Fight Breakdown: The Elbow Fight – Jongsanan vs. Sakmongkol
One of the greatest rivalries in the Golden Era of Muay Thai was between Jongsanan Fairtex and Sakmongkol Sithchuchok. They faced each other seven times during the 80’s and 90’s with each fighter winning two of the bouts by knockout. They didn’t know each other before fighting, but they became friends after their third bout. They also stated their friendship fueled their rivalry. In 1989, their fifth meeting which was awarded “Fight of the Year” and was dubbed the “Elbow Fight” as both fighters threw caution to the wind, and stood toe-to-toe throwing elbows.
Fighting Formula broke down some of the key moments of the fight using the time stamp of the video above. How would you score this bout?
The Fight: Jongsanan (Red) vs Sakmongkol (Blue)
1:18 – Jongsanan uses beautiful stutter step while punching to setup his kick. Right when you think he’s about to kick, Jongsanan adds a small delay before throwing his rear kick.
1:21 – Sakmongkol counters with beautiful “zig-zag” kick faking his rear, landing in front, and throwing (what was) his lead leg kick.
Round 2 (1:41)
1:52 – Sakmongkol uses cross to slip his head outside and set up a beautiful right uppercut, that stuns Jongsanan.
1:54 – Sakmongkol sees “blood in the water” and switches to orthodox to go for the finish.
2:00 – Jongsanan steps in to throw an elbow at same time Sakmongkol throws a right punch. Sakmongkol’s punch misses but his elbow lands, right as Jongsanan is stepping in. Jongsanan drops to the canvas.
2:12 – Sakmongkol continues pressuring forward, looking to finish with his boxing. Jongsanan counters the aggressive boxer by blasting elbows as he Sakmongkol advances forward.
2:40 – You can hear the commentator point out Jongsanan’s “Tab Mala” Elbow. The name of this technique is meant to symbolize a girl placing a flower behind her ear.
Jongsanan Elbow Strategy: He is looking to throw his right, down/diagonal elbow and prefer to grab behind the head with his left hand when possible.
Sakmongkol Elbow Strategy: He prefers to mix his elbows into his heavy boxing. He also prefers to elbow over the top of Jongsanan’s collar tie (left hand grabbing the head).
As the story goes, at the end of the 2nd round, with Jongsanan down on points from the knockdown, a gambler came down from the stands and offered Jongsanan 20,000 Baht to win the fight. This side-bet motivated Jongsanan to switch his game plan to knee attacks, in an attempt to grind out a victory on points
Round 3 (4:31)
5:05 – From the 50/50 clinch, Jongsanan tries to throw a right elbow over the collar-tie of Sakmongkol, but can’t because Sakmongkol has great pressure on Jongsanan’s shoulder.
5:08 – Jongsanan throws two knee-kicks (half knee/half kick). The second knee-kick acts to break the posture of Sakmongkol and set up and additional knees
5:47 – Notice the hip and knee dexterity of Jongsanan. He’s almost throwing “question mark knees.”
6:20 – Jongsanan throws a beautiful combination with a cross to the body followed by a Right knee to body. The body punch forces Sakmongkol to bend forward, this sets up Jongsanan’s clinch and knee to the body.
6:50 – Sakmongkol is beginning to slow and Jongsanan begins skipping into his knees for more power.
7:03 – In Muay Thai the Check isn’t just to defend kicks. Sakmongkol uses a Check to block the skip knee of Jongsanan.
The Gambler Returns…
After a dominant 3rd round by Jongsanan, the same gambler walked over to Sakmongkol’s corner and offered the same bet of 20,000 Baht to win the fight. At this point several gamblers were offering both fighters large sums of money and both fighters had lots of motivation to dig deep and win the bout.
Round 4 (7:36)
With Jongsanan using a ton of energy in the 2nd and 3rd rounds trying to KO Sakmongkol looks to battle back and win the 4th and 5th rounds on points.
7:39 – Fight begins with both fighters going knee-for-knee in the clinch.
7:44 – Jongsanan throws two knees, after the second, he waits for Sakmongkol’s response, when he counters, Jongsanan steps right and pushes right arm to left to off-balance, break the posture of Sakmongkol, and knee to the head.
7:49 – Jognsanan quickly switches from over/under clinch to body lock, steps forward and throws Sakmongkol to the ground using right thigh/knee to bump Sakmongkok off balance.
8:13 – Jongsanan throws a great 3x-knee combo
8:45 – Jongsanan is always pushing forward in clinch, keeping Sakmongkol off balance. This also allows Jongsanan to jump into his knees for extra power (9:20).
Round 5 (10:47)
11:02 – Sakmongkol looks to finish strong and increases his knee output.
11:12 – Sakmongkol pushes Jongsanan as he knees, sends him off-balance and sets up a left kick. Jongsanan catches the kick and tries to counter by “plowing him” over. Sakmongkol adjusts kick into knee guard and defends the plowing manuver.
11:17 – Sakmongkol begins using forward pressure in the clinch, this is a complete 180 from the last round.
11:24 – Jongsanan uses his backward momentum in clinch to turn Sakmonkol and throw a great scoring knee.
12:24 – Sakmongkol has beautiful turn off the ropes to fire a knee.
Result: Sakmongkol wins the bout by points.
QUESTION OF THE DAY: Why didn’t either fighter get cut?
There was a seminar held in California that featured both Jongsanan and Sakmongkol. During the seminar a participant had asked about how neither fighter was cut during the bout. Sakmongkol stated it was because Jongsanan was too close and he was landing more on the forearm than the point of the elbow. He also said that Jongsanan was throwing them too stiff.
Jongsanan replied that he threw from that range because he didn’t want to back up and get hit by Sakmonkol, and that he was throwing his elbows too tense because he was dead-set on dropping Sakmonkol as payback.
Jongsanan admitted the technique in his elbows wasn’t great, ironic because this fight is highly regarded for elbow technique.
Jongsanan also said he fought back hard because he wanted to make some $$$.