Giorgio Petrosyan has had an unusual path to the finals of the ONE Featherweight Kickboxing World Grand Prix, but he made it.
Waiting for him in the last step before ONE awards the winner USD $1 million and the first-ever ONE Featherweight Kickboxing World Championship is Samy Sana. The Petrosyan-Sana matchup is just one bout set for ONE: CENTURY PART II on 13 October from Tokyo.
The card is stacked, and there are two shows (morning and evening) to accommodate the 22 scheduled bouts.
Sana upset Yodsanklai IWE Fairtex in the quarterfinals and then controlled Dzhabar Askerov for 15 minutes to qualify for the finals. His confidence has to be through the roof at this point, but he has one more legend to conquer if he is to claim the prize and title.
Petrosyan has won a myriad of titles throughout his legendary career. The one he’s chasing now hasn’t come as quickly as most might have expected. Many predicted he’d reach the finals of the Grand Prix, but that’s about the only part of the most popular predictions that have come true.
Most thought his opponent would be Yodsanklai, but Sana crushed that dream early on. No one could have predicted Petrosyan would have to face Petchmorakot Petchyindee Academy twice just to advance to the semifinals.
After that ordeal, it might have been shocking to see Petrosyan advance past Smokin’ Jo Nattawut so easily, but “The Doctor” made quick work of the Thai veteran. With all that behind Petrosyan, here is what he must do to avoid Sana’s upset bid.
Guarding Against Complacency
Petrosyan has already had to overcome some unexpected obstacles to reach the finals. He cannot allow himself to be satisfied with merely reaching this point in the Grand Prix. Sana is waiting to pounce on the opportunity to exploit an underprepared, or unmotivated version of Petrosyan. If Petrosyan doesn’t come to Tokyo ready to face a skilled and determined opponent looking to score a legacy-building victory, he will be vulnerable.
At 6’3″, Sana is a massive featherweight.
The reach of his arms and legs could be an issue. He has used his length to his advantage throughout the Grand Prix. If you watch the match with Yodsanklai, Sana regularly beats the Thai legend to the punch by controlling the distance. When he wanted to tag Yodsanklai from jab and kick range, he used his jab and front kick to disturb Yodsanklai’s rhythm. At other times, he’d stay close to Yodsanklai. When the latter tried to lean out of harm’s way, Sana’s long arms still enabled him to score.
Some of his most impressive strikes of the bout happened in these scenarios. When Sana is at his best, he’s been able to touch his opponents a half-second before they’re in a position to land against him.
Sana should have a similar reach advantage against Petrosyan. The Italian-Armenian is just 5’10,” and he doesn’t possess the longest arms. Because of this, Petrosyan must find a way to get inside Sana’s reach to counter and to score against the much bigger foe.
As you might expect, Sana believes in himself a great deal at this point. He’d lost his first meeting with Yodsanklai. However, after overcoming the boogeyman in the rematch, and validating that victory with the win over Askerov, Sana seems mentally prepared to face Petrosyan. If Petrosyan wants to slow Sana’s roll, he’s going to have to find a way to create some doubt in his opponent’s mind.
Whether it’s by landing something big that hurts his opponent, or if it comes in the way of defensive wizardry, Petrosyan has to do something that tells Sana he’s the boss. If he is unable to have those bout-tilting moments, it’s a chance Sana will pull off yet another upset.
To put it plainly, there is a chance Giorgio Petrosyan could deal with some fatigue once he climbs into the ring in Tokyo. By the time ONE: CENTURY rolls around, Petrosyan will have had his fourth match in five months.
Obviously, kickboxers and Muay Thai athletes compete more often than mixed martial artists and boxers, but usually, the matches aren’t all high-profile and as stressful. Petrosyan has had to deal with losing a decision, having that ruling overturned only to be made to face the same opponent a second time.
Finally, he dispatched Nattawut in the first round. Even still, heading over to Japan to face an athlete as prepared and confident as Sana could be draining. At the end of the night, Petrosyan’s biggest enemy might be his gas tank. If Petrosyan can maintain his energy, use his speed and precision counter punching, he could still walk away as champion and $1 million richer.
However, if Sana pushes the pace and Petrosyan slows in the later rounds, the former might add another legendary notch to his belt.
This article first appeared on BJPENN.COM on 10/8/2019.