Buakaw. We all know the name. From his legendary run during the iconic K-1 MAX tournaments, there is probably no fighter on the planet more synonymous with the art of “Muay Thai.” In Thailand, he is a celebrity. Abroad, he is one of the only Thai superstars known to even the most unenthusiastic layperson.
Of course, if you’ve followed Muay Thai for more than a few weeks you’re probably aware that there are vastly more skilled, vastly more experienced, and vastly more under-appreciated Thai fighters that deserve the pound-for-pound crown. That isn’t to say Buakaw isn’t a talented fighter. He is. For my money, he could probably still contend with the best at 70 kg, and possibly even reclaim his spot as #1 in the world. However, “here and now” is an ocean away from “what could be.”
Buakaw hasn’t fought high level opposition in over a year. His last decent match was a decision victory against Dhzabar Askerov, who himself is by no means on top the haystack. Since then he’s been surrounded by Yes-Men and adoring fans and competes selectively against lower ranked foreign competition in the extremely transparent Thai Fight Series. If the names of Mauro Serra, Tomoyuki Nishikawa, Toure Abdul, and Rustem Zaripov aren’t familiar to you, there’s good reason for that.
So who could beat the charismatic former K-1 Champion? In my opinion, quite a few people. Of course, like I said, Buakaw is still very, very good. But neglecting his training in favor of the spotlight and taking on weaker and weaker competition is not doing him any favors. Not to mention Buakaw is over 30 years old now, well past a typical Thai fighter’s prime. Here’s who I believe could dethrone the most well known nay muay in the world. Will any of these fights happen? Probably not. But sometimes we all need a bit of perspective.
1. Yodsanklai Fairtex
Yodsanklai has been on a roll lately. Yod completely changed his body prior to his fight with Kem Sitsongpeenong early this year. The Fairtex gym fighter obliterated Kem in the second round, before steamrolling Gregory Choplin at Lion Fight 8. In Full Thai rules, I don’t think Buakaw can stand up to the power Yod brings to the table.
2. Sitthichai Sitsongpeenong
Sitthichai is a beast. He holds wins over the who’s who in 146 pound division, including Aikpracha, Iquezang, Petchasawin, and more. In his most recent outing he completely destroyed the highly rated Fabio Pinca at Best of Siam 3, and is scheduled to make his kickboxing debut at GLORY 7 Milan. Not only that but the “Killer Kid” is only 21 years old. Sitthichai is too good and too young for Buakaw to handle right now. The White Lotus may put up a good fight, but I don’t see him winning this one.
3. Aikpracha Meenayothin
Aikpracha is one of those Thai Fighters that people get excited about. He’s a cold blooded killer, straight down to the core. A former Lumpinee Champion, Aikpracha holds a bevy of nasty KO wins, including one spine-curdling head-kick over Frank Giorgi. I feel that Aikpracha’s clinch is far stronger than Buakaw’s and he could dominate the fight on the inside. A foreigner’s clinch will very rarely stand up to that of a Lumpinee champion’s- something Buakaw hasn’t faced in a long, long time.
4. Murthel Groenhart
Ah, the kickboxers. It’d be a shame if I didn’t include at least a few right? Some of you might disagree with good ol’ Murthel Groenhart being on this list, but I have my reasons. The 2012 K-1 MAX Champion is a horrible match-up for Buakaw. Firstly, Groenhart is huge. He looks big at 75-77 kg and easily fights above 70 kg. Not only that, but a lot of power comes with that size. He nearly decapitated Yashuhiro Kido, beat Mike Zambidis into surrender, and KO’d Artur Kyshenko in one of the most violent K-1 MAX tournament runs ever. Buakaw’s greatest weakness in kickboxing has always been his hands, and Murthel brings the heat. Groenhart also has stamina for days, and would be able to push Buakaw to his breaking point over the course 3 rounds. I have no doubt that Buakaw would be feeling his age in this fight. I’d be surprised if he made it to a decision.
5. Giorgio Petrosyan
You knew this was coming. Giorgio Petrosyan has sat atop the middleweight kickboxing rankings for years, and not without good reason. He faced Buakaw once before, back in 2006 when he was 21 years old. The fight was ruled a draw. Keep in mind that since then Petrosyan has not lost once, beating literally everyone worth note in the 70 kg division. He’s only improved over the past seven years, while Buakaw is in decline. From a purely objective perspective, it seems difficult to discover any area where the Thai would have the advantage. I’d even pick Petrosyan to beat Buakaw in Full Thai rules, but I’d doubt we’d ever see that fight happen, despite rumors of it late last year.
There are plenty more 70 kg fighters from both kickboxing and Muay Thai that could possibly end Buakaw’s night, but these are the 5 I’d feel most confident staking money on. As I mentioned earlier, Buakaw was a great K-1 champion and is still an amazing fighter. That being said, his time has passed. Hopefully he can give the fans the fights we all want to see before the opportunity vanishes for everyone.