ONE’s reigning flyweight submission grappling champion Mikey Musumeci was heavily favored entering his title defense against Mongolian combat sambo star Gantumur Bayanduuren – and while a victory by “Darth Rigatoni” seemed almost an inevitability, Bayanduuren displayed a shocking refusal to tap to multiple fully-locked leg attacks.
Musumeci pulled guard immediately. While Bayanduuren attempted to take control of the situation by forcing the champion up against the cage – prompting the referee to stand both athletes back up – as soon as the bout hit the ground again, Musumeci entered a leg entanglement, catching his patented Mikey lock. When a visibly wincing Bayanduuren mounted a desperate defense, Musumeci transitioned through several other attacks on that same leg, including knee bars and heel hooks, none of which the Mongolian seemed willing to tap to.
In the final minutes of the bout, Musumeci took the back of the sambo star, attempting both a calf slicer and a rear-naked choke, before time was called. Ultimately, Musumeci’s obvious control of almost all ten minutes of the bout still won him his belt – but he looked visibly disappointed, and more than a little surprised at the Mongolian’s unwillingness to tap out.
Bayanduuren, however, may have paid the price for his stubbornness; the Mongolian was seen limping gingerly across the canvas after the bout, clearly favoring the leg that Darth Rigatoni had attacked.
“His leg popped like twenty times,” Musumeci confirmed in a post-fight interview on the canvas. “I never felt someone’s leg explode like that, but he didn’t tap, so the fight kept going.”
When asked why he didn’t switch things up sooner, Musumeci explained, “His leg kept popping, so I felt like, ‘How do I let go of a submission that keeps popping?’”
In a post-fight press conference, Musumeci expressed both frustration at being put in a position where he was forced to injure his opponent, and admiration for Bayanduuren’s spirit. “I really wish he tapped,” said the champion. “The result didn’t change, and now he’s in the hospital. But what a warrior, for showing his will.”
“When I compete, I don’t want to hurt anyone. I want them to train tomorrow,” he added. It was an ironic situation in some ways: according to Musumeci, in over twenty years of training, he’s never broken someone’s leg so thoroughly – but he’s also never experienced an opponent who wouldn’t tap to that level of damage. “I’m nauseous, thinking about it,” admitted Musumeci.
If he were to turn back time, how might he have approached the match differently? The champion’s answer was immediate: “I’d just take his back and put him to sleep.”