Words: Charles Little II | Images: Gabriel Torres, Ryan Gentry and Fabian Lagunas (West Coast Muay Thai)

Last month I was fortunate enough to be on hand for a momentous evening of top level Muay Thai as the sport took another huge leap forward in the USA.

Triumphant 3 took place on Feb. 25, 2018 in downtown Oakland, CA and was the very first Muay Thai fight event to be broadcast on UFC Fightpass.  With the absence of Lion Fight Promotions on AXS TV and the obscurity of WCK Full Rules Muay Thai broadcasts on Fox Sports Prime Ticket, bearing witness to muay thai fights in the US has up to now been exclusively via local area promotions and fan videos on social media.  But that’s all changed now with UFC Fightpass offering not only Triumphant Combat Sports Muay Thai Series (Oakland, CA) to their subscribers 24/7; but Friday Night Fights (New York, NY) is also a featured item on the UFC Fightpass menu.  For the first time in the USA fight fans of all sorts can witness proper muay thai from anywhere at anytime and that makes for an interesting time for the sport indeed.

Triumphant 3 held true to the origins of the sport and the level of competition that American Muay Thai has to offer by featuring a stacked card of seasoned professional fighters, hungry amateur nak muays, two top-level female bouts and two championship belts on the line.

The world of American Muay Thai was on hand at Triumphant 3 and the fighters delivered what everyone came to see.  MMA veteran Anthony Njokuani took home an inaugural Middleweight Belt and Genah Fabian (CSA, Dublin CA) defeated Charmaine Tweet by KO in the second round with a beautiful head kick rendering Tweet unable to continue.  Janet Todd and Yumiko Kawano met in a return visit that promised to be a score-settler after Kawano defeated Todd in a competitive close fight last year.  This also being the professional debut fight for each of them added that much more to the gravity of this matchup.  Todd and Kawano went at it round after round, each matching one another’s technique, aggressiveness and defense.  Janet’s teep kick and right cross were stand out on the night but Kawano’s elbow attack and consistent forward pressure ultimately resulted in a split decision victory for Kawano.

One of my favorite fighters to track and witness is the explosive and determined Joe Gogo.  They call him the Iron Assassin, or “Iron Joe Gogo” and as a lifelong fan of Iron Mike Tyson himself, the moniker is appropriately fitting.  I was stoked to see Gogo in the ring again and especially at this event with such a high profile.  I wasn’t however familiar with his opponent Eric Luna but after this fight I will never forget his name.  Folks around the ring talked Luna up and I got the gas face a few times for not knowing anything about him. “You’re in for a treat” I was told and yeah, witnessing Luna’s muay thai against the onslaught brought on by Gogo was memorable to say the least.  Luna managed his distance consistently and kept Gogo at bay and out of striking range with an effective long guard, stiff arm defense, stepping off-line and varying up his strikes between levels and targets.  Do yourself a favor and go see the fight here as it’s as interesting to analyze as it is entertaining to watch.  Eric Luna edged out Joe Gogo in a victory by split decision.  The two men left it all in the ring and left the crowd on their feet cheering with a display of push ups after the final bell and a “man-kiss” which can only be earned after going to war which is exactly what Luna and Gogo accomplished.

Triumphant 3 “Fight of the Night” accolade was fittingly awarded to the unforgettable contest between Nick “The Goldenboy” Chasteen and Asa Tenpow; which to be honest, was the particular fight that let me know it was time to buy a plane ticket to Oakland.

If  you’re not already in the know, Nick Chasteen is without a doubt one of my favorite fighters and one whom I’ve been after to guest on the Teep This Podcast for a good long while now.  Asa Tenpow spoke to me at length on the podcast a while back and the opportunity to see them both in the flesh and in the ring was awe-inspiring and basically, all kinds of amazing.  All of the words in the world written here cannot do justice to the focus and intensity that Chasteen brought with him into the ring.  It was an exciting juxtaposition to Tenpow’s almost playful and kind of taunting demeanor.  Chasteen stared down the barrel at Tenpow, while Asa looked up slightly at Chasteen with a bit of a smile as to say “Okay then, yeah let’s dance a little here”.  So they got em up and got it on like nobody’s business.  Chasteen was visibly larger than Tenpow and maintained an aggressive attack thru the duration of the fight.  Asa Tenpow leaned into his lifelong martial arts training and countered Chasteen’s attacks followed by illusive strikes of his own.  Angles and elbows were among the inventory of weapons and tactics Tenpow employed along with a sharp right hand that found it’s target enough earn to Tenpow the W over Chasteen.  The two men shook the building with their performances and Tenpow left the audience with an inspiring post fight monologue worthy of repeat mention.

Watch the fight here  on Triumphant Combat Sports’ YouTube channel or stream these fights 24/7 via UFC Fightpass

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