Lion Fight 34 Recap: Australia’s River Daz shines on US debut

Melbourne muay thai fighter River Daz won a unanimous decision against Diego Llamas yesterday following a clinical performance at Lion Fight 34 in Laz Vegas.

Fighting for the first time in the United States thanks to the fighter exchange program in place between Melbourne promotion Warriors Way and Lion Fight Muay Thai, Daz made sure he took full advantage of the opportunity; controlling much of the fight from start to finish. Not swayed by the occasion he started strong early, pushing forward against Llamas and trying to set the pace. Daz was the more active of the two and his constant kicks to the left thigh of Llamas were clean and highly effective. Llamas began to pick up the pace late in the first round, but Daz’s high work rate and movement forward were more than enough to give him the round.

With American muay thai veteran and Bellator Kickboxing star Kevin Ross in his corner, Llamas opened up the second round with a greater volume of attacks but was still not able to find any significant weakness in Daz’s defence. Unlike the first round where his strong leg kicks were the deciding factor, Daz focussed on landing big right hands and did just that tagging his opponent late in the second round.

The third round began with an impressive jumping roundhouse kick from Daz, who continued to show calculated aggression and a dominate walk-forward approach. Pushing his opponent into the corner, Daz executed a well-timed right hand followed by a jumping knee to continue piling on the pressure. Damage was now visible on the left leg of Llamas as Daz landed successive ‘high-low’ combinations and impressing the judges with his clean technique.

Both men were working hard as the fight went into the fourth round with Daz again focussing his attacks on the left leg of Llamas, while also scoring clean boxing techniques in the lead-up. With Daz seemingly focussed on the left leg attacks, Llamas was able to land a serious of stiff jabs, but did little to stop the forward aggression of his opponent. Despite seeing little in the way of traditional muay thai technique in most of the fight (knees, clinching, elbows), Llamas made an attempt late in the round to throw some elbows into the mix with little effectiveness.

Knowing he was down on the cards Llamas began the fifth round looking for the big shots, opening up with both punches and elbows throughout the final period. However, Daz was able to defend most of the shots and again was able to stand out from his opponent with a higher work rate and seemingly greater return on effort. The decision went to the judges and it was a decisive victory for Daz in what was an incredibly well-matched bout between the two.

Later in the night Daz’s stable mate, Chris ‘The Butcher’ Harrington faced off against former WEC/UFC fighter Anthony Njokuani who was returning to the muay thai ring for the first time in ten years. Having faced some of the best lightweight MMA fighters in the world earlier in his career, Njokuani had the distinct experience advantage over his Australian opponent. It was a cautious start to the round one for both fighters with Harrington showing a tight guard and patient approach. Very little separated either fighter in this round as both used it to gauge their distance and test their opponents defence.

Harrington opened up in the second round with some strong combinations working high and low and pushing the pace early on. Harrington was able to cut Njokuani midway through the round with a crafty spinning elbow in the corner. As the round progressed it was evident that Harrington had the stronger muay thai technique of the two, with Njokuani largely focussing on his boxing, and while effective, would not have been scored as highly on the judges’ scorecards.

The third round started off with Harrington again showing his dominant muay thai technique locking Njokuani up in the clinch and scoring cleanly. Njokuani began searching for a big right hand and the fight began to swing in the other direction. While Harrington was scoring more cleanly, it was Njokuani who was landing the more powerful punches and soon had his opponent rocked and down for an eight count from referee Steve Mazzagatti.  A follow up left hook from Njokuani tagged Harrington and again he was down for another eight count. Knowing the end was near Njokuani pushed forward and dropped Harrington for the third and final time with successive left-right combinations to end the fight via TKO.

In the show’s main and semi-main events both title holders prevailed with dominant performances over their challengers. Iman Barlow put on a striking clinic, dominating Meryum Uslu across all five rounds to retain her Super Bantamweight title. While it was Regian Eersel in the main event who dispatched Samy Sana quickly in the first round to win via TKO and successfully defend his Super Middlweight title.

Results:

  • Regian Eersel def. Samy Sana via TKO, Rd 1 – Lion Fight Super Middleweight Title
  • Iman Barlow def. Meryum Uslu via Decision (Unanimous) – Lion Fight Women’s Super Bantamweight Title
  • Anthony Njokuani def. Chris Harrington via TKO, Rd 3
  • Gabriel Mazetti def. Nick Chasteen via Decision (Unanimous)
  • Kronphet Phetrachapat vs Kevin Burmester Majority Draw
  • River Daz def. Diego Llamas via Decision (Unanimous)