Sitthichai was absent the GLORY ring for most of 2017, his sole appearance being a stoppage win at GLORY 39 BRUSSELS in March as he defended his title against Dylan Salvador.
“I beat everyone, fought all the best guys and beat them, so I took some time away to let new contenders emerge,” he said in pre-fight interviews.
The contender who emerged was Baya, having battered his way through a fight with Josh Jauncey, a Contender Tournament and a stoppage win in December to go 4-0 in GLORY.
In the course of his GLORY career - 7-1 going into this fight, with that decision loss hotly disputed - Sitthichai had demonstrated himself to be a master of timing and distance, edging backwards and forcing opponents to walk themselves onto all manner of counter-strikes while he evaded harm.
Pre-fight, Baya suggested that the way to beat Sitthichai is to apply constant pressure without letup, so that he is forced into making a mistake through which a punishing and definitive blow can be landed.
That may well be true, but knowing it and doing it are two very different things.
From the outset, Baya found out that Sitthichai’s legs and knees would coming flying in his direction every time he broke out of his guard to throw a punch. Round kicks, push kicks and Sitthichai’s trademark knee strike flicked out
Late in the fifth, Sitthichai had a chance of rendering the judges unnecessary at all. A well-placed punch staggered Baya backwards and rocked him. Sitthichai followed with a head kick that Baya just about blocked, then the Thai flowed into a flurry of punches as he looked to capitalize on Baya’s distress.
Ironically, he was in fact handing Baya one of his best chances of the fight. Close-range firefights are a daily fact of life when training at Mike’s Gym and Sitthichai was inadvertently straying into territory which Baya was well used to.
Sure enough, Baya traded heavy leather back in Sitthichai’s direction and landed a hard cross which persuaded Sitthichai to back off and return to more suitable tactics.
The decision in Sitthichai’s favor was a foregone conclusion once the bell sounded to end the fifth round. That is no negative reflection on Baya’s abilities: he is a worthy challenger and did some heavy damage to Sitthichai’s right leg with inside low kicks.
But Sitthichai is simply on a different level. It’s hard to see who is going to be threaten his title at this point.
Sitthichai Sitsongpeenong def. Chris Baya, Unanimous Decision (49-46, 50-45, 50-45, 50-45, 50-45)