About the Fighters: Candy vs Fah
This fight on October 28, 2016 was a big test for both of these fighters, but in different ways. Fah Yokkao is the daughter of the famed trainer of Saenchai, Manop, and has been perhaps excessively celebrated by Yokkao. Saenchai and Manop both work for the Yokkao Training Center in BKK now and have been together for years. Yokkao promotes her as one of the best female fighters in Thailand – you can see some of that here. But despite winning a Fighter of the Year award twice (one source even says 3 times!) – an award I can find nothing about and honestly didn’t know existed for female fighters at all – and claiming to be undefeated in more than 40 fights, Fah seems to have fought against opponents I’ve never heard of. Despite being 17 years old, which is well along the time line for Thai female fighters, she never seems to have faced top talent at the 45-48 kg weight class (a class I follow closely), at least as far as I could find through various interviews with other female fighters. I did add her to my Best Female Fighters 48 kg and Under list in June, mostly from the specter of who she might be. With Yokkao starting to focus attention on her as their fighter it was only a matter of time before she was going to face someone very good.
On the other hand, 19 year old Candy Wu is a fighter that I was aware of, but just didn’t know much about. I had seen a pro fight video of her which showed a lot of 1-2 chain combinations and great aggression, knocking her opponent down from straight punches probably 4 times in a single round, but because it was only one fight against an unknown opponent, and I had no other reference I left her off my best pros list. This fight was a kind of coming out party for her – a big promotion with international eyes. After the fight I interviewed her coach and found out that in her now 23 fights she has only lost twice, and both of those were to Loma Lookboonmee, the best fighter at 48 and under in my book. Everyone else Candy has faced she has beaten. But she has only fought in Thailand two times (both during the IFMAs in 2015 where she took Bronze), and that under amateur rules.
So Fah was looking to make her mark with a big step up in opponent on the international stage, and Candy was looking to beat a promoted-name Thai under professional rules.
The Full Fight Video Candy Wu vs Fah Yokkao
full-fight video above – the fight is lower quality streaming video
From the opening announcements of this video you can get a pretty good glimpse of Candy’s fighter persona. She’s confident and cheerful – numerous times throughout the fight when the referee is breaking the fighters out of a clinch and neither fighter lets go, Candy kind of leaves her arm around Fah’s shoulder and gives her a big smile and nod. From the opening bell Fah was an aggressor and it appears that her strategy was to clinch Candy, which on its surface is a good game plan since Candy doesn’t appear to know a great deal of clinch and likes to punch – theoretically clinch is a good counter to smother punchers. But unfortunately Fah really doesn’t seem to know much clinch herself, or at least did not show it against Candy, who is also physically very strong. So even though Fah was locking early, she wasn’t doing damage with the lock or even really controlling with it. And because Candy is strong, it was pretty clear that Fah was trying to muscle the clinch and burned her arms out very quickly in the first round – I’ve done this before, it can be frustrating to find yourself more fatigued than you think you should be. By the end of it, she looks exhausted. Fah is able to keep kicking in single strikes as she’s backing up and trying to get her breath, but Candy keeps pressure on her the whole time and the space she likes to have to set up her walking-in chain punches isn’t threatened by Fah at all. So Candy has a pretty comfortable first round.
In rounds two and three it’s a game of Fah trying to push through her fatigue – other than Candy’s relentless jab-cross, the difficulties in the clinch, this is the story of the fight. Candy gets a little tired also, eventually, but admirably she’s able to muster bursts of energy for charges and strikes, which are almost always in chains and combinations whereas Fah is doing her best to collect her energy for one single hard strike. There’s a lot of time eaten up by neither fighter letting go when the referee comes over to break the clinch. I reckon this is just from exhaustion and is intended to catch a breath, but as a fighter while watching the fight I was looking for some kind of indication for why it took so long, or why it appeared that the fighters were talking when they were broken or even once or twice where Fah looks at the referee with what I read as confusion. Kevin didn’t see any of that. He just said it looked exactly like in my own fights when my opponent takes forever to let go in order to try to get a break. He’s seen it from the outside way more than I ever have, so I trust what he saw there. Be that as it may, Candy is repeatably able to burst out of her fatigue and Fah seems caught in the quicksand of her own burned out muscles, and Candy even throws some very late and menacing strikes, including a nice elbow near the end of the fight, all the way to the bell. She’s just much more comfortable in the pressure than Fah is, more able to respond to her own fatigue, and the victory goes easily to her.
