punches and elbows.
Nong-O isn't short on confidence heading into the bout.
"My opponent is tall, and he has good punches, so I’ve been working on combating his strengths and capitalizing on my strengths in my training sessions," Nong-O told ONE. "I also have a lot more experience, so I’m hoping that component will work to my advantage."
He said, "I’m very confident for this fight and I’m looking to put on my best performance yet. If there is the opportunity, I hope to finish him by KO."
Nong-O will have to defeat a promising prospect to defend his title for a second time.
Weight: 143 pounds
ONE Record: 0-0
Brice Delval's muay thai is years ahead of his age. Many high-caliber competitors in similar age groups are full of power but get tunnel vision looking for the knockout and lack the discipline to avoid draining their energy while doing so. That's exactly what happened when Han Zi Hao went up against Nong-O last February.
Delval is all about patience. He accumulates points by landing a series of kicks that appear harmless in early rounds but wear down opponents late into matches, all while the Algerian wins over judges' scorecards.
Where Delval can improve is exactly where most other prospects thrive: power striking. His arsenal is limited, relying predominantly on front kicks, with very little punching to lead the way. This doesn't bode well against a balanced veteran like Nong-O, who is excels at overall striking.
"I think my advantage will be my [height and reach advantage] and my determination," Delval told ONE. "I have youth on my side, and I think this can play a big part in the result."
Delval's biggest concern will be his positioning after throwing punches. Nong-O lives for taking advantage of unbalanced strikers, sweeping them to the mat and racking up points. If Delval isn't careful, Nong-O could put on yet another master class.
Delval has proved he can lead a promising future for muay thai. Earning a win over a legend like Nong-O would truly be a passing of the torch.
He could very well be the next big thing. However, it's still the era of Nong-O. The 12-time world champion is keen to remind us all he's still the guy.
Although both athletes are attack-minded, Delval is limited in the clinch. Meanwhile, Nong-O thrives off of immediate punches and elbows that come as soon as the clinch breaks up. It's hard to imagine the veteran won't force the issue and stay within close distance of the 20-year-old to keep those optimal attacking options available.
Delval's reach advantage will help when they aren't in the clinch, but the lack of power coming from his leg strikes will only encourage Nong-O to come in closer and negate the lengthy prodigy's best asset. This should be relatively straightforward for the legend.
Prediction: Nong-O Gaiyanghadao defeats Brice Delval by unanimous decision to retain the ONE bantamweight muay thai world championship.