RITU PHOGAT HAS achieved yet another significant victory in the ONE Championship, this time at the all-important semi-finals of the ONE Atomweight Grand Prix.
Phogat defeated her opponent from the Philippines, Jenelyn Olsim, by unanimous decision tonight, setting up a fight with Thai superstar Stamp Fairtex at the grand prix final to be held on 3rd December.
Phogat had beaten Meng Bo in the first round of the tournament, and she was supposed to face undefeated Japanese MMA fighter Itsuku Hirata in the semi-finals. But days before the fight, Hirata came down with a heavy fever and had to pull out from the tournament. So Olsim, who had defeated Bi Nguyen in the alternate bout for the tournament, had to step in on short notice to fight Ritu.
Going up against a taller striker, it was obvious that Jenelyn would try to use her superior reach and striking skills to keep Ritu away and do damage at the same time. As the fight began, Jenelyn landed a couple of strikes and foiled Ritu's first attempt to get a double leg takedown.
But soon afterwards, Ritu adopted a feint-heavy game where she looked for gaps in Jenelyn's offence to get close and enforce her wrestling, and she found immediate success. She was repeatedly able to close in and get hold of Jenelyn and once there she had no difficulty in getting the takedown.
In the first round, Ritu got multiple takedowns and each time dealt some damage through ground-and-pound. Jenelyn had a strong guard and she kept trying to get Ritu caught in a triangle, and from transition to an armbar from there. But the first time she tried it, Ritu let her get back up only to immediately get the takedown again, draining Jenelyn's energy in the process.
A frustrated Jenelyn ended up committing a foul towards the end of the first round where she landed an upkick on Ritu's face when she was grounded. ONE Championship's rules allow knees to the head of a grounded opponent, but not kicks; resulting in Ritu getting some time to recover from the illegal blow and Jenelyn getting a stern warning from the referee. But the strike had done no significant damage and Ritu was able to continue.
In the second round, Ritu got the takedown again within the first few seconds and continued to impose her grappling on a Jenelyn who was growing more tired and running out of ideas with each passing minute. Ritu kept up the pressure demonstrating superior stamina and worked towards getting side control to catch Jenelyn in a crucifix position, working her way out of triangle attempts in the process. When Jenelyn tried to get out of the position by dragging herself with her legs, Ritu found her head exposed to attack and landed a number of knees; which are legal under ONE Championship's MMA rules.
Much of the same happened throughout the third round, with Jenelyn's final bid to turn things around coming in the form of a particularly tight triangle attempt. But Ritu was able to once again get out of it and ended the fight on top, landing ground and pound.
The judges made no hesitation in awarding her the unanimous decision.
With this win, Ritu Phogat's pro MMA career has progressed to 7-1. Jenelyn Olsim, with this defeat, has a 5-3 record.
Ritu Phogat, who has faced an elevated level of opponents in this tournament, has demonstrated that her reputation as one of the top Atomweights in the promotion is very much real. But now she will face the biggest test of her career yet, when she faces veteran Kickboxer and Muay Thai fighter Stamp Fairtex, whose MMA career progressed to 8-1 when she beat Brazil's Julie Mezabarba in the second semi-final. Stamp has 85 kickboxing/muay thai bouts in her record, and she has won the ONE Championship Kickboxing and Muay Thai titles in her weight class. This forms the perfect foil for Ritu's own illustrious wrestling career.
When the two face off in the Grand Prix final on the 3rd of December, it will not only be a landmark moment for Indian MMA, but also a memorable occasion for hardcore MMA fans in general, who live for match-ups where strikers of the highest level take on accomplished wrestlers in contrasting stylistic match-ups.
The winner of the Grand Prix will earn the right to challenge ONE Atomweight Champion Anglela Lee for the world championship belt, which Ritu Phogat identified as her target in MMA in the post-fight interview.