Eko Roni Saputra won three fights out of three in 2020 with every victory coming courtesy of a submission in the opening round. The Indonesian has a lot of momentum behind him but he definitely isn’t getting carried away.

He is not currently in the top five at flyweight despite winning four ONE Championship bouts on the trot. Saputra is eager to move up the rankings but says he doesn’t have a particular opponent in mind,

“This question has been asked many times, but I couldn’t provide an appropriate answer yet. To be able to answer that, I need to know where my current place is in the flyweight division so we can analyze and guess who I could face next.”

Upper echelons

Saputra wants to emphasize that this is due to a lack of arrogance rather than an absence of ambition. He wants to face the top flyweights but doesn’t want to come across as being overly confident or cocky,

“It’s not that I don’t want to face the top-level guys. I just don’t want people to get the wrong idea and think that I don’t know my place. Honestly, I am ready against anyone.”

The Indonesia hinted that his team at Evolve MMA had recently turned a fight down as they do not feel the timing was right,

“There was an offer. However my coach wanted to make sure that I am in my best shape, considering that I have scored consecutive wins. My upcoming opponents must be someone in the higher echelon of the division, and I can’t afford to lose my momentum, so I needed more time because my last fight was in November.”

Unorthodox submission

The modified keylock that secured Saputra a win over Murugan Silvarajoo at ONE: ‘Reign of Dynasties’ was named ‘Submission of the Year’ at the 2020 Asian MMA Awards. It as a technique that had seldom been seen before but the Indonesian says it is now proving popular with his students,

“People started to call it the ‘Eko Lock’ and it became somewhat popular among my closest circle. My students at Evolve also praised that, and said they wanted to learn and try the technique.”

He thinks the finish would not have been possible in a traditional grappling match,

“I was proud and honestly surprised. I think the fact that we wore mixed martial arts gloves made it possible for me to force and trap his arm behind my calf and craft that unorthodox submission.”

But he is quick to point out that the submission didn’t exactly come from nowhere and was something he had experimented with in training,

“It’s not entirely impromptu, though, because I had worked on my ground game before the match and tried various locks in several positions. I am happy to have read the situation well and managed to pull it off.”

Quick victory

It is testament to what a successful year Saputra had that the award winning submission of Silvarajoo does not even rank as his favourite win. Instead he picks out the victory over Ramon Gonzalez at ONE: ‘Inside the Matrix’ Part II,

“Ramon Gonzales is the most experienced opponent I have faced, far more experienced than me in mixed martial arts because he has faced some top fighters in ONE Championship. I could see that he was very motivated to defeat me. Before the fight, my coaches repeatedly reminded me of the dangers he possessed and how important that match was.”

This was what made the first round submission win against the Filipino such a standout moment for Saputra,

”I was just executing the game plan to attack him with my elbows until I got the opening to finish him via rear-naked choke. That win is my favorite from 2020. I was glad to earn another quick victory, and it would only mean that the next challenges will be far greater.”

Despite coming off such a successful year Saputra is staying humble. But he is not lacking in confidence and wants to make it clear that, while he isn’t calling any flyweights out he is ready to face absolutely anyone,

“I will fight anyone. I am not afraid, but I can’t mention names.”