Ritu Phogat to fight Jenelyn Olsim after Itsuki Hirata withdrawal

Ritu Phogat is now just two wins away from a shot at the title at One Championship. Money Sharma/AFP via Getty Images

Ritu Phogat has been dealt a curveball in her bid to earn a shot at the ONE championship atomweight title following the withdrawal of her opponent Itsuki Hirata four days before the two were to compete in the semifinals of the atomweight grand prix in Singapore on Friday. Four fighters remain in the grand prix, the winner of which will earn the right to take on reigning Champion Angela Lee for a title fight.

It is learned that Hirata (5-0), who pulled out owing to an illness, has been replaced on short notice by Filipino fighter Jenelyn Olsim (5-2) for Friday's encounter in which Phogat will be the co-main event for the first time in her career. While on paper Olsim has a poorer record than the unbeaten Hirata, she is coming off a two-match winning streak against Maira Mazar and Bi Nguyen - the latter a fighter who had beaten Phogat earlier this year.

While the Indian, who now holds a 6-1 record -- had recovered from that defeat with a two-bout streak of her own - including most recently beating top contender Meng Bo of China, she will now have to rework her strategy against a very different kind of fighter.

While Phogat was preparing for a grappling heavy matchup against Hirata, Olsim is known to rely heavily on her striking. At 161cm tall, she also enjoys a 5 cm reach advantage over Phogat, which means the Indian will have to brave Olsim's punches if she is too shoot for a takedown. Phogat struggled in this sort of stylistic clash in a previous encounter with Bi Nguyen - a fight she lost by split decision.

But Phogat would be confident of pulling off the victory considering the way she had performed in her previous fight against Bo. Much like in Friday's fight against Olsim, Phogat, a two-time junior world silver medallist in wrestling, had a reach disadvantage against Bo, who had stopped five of her previous six opponents and who prior to the fight had said she would look to knock out the Indian. Phogat took heavy punches early but recovered to close out a unanimous decision victory after three rounds. ""When we beat a good fighter, we get confidence. Meng Bo was a really good fighter. She is the number 2 contender. I learned a lot and got a lot more experience. I'm ready for whoever I have to face in the next round. I'm ready for the next challenge," Phogat had said after that bout.

Should Phogat beat Olsim she would be one step closer to her ultimate goal of winning a title at ONE Championship, an ambition she has been chasing for the last couple of years.