Rene Catalan says he ‘nearly tapped,’ shows heart in TKO win over Yoshitaka Naito
Rene Catalan’s biggest win of his flourishing MMA career almost never happened.
Catalan beat former strawweight world champion Yoshitaka Naito late in the first round in ONE: Reign of Valor on Friday in Yangon, Myanmar to extend his winning streak to six.
But Catalan revealed he was nearly stopped earlier in the fight.
“In his first takedown attempt, I nearly tapped because I felt my back cramp up. I was 99 percent sure that I was going to tap. The pain was so intense and I can’t breathe properly,” he admitted.
Catalan was under immense pain but it would take more than that for him to just quit.
The Filipino warrior soldiered on. He eventually found an opening and pounced on it to turn the tables around.
“He (Naito) tried to adjust and he rolled, that’s where I got my wind back,” he said. “I really maintained my position so I can recover, and I never let up.”
The plan was for Catalan to engage Naito, who is known for his grappling, into a striking match but the Japanese star knew he had to take the fight to the ground.
“Actually the game plan was to try and strike with him and knock him out with a straight punch in the first round, maybe in the second if I can’t get it in the first,” Catalan said.
For a moment, Naito had the upper hand until he overcommitted on a takedown attempt that Catalan was able to capitalize on.
“I know that his grappling high level, but with my wrestling training with coach Roque (Verangel Mana-ay Jr.), I was able to pin him down. There was an opening for a knee that’s why I went for it, then I never stopped because I didn’t want to go to a second round.”