It has been a frustrating year for quite a few fighters. Sovannahry Em didn’t get to fight in 2020 but she did make good use of the time off.

The American, who has roots in Cambodia, thinks she will be a completely different fighter when she returns to the cage at ONE: ‘Unbreakable’ Part II which is being broadcast this week,

“This year I feel like I did have an advantage because having to be in quarantine (lockdown) I had time to focus on building my skills. I had plenty of time and my coach had plenty of time so we spent hours and hours together in the gym.”

Learning experience 

Sovannahry is coming off the first loss of her career. At ONE: ‘Mark of Greatness’ she was submitted by up and coming Brazilian star Rayane Bastos and the 29 year old says that this too was a valuable learning experience,

“I wasn’t feeling the same kind of confidence I had in my previous fights. I was dealing with anxiety and nerves and I felt like my skills were there but my mind wasn’t in the right place. My internal dialogue was very nervous and very panicky and I can see it on my face when I watch the footage.”

The year off has given Sovannahry time to work on the psychological aspect of the sport,

“I learned the (importance) of the mental side of this sport. I let my previous wins get to my head and I became complacent, once I got to fight week I was not feeling confident and it’s because I didn’t put in the proper preparation. I had a whole year to work on this (and) I immediately started working with a sports psychologist, in this camp I am covering all my bases.”

Grappling game

She faces Jung Yoon Choi in a fight that will be broadcast on Friday. In a break from her regular pre-fight traditions Sovannahry has been studying the Korean closely,

“My team and I spent plenty of time finding as much footage as we can, doing our homework. This was something I was reluctant to do and I didn’t want to watch footage on my opponents but this time I forced myself to do it and I was able to see where her strengths lie and where her weaknesses are.”

The answer to those questions sounds simple, at least in Sovannahry’s mind,

“I think she would have the best chance of winning if we kept it standing up so I have decided to play a grappling game.”

Solid plan

As the old adage goes ‘pride comes before a fall’ and this time around Sovannahry will not be looking to match her opponent strike for strike in order to make a point,

“The old me would have looked to strike as well and try to be better at it but I’ve been working a lot technically and tactically (so) I’m not gonna play where she may have an advantage. I’m going to do everything I can to make it a grappling match, to stifle her chances of landing strikes.”

Sovannahry says the biggest improvement since her last ONE Championship outing has been “my overall game” but lists one specific improvement she has made,

“One thing I was struggling with was stitching everything together and that’s something we’ve really developed and the second biggest thing is just being smarter, being more tactical. You can have all the skills but if you don’t have a solid plan you aren’t going to be as effective.”

Really excited

However she also acknowledges that it is a step into the unknown because so much of her training has been one on one. Without a regular stream of sparring partners from different backgrounds it is difficult to gauge just how good you are.

Sovannahry will get some answers at ONE: ‘Unbreakable’ Part II and she is excited to see what they are,

“I’m really excited because I have this opportunity to test my skills. I’ve only had one person to train with over the last ten months but I think that I’ve improved a ton and this is an opportunity to put my skills to the test.”