Rene “The Challenger” Catalan just scored his biggest career victory of his professional career to date, but he almost waved the white flag prior to claiming the win over former ONE Strawweight World Champion Yoshitaka "Nobita" Naito.
In a classic striker-versus-grappler encounter, it was the Iloilo Citynative who won after stopping his Japanese opponent in the first round at ONE: REIGN OF VALOR in Yangon, Myanmar last Friday, 8 March.
However, the sweet triumph over Naito almost did not materialize as the Wushu World Champion admitted that the pain he felt in Naito’s first takedown attempt almost caused him to throw in the towel.
"In his first takedown attempt, I nearly tapped because I felt my back cramp up. I was 99 percent sure that I was going to tap. The pain was so intense and I can’t breathe properly," the 40-year-old mixed martial arts veteran revealed.
"But then he tried to adjust and he rolled. That’s where I got my wind. I really maintained my position so I can recover, and I never let up."
Naito, who has wins over the former World Champions Dejdamrong Sor Amnuaysirichoke, Alex “Little Rock” Silva and Joshua “The Passion” Pacio, is dreaded for his impeccable ground game.
"The Challenger" knew from the very beginning that Naito would want the bout on the mat, but he showed that he was well prepared for everything the Japanese would try that evening.
"I know that his grappling is on a high level, but with my wrestling training with coach Roque [Verangel Mana-ay Jr.], I was able to pin him down," he said.
"Actually the gamelan was to try and strike with him and knock him out with a straight punch in the first round, maybe in the second if I can’t get it in the first."
Catalan got the job done with his ground-and-pound in the opening round, taking advantage of the opportunity as he saw fit en route to a major upset victory.
"There was an opening for a knee that’s why I went for it, then I never stopped because I didn’t want to go to a second round."