Photos from the fight
photos from the Ray’s Muaythai Gym Facebook album
Before this fight I had heard that Fah was due to face Phetjee Jaa, I’m guessing in January, for the 45 kg WMC belt which PJJ currently holds. I’m not sure if that fight will still happen for her, but if it does one would imagine that Phetjee Jaa’s clinch and comfort level would take the win easily. What becomes of Fah will be interesting to watch. Clearly she is highly skilled and her technique is solid having been raised by one of the great trainers in the world, but she may lack the experience in pressure (and clinch) to bring that technique to bear on tougher opponents. With Yokkao behind her she no doubt will get a few more chances to face strong fighters. And in her defense, some very good female fighters in Thailand with solid experience and winning records go to places like Japan and just crumble under the different, aggressive and forward styles of those fighters. Both Loma and Cherry Gor. Twin gym, very experienced and strong fighters, were knocked out quickly by Japan’s forceful Erika Kamimura (now retired), for instance…though Erika admittedly was one of the best 105 lb female Muay Thai fighters ever. In some ways though this Yokkao fight typifies a weakness that one style of female Thai fighter has. Overly technical Thai females can tend to need space and time to fight in their rhythm, something that more aggressive foreign fighters don’t allow. If you don’t have strong clinch technique to answer that pressure you can end up looking far worse than you are.
Candy on the other hand I’m told in December is going to be facing a fighter from Belarus, Alena Liashkevich. She’s a fighter who I’ve only seen as an amateur, but she did beat Loma Lookboonmee for the Gold in this year’s IFMAs in Sweden – after losing it to Loma in 2015 (see that fight). She’s very tough, but I will say as a sidenote that this year Loma was a victim of a bad decision in Sweden, or at the very least of a serious lack of communication over differences in Thai vs International scoring. When I asked Loma about it after that fight, she admitted she didn’t even know if clinch throws are scored in the IFMAs, which is a bit surprising to hear. Some Thai fighters in the IFMAs aren’t even sure how scoring is done. In any case, going against Alena should be a great fight for Candy as she reaches out into tougher and tougher opponents and grows as a fighter as a result.
Some stats for Candy:
Candy Wu Age: 19 Record: 21 wins 2 losses 6 KOs Gym: Ray’s Muaythai Gym Weight: 45kg – 48kg Title: 2016 wmci1 world champion (fight video below); 47kg world champion; 2016 Hong Kong Championship 48kg champion; 2015 Hong Kong Champion; 48kg champion 2016 wkbc i1; 47kg champion 2016 Asia Beach Game 48kg silver madal; 2015 IFMA 45kg bronze
To get a larger sense of what Candy is about watch this 3 round clash below. She faces another forward, high-volume fighter which seems to be Muay Thai rules. At one point Candy appears to kick Lyazzat in the liver and Lyazzat just doubles over, gloves on the floor but still standing, and the referee gives her time to recover but no 8 count… no idea what that’s about. But Candy goes back after that side, which is awesome to watch. In this fight you see more of a focused repetition of strikes as a means to hurt her opponent as opposed to the string of strikes that are simply to pressure in the Fah fight for Yokkao. There’s a much wider range of attacks from Candy (knees, turns, uppercuts), as well as a greater variety of attacks coming back at her, which makes for a wild fight. You can also see how difficult it was for her to face Loma who is an expert at off-balances and throws (that video at bottom).
All in all, what a great energetic fighter from Hong Kong who has the heart and relentless style to give some of the top Thais in her weight class trouble.
Candy Hoi-Yan Wu vs. Lyazzat Akylova
You can also watch Candy fight Loma in their 2015 IFMA match up (below) – as a measure of comparison you can see a significant difference in skill set and control between Loma (the best fighter at this weight) a year ago and Fah Yokkao, facing the same opponent.
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