A night which saw the crowning of two of the UK’s best fighters, both Jordan Watson and Liam Harrison captivated the Bolton crowd with their championship wins.
YOKKAO 17 and YOKKAO 18 took place at The Macron on Saturday night and overall it was a very solid night of Muay Thai; something which we have consistently received from the YOKKAO duo of Stefania Piscitelli and Brian Calder.
The YOKKAO 18 headliner, the promotion’s biggest rematch to date between Watson and YOKKAO -70kg champion Sanny Dahlbeck stole the show. Despite what looked like a broken nose, Watson successfully reclaimed the YOKKAO title in what can only be described as one of the best performances of his career.
After a lacklustre loss last year, where Watson lost the title to Dahlbeck after three knockdowns, the Bad Company Leeds fighter fought with much more intent this time around – reflected by Watson sweeping Dahlbeck three times in the space of a minute during the opener.
Dahlbeck came out stronger in the second round, highlighted by his spinning back kick attempt on Watson. Although one of the best sequences of the fight came in round three when Odenplan’s Dahlbeck threw a kick, which was caught by Watson; who refused to let go, which promoted the Swede to throw a barrage of punches. This infuriated Watson who then spiked the defending champion right onto the canvas.
It was in round four when a slick boxing combination; potentially followed by a leg kick, seemed to snap the nose of Watson. Somehow, Watson was able to continue in a moment of true valiance, seeing out the final round with his trademark ‘Quadzilla’ leg kicks. A year in the, Watson had his revenge, this time without question the better fighter on the night.
In the YOKKAO 17 main event, after some rocky performances in his last few outings, Liam Harrison claimed the YOKKAO -65kg title against Japanese star Tetsuya Yamato.
One of Harrison’s biggest flaws has often been his inability to start the fight on the front foot, but against Yamato he showed an excellent first round, using his right leg kick on cue to keep the Jap out of reach, levering with a sweet left hook, which constantly landed. Yamato needed to pick up his pace, and he managed to steal a few sweeps, but the first two rounds definitely fell in favour of the Brit.
Round three was when we started to see a slight shift in momentum, although Harrison successfully continued with the sweep, a glancing left elbow from Yamato caused a cut on the top of the right cheekbone of Harrison. The Bad Company legend continued to give the fight everything he had, despite a late onslaught from Yamato.
It may have seemed like a close fight – just because of the way Muay Thai is often scored, but upon review I have no qualms saying Harrison won at least three rounds on route to yet another world title. A visibly gutted Yamato gave it his all, but a slow start from the Japanese world champion ultimately lost him the fight.
The YOKKAO 17 co-headline may not have lasted as long as fans would have hoped, but 19-year-old Thai sensation; perceived as the next superstar, Manachai YokkaoSaenchaiGym showed some brute power against Luke Turner. The first move of the fight, Manachai landed a flush right hand which sent Turner stumbling backwards, putting him on notice. A right body kick that followed was equally devastating, leaving a huge red mark on the side of Turner. However, following a nice switch kick from Turner, in between rounds it came to light that he may have a broken or sprained foot, forcing his corner team to call off the fight.
Some other stand out performances, Jack Kennedy put on a technical clinic against Danny Harrison-Little, getting the corner stoppage at the end of round four, showcasing some excellent pressure boxing.
On the undercard, Dakota Ditcheva once again continued her road to stardom, with what looked like a one round sparring session, as Ditcheva teep kicked Spaniard Maria Beccera into retirement.
YOKKAO return to The Macron on October 8 for their next UK show.