April 2, 2014 – Loi Kroh Ring, Chiang Mai –
After two fights in a row being postponed I was very happy to get a call from Den letting me know that this fight was moved up by one day. Awesome. A woman who I met online told me she was in Chiang Mai and she said she’d come to my fight, so I got to meet Jo Anne. She’s from the Philippines and now trains out of Boston, MA in the US. She’s in Thailand for the WMPF World Championships, which were held in Pattaya this year. I missed her by one day when I left Pattaya a month ago. She kicked ass in the tournament and a title and some medals at 48 kg. Meeting her up here in Chiang Mai was awesome as she’s a very cool person and easy to hang out with. It turned out that Den was coming back from Mae Rim (about 30 minutes from Chiang Mai) so I actually didn’t have a corner when the fights had already started. I was scheduled as the fifth fight of the night and the second fight is only a demo, so I was nervous that he might not even arrive by the time I was supposed to go on. I didn’t have any tape or wraps or anything, but I figured I could ask Jo to corner for me if Den and Off didn’t make it. What an adventure!
Me and Jo at the fights. She said she couldn’t find Yokkao shirts online so I gave her the one I was wearing over my fight top. Today she gave me a tank top from her gym, which I will wear the hell out of – so everyone get ready to get sick of seeing my new favorite shirt.
Den and Off managed to arrive right as the third fight was starting, so I got my hands wrapped and my massage in rapid succession and even had enough time to warm up before the fight. Kevin had been eyeing my opponent, who was seated just behind us and to the side. She was much bigger than I am, but smaller than some of the opponents I face. He noted she “looks like she has a mean streak in her, so watch for the attack on the touch gloves,” he said.
Sure enough she attacked me right on the touch gloves. The first round was a lot of me backing straight up (c’mon, Sylvie! Act like you been here before!) but with no real consequence because it was fast enough and controlled enough that my opponent just chased with an extended teep and got herself caught in the ropes a few times. About a minute in I caught a kick and dumped her, all slow motion style. I tagged her pretty well with a knee in the clinch and when I went to the neutral corner Den was yelling at me to “run! jump-knee!” as my attack when the ref restarted. This is in response to a few times I’ve downed an opponent and then done this really ridiculous “power walk” back to them instead of a spectacular running, jumping attack. I really look so dumb when I do the power walk. I didn’t do that here, but I didn’t do the spectacular jump, either. Poor Den. After that I did start landing some strong hands though, which was exciting because I’ve been working on my left-right, basic combo.
Between rounds Den said to me, “Sylvie, you see, you can knock her out with knees any time; no problem. So stay outside, practice kick, practice move. Try something different.” When the second round started her corner must have told her a similar plan because she just tried to stay away from me with kicks. When she misses on a kick she turns too far and I was able to punch her off of those a couple times. I also kicked her guard and it seemed to hurt her more than it hurts me – I can’t feel my shins anymore, so that’s pretty good. My footwork felt pretty good, backup up with just enough space to get out of the way but close enough to spring back in with something and staying balanced enough to strike. That’s a huge improvement even though it’s only a small change.
She was an experience fighter, enough that she knew how to “perform” her fight even when she wasn’t technically achieving what she wanted to. She would flop her arms at her sides after getting tangled in the ropes, like “quit moving, this is so boring,” which she had to stop doing when I started landing punches on her face. She would laugh when I took her back in the second round and she smiled after I kicked her leg hard, which let me know that it hurt her – I can read that trick, Lady, even if the judges are fooled! So I kicked it again. These aren’t small things. Being able to “perform” like this and kind of act out a laid-back persona of being unaffected under the pressure of a fight is not an easy task. It signifies comfort in the ring. It’s an advanced trick that can win fights even when there’s a technical disadvantage. She’s totally getting nailed in the stomach with my knees in the clinch, then she kind of pries me off with her foot and I get thrown to the canvas and her performed walk away from that was outstanding – she came out looking dominant, even though she was getting hurt.
When we clinched up again I landed some good knees, including one to the head, and she turns her back and then I land a right cross and left kick before the ref stops it. This moment is a stoppage you’ll see in Thailand, when one fighter is hurt and not fighting back, or tired and unable to defend him/herself, or simply not meeting the energy of the fight in a kind of “outclassed” situation. This is exactly what I was talking about when I complained about the Baars vs. Cyborg Muay Thai fight for Lion Fight 14 fight in Las Vegas last month. A lot of folks from the US were heralding the fight as an early contender for “fight of the year,” whereas I had a hard time even watching the whole thing. To be clear, I’m not comparing myself to the esteemed fighters of Lion Fight in the least, I’m pointing to this kind of stoppage which can be common in Thailand, and to one of the difficulties I had with that fight which is supposed to represent an acme of Muay Thai for women. My problem was that Baars, who is clearly a world class and extremely experienced fighter, was turning her back as a defense in the clinch. In Thai scoring turning one’s back in a fight, ever, indicates that the fighter doesn’t want to fight. Even turning your back on your opponent after a clinch is broken and walking back to the center of the ring can be considered weakness. Facing your opponent is strength, turning is weakness. So in Thailand, a fighter who is turning his/her back to his/her opponent is telling the referee “I don’t want to fight,” or “I give up,” and the referee stops the fight. The stoppage of my fight, right here, is a perfect illustration of this.
No injuries, so the promoter asked me to fight again on Saturday. So, back in the ring tomorrow for fight 74.
On my way out of the ring and back to my warmup area the bar girls on my right called out “I like you!” which was pretty awesome. I went to my opponent to tell her sorry about hurting her and she was very sweet, told me that I kick hard. That was nice.