Four-time Muay Thai and kickboxing heavyweight world champion Alain “The Panther” Ngalani had some new experiences last weekend.
This past Saturday, 24 March, the hulking knockout artist had a successful light heavyweight debut, as he defeated Mongolian newcomer Ariunbold Tur-Ochir via unanimous decision at ONE: IRON WILL in Bangkok, Thailand.
Not only was this the Hong Kong-based warrior’s first official contest in the light heavyweight division, but he also went past the second round for the first time in his entire cage career.
The 42-year-old’s all-action style means he puts adversaries away quickly, or goes out on his shield. And because of his explosive output, critics had questioned his endurance, and his ability to last a full 15 minutes, let alone five championship rounds.
Ngalani answered those questions emphatically after competing for three hard rounds, and although “The Panther” always has the knockout at the top of his list, he was pleased to be able to show the other facets of his game, all while putting to bed any queries about his gas tank.
“I was still feeling good at the end of round three,” he reveals.
“I am always going to go for the finish, but if I need to compete for longer — if my opponent takes me to the third or fourth round – I needed to show that I can last, and try to get the knockout no matter where we are in the match.”
“The Panther” got in 15 minutes of back-and-forth action, but by doing so, he also showed the promotion’s matchmakers that he is indeed ready for the championship rounds.
Also, he got the opportunity to display aspects of his game rarely seen, especially when Tur-Ochir brought him to the canvas early into the contest. At one point, Ngalani even went for an armbar submission.
“My opponent tried to get me to the floor, where I had been most uncomfortable previously. But I have been working on my ground game, and I have to say that it has improved a lot. I feel much more comfortable either being on the cage, or being on the floor,” Ngalani explains.
“I managed to defend most of the attempts to take me down, and I was comfortable when we went to the ground. I feel much more well-rounded now. I feel like I could take on anybody. If they do not want to stand, then I can compete anywhere!”
As a matter of fact, “The Panther” has plans to compete in another martial arts arena, and expects to be active for the rest of the year.
Ngalani will return to his roots to partake in a ONE Super Series encounter sometime in 2018. Following that, he intends to continue building momentum in his quest for the ONE Light Heavyweight World Championship, which is currently held by his old rival, Aung La “The Burmese Python” N Sang.
“The level is good at light heavyweight, but I feel comfortable with anybody in the division,” he reveals.
“I am going to compete in the ONE Super Series in May, and then I have got my eyes on the light heavyweight world title before the end of the year.
“If need be, I will have one more match before [challenging for] the light heavyweight world title. It mostly depends on ONE, but I am always willing.”
Until that time comes, Ngalani, a fan favorite, will keep diligently improving on his martial arts repertoire, and prepare for his c0ming battles.