Ritu Phogat improves to 3-0, boosts chances of getting shot at MMA title

Ritu Phogat's third straight win to begin her MMA career boosts her chances of making the eight-person field for the atomweight title. ONE Championship

Ritu Phogat showed little rust coming off an eight-month break from the ring, picking up the third straight win of her Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) career with a technical knockout win over Cambodia's Nou Srey Pov in the ONE Championship: Inside The Matrix promotion on Friday.

Phogat is now 3-0 in her MMA career while Srey Pov's record slipped to 1-2 after the referee stopped the contest two minutes and two seconds into the second round of the three-round contest.

The Indian, who made her debut in November last year and last fought in February this year, was expected to fight several months ago but those plans were cut short owing to the coronavirus pandemic that forced the cancellation of multiple ONE Championship events. The break also affected Phogat's training. While she would have wanted to work on her ground grappling and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu skills leading up to her bout, she'd been unable to train as much at the Evolve gym in Singapore as she would have hoped because of restrictions put in place at the facility over the past few months.

Phogat has mostly been able to work on her striking, though, and had promised to stop or submit Srey Pov in their encounter. While her wrestling -- Phogat is a former silver medallist at the U-23 World Championships -- has always been her mainstay, Phogat had also said she was looking to show other skills in Friday's contest.

Phogat did just that against Srey Pov, a seasoned striker who came into the fight with an impressive Kun Khmer record of 91-8-2. With Phogat's impressive wrestling pedigree, the fight was always going to be a classic wrestler versus striker contest.

Phogat took down the Cambodian via a trip in the first minute and although Srey Pov got up the first time, the Indian got her down twice more to finish the round strongly. In the second round, Phogat showcased improved boxing skills to open up a double leg takedown. There would be no escape for Srey Pov this time, with the Indian raining down elbows and punches to force the referee to stop the contest.

The Indian's comprehensive win should boost her stock especially in light of ONE Championship's announcement that the women's atomweight (52.2 kg) belt would be up for grabs following reigning title holder Angela Lee's announcement of her pregnancy. The belt will now be decided by way of an eight-person Grand Prix. While Phogat is still early in her career and a long shot to make the eight-person tournament, she'd hoped before Friday's contest that a strong performance would improve her chances of making the cut.