On the face of it, Phoe Thaw has much more cage experience than Yoon, who made his professional MMA debut in One Championship in March this year. The 24-year-old has since fought and won both fights, one by technical knockout (TKO) and the other by submission.
In comparison, Phoe Thaw, who is 34, has won eight of his nine MMA fights, mostly by knockout (KO). The stand-up striking specialist has been leveling up his wrestling and ground techniques alongside Japanese MMA artiste Shunichi Shimizu at the Uruno Dojo over the past few weeks and also trained in Thailand’s Tiger Muay Thai gym to further sharpen his sparring skills.
“My ground game continues to improve as does my Lethwei. My striking is strong an unpredictable and I am in great shape physically and mentally,” Phoe Thaw told The Myanmar Times.
“I also train constantly in Lethwei using traditional techniques and training methods. I won my last fight with a Lethwei technique and if I don’t get my opponent to submit on the ground this time, I will do best using all my other skills, including Lethwei. It’s the advantage of a Mynamar fighter in MMA,” he added.
But Phoe Thaw isn’t about to let his guard down. “Yoon is a good wrestler and boxer and has a very good gym in Korea. He’s good on the ground. He will be tough for me,” he said.
Insiders reckon Phoe Thaw stands a good chance of winning this match. Jason Maung, owner of Yangon Fight Club, a local MMA gym, is betting on a Phoe Thaw triumph.
“Yoon has got the advantage of youth, which implies that he has endurance and speed on his side. But Phoe Thaw has evolved his training to another level. He's also got a wealth of experience and is an intelligent fighter. He's also a finisher, having finished seven out his eight wins via KO, TKO or submission,” he said.
Eileen Lui, a fitness instructor in Yangon who also trains in MMA with Phoe Thaw, agrees with Jason. “Phoe Thaw fights smart and he's tenacious. He won't give up without a fight. If he has to learn something overnight because it's necessary, he would,” she said.
In competing for his first triathlon in Gunsan, South Korea earlier this year, for example, Phoe Thaw, who had never raced with road bike prior to the competition, studied how other triathletes competed by doing a crash course on YouTube, Lui recalled.
“We targeted that he would finish the 90 km bike race in five hours given his inexperience. He did it in three! What more when he’s in the cage?”