By: Denny “The Mad One” Hodge

For MMA fans that are suffering from withdrawal waiting on the next installment of “The Ultimate Fighter”, and for those that may or may not like the “Tapout” Show, there is a new show that is worth checking out.

The contender show is back, this time being labeled as “The Contender Asia” and featuring Muay Thai boxing.  MMA fans familiar with this dimension of MMA know how brutal the “8 points” of Thai boxing can be.  The show is setup featuring two teams consisting of 8 fighters each.  The first episode aired this past Thursday night at 10 P.M. Eastern/9 Central and got off to a fast start.  Following the team challenges, which enables the winning team to pick the matchups for the elimination fights, the first battle went down in dynamic fashion.

The most interesting aspect of the show is the wide ranging nationalities of the fighters.  The show is truly global and has some of the world’s top Thai boxers on the show.  The show features fighters from France, Scotland, Australia, Canada, Thailand, Spain, and even the United Arab Emirates.  The lone American, James Martinez, hails from Hawaii, and is the only hope for the United States to win the show.

It is apparent from the beginning that the Thai fighters have little or no respect for the Western fighters and even talk about returning home in shame if they were to lose to a westerner.  This lack of respect for the abilities of the Western fighters does not carry over to the ring however.  The tradition of Muy Thai is above all such perspectives.

The beauty of the art is it’s tradition and respect between the fighters.  Once the action starts though, all veils of calmness and relaxation are thrown out the window as the fighters engage in battle with the “8 points” consisting of feet, knees, elbows, and hands.  Lethal and pinpoint striking are part of the beauty of Muay Thai.  For MMA fans that love the stand up game, this show is for you.

The first fight featured Naruepol Fairtex who is a Thai fighter from the famed Fairtex lineage.  At only 22 he is a local hero and would prove to be a destructive adversary for his first matchup against the Canadian Trevor “TNT” Smandych.  As the match progressed it was obvious that the Canadian was over matched but that did not stop the game Smandych from engaging with Naruepol.  Naruepol dominated the action however and delivered devastating kicks to the mid section and legs of Smandych in addition to some awe inspiring knees in the clinch.  It was a clinic conducted by the young Naruepol and despite the Canadian surviving and losing a decision, Smandych was clearly brutalized in the fight.  Following the fight and in the locker room, the Canadian bore the marks from the destruction that was Naruepol.  His back looked like he was the victim of a caning in Thailand instead of a guy oversees fighting for a spot on a TV show.

Can a Contender MMA be in the works?  Could be very interesting, especially if it features the global approach that Contender Asia is using.  The action in Episode 1 was amazing and should continue throughout the season of the show.  Tune in to check it out on Versus, Thursday nights at 10 PM Eastern.

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