Welcome to the first installment of “Best Lethwei Fights,” a series that looks in-depth at the ancient sport’s greatest bouts.
UFC 251: Usman vs. Masvidal is this weekend!
Three title fights are scheduled for UFC Fight Island on Saturday, July 11. Order the PPV now on ESPN+.
Of course, any series like this is subjective. However, we have conducted detailed research into each chosen fight and will include various reasons to why it has been selected. The organization, popularity of the fighters involved, and year will not play a factor, nonetheless, if you have suggestions for future installments, please leave a comment.
The first fight of our series is Dave Leduc vs. Tun Tun Min 1.
Before the Fight
On October 9, 2016, Tun Tun Min was set to defend his openweight Lethwei world championship against French-Canadian Dave Leduc in Yangon, Myanmar.
At the time, Tun Tun Min was the most feared man in Lethwei. The Burmese fighter had knocked out 11 fighters in the space of a year prior to his bout with Leduc. Despite being the champion, it was Min himself who challenged the foreigner after witnessing his astonishing debut, an act which was common in ancient times; Leduc’s debut came two months before his championship opportunity, where he faced undefeated 75kg champion Too Too. Although the fight was declared a draw, the Canadian’s dominating performance garnered the respect of Myanmar and its people, which was enough to convince the champion to challenge him.
Fast forward back to October of that year and the fight was set under traditional Lethwei rules.
Dave Leduc vs. Tun Tun Min
The champion, Tun Tun Min, entered the fight with a record of 43 wins, 10 draws, and 1 loss. He became the youngest ever openweight Lethwei champion at the age of 21 and was the heavy favorite heading into his scheduled title defense with Leduc. As the champion made his way through the crowd of spectators and into the ring, the fans in the Thein Phyu Stadium roared. Their national hero was about to go to war.
Surprising to many, Dave Leduc received a similar reception, with the majority of the crowd putting their hands together for the fierce and gallant challenger.
As the noise grew louder, the fighters began their pre-fight Lethwei Yay – a traditional fight dance. It happens before the fight by both competitors and as a victory dance afterward.
Tun Tun Min started the fight aggressively by pressurizing the challenger. Within 90 seconds Leduc was on the canvas after eating a sharp right hand, and the crowd erupted. He bounced back up and began firing off teep kicks to the champion’s legs and body to keep him at range. As the first round came to a close, it was clear that the champion had gathered more momentum.
The second round started as ferocious as the first, as Min yet again came out aggressive. He connected with a solid right hand, knocking the Canadian down for the second time. The Burmese fighter was relentless with his leg kicks, resembling a lumberjack chopping down a tree. Just as the champion was getting comfortable, Dave Leduc returned fire with a perfectly executed spinning elbow, sending his adversary to the ground.
It was clear that momentum was beginning to shift, as the challenger was successfully countering the champion. Min, who was the smaller man, recognized that he getting tagged on the outside, and had to find a way to close the distance. He began to throw flying kicks and increase the use of leg kicks, both of which caught his opponent off guard. However, Leduc adjusted to this and was able to knock the champion down once again.
In the fourth round, both warriors signaled for more by performing the Lekkha Moun; this is a symbol for challenging your opponent respectively and with honor. Competitors can perform it at any point during the bout as it is seen as an invitation to fight, which showcases your manhood. It is performed by putting your left hand under your right armpit and clapping three times with your other hand, shaped like a cup, into the triangle-shape in your elbow. Min and Leduc acknowledged the signal and continued going to war each other, with the challenger hurling leg kicks of his own. Each man was throwing efficient counters at one another, putting their pride on the line with every strike.
By the fifth and final round, each participant had given it their all, but fatigue wasn’t enough to stop the challenger. Leduc performed another Lekkha Moun, elevating the noise within the Thein Phyu Stadium. A noticeably tired Tun Tun Min was slowly but surely drowning in Leduc’s pressure: the Canadian picked up the pace, and threw elbows from close range which stunned the champion; his teep kicks controlled any form of retaliation Min was preparing. The instant classic ended with one final Lekkha Moun from both fighters, resulting in one ultimate applause from the audience. The champion and the challenger embraced after the final bell, showing considerable respect for one another.
As the fight lasted the full 15 minutes and it was contested under traditional Lethwei rules, it was declared a draw.
Although no man walked away victorious, Tun Tun Min was still the openweight Lethwei world champion. Due to the fight being closely contested and ending as a draw, both men were scheduled to meet again in December 2016 under the promotion Air KBZ.
Stay tuned for the breakdown of the rematch between Dave Leduc and Tun Tun Min.
Steven specialises in MMA and Lethwei. He loves a good 1-2 down the middle.