The only foreign fighters billed on the card, Cajaiba and Collins drew the limelight in the run-up to the world title bout with Thai media eagerly assessing the two fighters whose styles are very familiar among Thai fight fans given their presence on the big stage in recent years.
The event, broadcast live on Thai national television Channel 5, was put on through a collaboration between French promoter Prestige Fight and Phuket’s Petchnumnoi Promotions. Both Cajaiba and Collins live and train in Phuket, albeit on opposite ends of the island with Cajaiba representing Phuket Fight Club in Chalong down south, and Collins fighting out of Revolution Muay Thai in Bang Tao up in the north.
The Lumpinee Stadium welterweight title was initially at stake when the fight was announced but was withdrawn and replaced with the WBC Muaythai strap.
With dreams at stake and the likes of pound-for-pound boxing king Vasiliy Lomachenko in the stands, the fighters went about the first two rounds meticulously, sizing each other up, testing ranges and reactions. Collins, nonetheless, put on a show as expected, wiggling his hips, smiling and making gestures to entice the reserved Brazilian. However, Cajaiba stood firm, hands high and defences tight throughout the bout. Mutual respect between the two was evident.
Towards the end of the second round, the fighters engaged, showing hints of aggression as they locked into a fierce clinch that only the bell could separate. The agenda was set for the third.
As the bell rang for round three, Collins, known to be a front-footed fighter, went straight forward on the attack forcing Cajaiba to clinch. Knees were flying in before stalemate forced the referee to break them up. Clinches dominated the round with the odd exchange of kicks and punches, and both fighters were wary of each other’s power and accuracy, not to mention what was on the line.
The fourth round saw Collins press forward on the bell, finding success in the clinch before Cajaiba, visibly the bigger man, wrestled him down. Elbows were thrown from all angles but both fighters managed to avoid damage. Collins worked his way inside as Cajaiba kept a tight guard and countered, and at times the Brazilian pushed forward forcing Collins back.
As the intense round approached the bell, relative calm ensued.
With only one round remaining, very little separated the two. Collins landed body shots early and Cajaiba was determined to tie him up. Knees were thrown from left and right heating up the crowd. Still little separated the two. As Cajaiba began to retreat to the ropes halfway through the round, Collins walked to the other side of the ring, hands in the air, smiling.
Cajaiba looked over to his corner and went forward but neither looked keen to engage, assuming victory. The remaining 90 seconds saw very little exchanged as both fighters seemed confident they had done enough to win, hands in the air, parading around the ring.
When the final bell rang, both fighters looked confident. Both celebrated despite a truly close battle. A long wait preceded the decision as the belt was taken up to the ring and the award ceremony was prepared.
All three judges scored the bout 49-48 in favour of the Brazilian, thus crowning him the new WBC Muaythai welterweight world champion.
In the end, it came down to the execution of game plans between two very technical, world-class fighters. As Collins wrote after the fight, it was a “chess match”; one in which Cajaiba’s strength in the clinch may have proved pivotal.