Lion Fight Promotions has an issue that needs to be addressed. This issue has been bothering me for the past year and it has only grown worse over time. I have given them a chance to fix it, but after seeing the preview to the next fight card, enough is enough. Now before I even talk about what the issue is, let me show you a few images and let you decide for yourself if you agree with my assessment.
If you haven’t figured it out by now, Lion Fight has a matchup issue. When I first started seeing some of these matchups on the screen, I had a few “WTF” moments. Does anyone else even realize how mismatched some of these fights really are? Everyone hears about the mismatches you have in Thailand, but nobody seems to talk about the ones taking place in their own back yard.
Have you already read my article on the 5 matchups you will face in Thailand?
Before I talk about what Lion fight does wrong, let me talk about what they are doing right. Firstly, they have done a great job in their female divisions. These fights are extremely well balanced and feature some of the best female talent in the world. Their male division also features some talented fighters who are very entertaining and full of heart. Guys like Kevin Ross and Fabio Pinca can fight and beat top level guys from Thailand.
I also like the fact that Lion is making a conscious effort to bring in top level Thai fighters from Thailand into the organization. Showcasing high level Thai fighters like Yodsanklai, Rungravee, and Malapeit is great for the sport in America. Why do I care about Lion Fight? I think Lion Fight has a great opportunity to really break through the North American market and gain a lot of popularity to the sport. This is one of the reasons why I want Lion to succeed as an organization. My only beef with Lion is some of the matches they put on in their show.
Note: This is not meant to discredit any of the Fighters in the organization. Fighters fight whoever they are told to fight. It is not their job to decide who they should fight. It is the promoters job to ensure that the matchups are even and both fighters have a chance at winning.
Also note that I am looking only at the fighters pro careers (as listed by Lion Fight) and not their amateur background. Obviously if a fighter has 20+ amateur fights and 10 pro fights, that is different than someone who has only 10 total fights.
Now back to the subject of mismatches. The first mismatch I noticed in Lion was the bout between Kevin Ross and Chris Mauceri. While everyone was celebrating Kevin’s destruction over Chris, I couldn’t help but notice the HUGE difference (6 fights vs 37 fights) in amount of fights between the two fighters.
Even though I am the first to admit that records aren’t everything, ring experience does make a difference. Even though both parties have to agree to the fights, true fighters will never turn a fight down. If you offer a fight to someone at big promotion like Lion Fight, they are going to accept the fight.
Don’t miss the article on Fighting in Thailand – The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
Now if this was Thailand I wouldn’t blink an eye, but honestly this is Lion Fight we are talking about. In all of my fights in Thailand I have been matched against guys who had a lot more experience than me. The point I am trying to make is that I expect this in Thailand, but not in the U.S.
Even by Thailand standards, the fight between Malapeit and Uruguai was a mismatch. The Thai trainers would have shaken their head after the fight and said, “Mai Dee” or “No Good.” In Thailand they would have at least made sure the fighter with less experience had a big size advantage to help even out the playing field. While heart is a big deal in the ring, there is a certain point where no matter how much heart you possess, it can’t make up for skill and experience.
To further emphasize my point, let’s have a look at the next fight card for Lion Promotions: Lion Fight 19
Update* A few people have pointed out that Ognjen Topic has already beaten some tough Thai fighters. This is an example where on paper it might look like a mismatch, but the reality is very different.
Why These Matchups Exists
While some matchups are easy easy to fix, the real issue is when Lion Fight Promotions brings in Top level Thai fighters like Yodsanklai from Thailand. Since the North American Muay Thai scene is nowhere close to the level of fighters in Thailand, the local fighters simply can’t compete with these guys.
If Lion was going to simply put on their shows using local talent, the fights would look a lot like this one.
While both of these guys put on an entertaining fight, neither of them can bring in people through the gates. In order to really grow as an organization, Lion Fight has to showcase the best guys in the world. Which is why they have set their sites on bringing some of the top talent from Thailand.
Is There a Solution?
As Muay Thai begins to grow in popularity, you will start to see more and more American fighters start training in Thailand and developing the skills to compete with top level Thai’s. Unfortunately, at the moment there aren’t any guys who can really compete at the same level as the top Thai Fighters. You would have to bring in foreign guys like Toby Smith, Victor Nagbe, or Andrei Kulebin if you wanted foreigners who could beat the top Thai fighters from Thailand.
The issue with bringing in other talented guys into the organization is money. Lion Fight has made a point to try and grow the sport as organically as possible. This means, they have to keep their costs down in order to become profitable.
Until Lion Fight starts to have bigger budgets to bring in more talent into the organization, you will continue to see these kinds of mismatches being shown. On the positive side, you will continue to see a lot of Thai fighters blowing away their competition and racking up the KO’s. At the end of the day, it’s the highlight real knockouts that are more likely to attract fans than good close fights. While the Muay Thai fighter in me loves seeing good matchups, the reality is the average fans want to see blood.
Make sure you check out our other article that talks about “The Problem with Glory Kickboxing”
What do you think? Is there a matchup problem in Lion Fight or am I delusional? Let me know in the comments below.