2012 was another year in kickboxing that wasn't "traditional" of the sport's nature so to say, being that for the second year in a row there was no K-1 World Grand Prix for heavyweights and in general despite K-1 being around, it pales in comparison to the K-1 of old. Usually that's where fighters would break out and make themselves known but now in kickboxing there are and in the last year were a number of different avenues for fighters to do so. I'll profile the fighters that really made a name for themselves in 2012.
While Groenhart has been fighting on It's Showtime cards for quite a while now, there's really nothing better than winning a K-1 MAX tournament in terms of getting your name out there and remembered. Murthel has fought around all over the place in weight and even did so in 2012, but has finally established himself as a top fighter at one weight class, with that being 70kg. He went 6-0 in 2012, with wins over the likes of Artur Kyshenko, Mike Zambidis at 70kg and Marc de Bonte all the way up at 79kg, finally finding consistency on his record. Now of course, he's thought of as a major player at 70kg, having fully established himself as such. With 2013 comes a plethora of potential match-ups, no matter what weight class they be at, for the product of Mike's Gym.
In my eyes, you don't have to win 100% of your fights in one year to be a breakout fighter. In 2012, Andy Ristie won all but one of his fights, with the lone loss coming to Andy Souwer recently at the K-1 MAX Finals on December 15. I'm putting Andy Ristie on this list because let's face it, despite a few appearances on It's Showtime events in 2011, a lot of fans didn't know Andy Ristie before this year, and surely a lot of them didn't think of him as a major player at 70kg before this year as well. It all started back in January when he demolished Hinata in the first round, and then continued to do the exact same thing to the rest of his opponents over the course of the year, culminating in another first round destruction of Hinata at the S-Cup in November, before eventually losing to Souwer. Needless to say, 2012 was a year where Andy Ristie made his mark on kickboxing and established his name as a fighter to watch at 70kg.
Look, it's no coincidence that most of 2012's breakout fighters are at 70kg, seeing as it's the deepest division in kickboxing and the second most popular one, behind heavyweight. In 2012, the 70kg tournaments of GLORY and K-1 had a number of "new" names, in terms of fighters who had not been featured on the big stage before. These fighters included ones who greatly exceeded expectations, and Davit Kiria is one of them. Kiria had been featured on GLORY, or United Glory at the time, shows before in losing efforts to Robin van Roosmalen and Nieky Holzken. When he replaced Cosmo Alexandre to fight Kem Sitsongpeenong at GLORY's First 16 on May 26, everyone was already penciling in a win for Kem. Kiria shocked everyone in not only defeating Kem but dropping him in the process, and then went on to defeat Shemsi Beqiri at the GLORY Final 8 in November before ultimately losing to Giorgio Petrosyan in the semi-finals. Fast forward to the present and he is most definitely seen as a legitimate fighter at 70kg, as opposed to a guy who might've been once thought of as being used to fill up card space.
Just like Davit Kiria, heading into GLORY's First 16 in Stockholm, many were chalking up the inclusion of Sanny Dahlbeck to the fact that he was the hometown fighter and a fighter with GLORY's co-promoter for the event, Rumble of the Kings. The 21 year old put an end to those notions in one fight with a dominant performance over Warren Stevelmans. Then at the GLORY Final 8 after Albert Kraus had pulled out, he did something that only three others have done, in stopping Yoshihiro Sato. He would get stopped against Robin van Roosmalen in his next fight but not without a valiant effort before that, troubling the Dutch fighter with his strikes from the outside. At just 21 years old, the future looks incredibly bright for Sanny Dahlbeck, who before this year was essentially a complete unknown in kickboxing.
Jamal Ben Saddik
A late addition to the list here, but definitely deserved as Jamal Ben Saddik made it all the way to the semi-finals of the GLORY Grand Slam tournament, defeating big names in Errol Zimmerman and Remy Bonjasky on the way there. There have been a lot of people that didn't think much of him simply because of his physical appearance but now it's undeniable that he belongs in a tournament field such as the Grand Slam. What's even more is that no one seemed to have remembered, or maybe just not even paid attention at the time, that he had lost his previous fight at GLORY 2 Brussels to Jahfarr Wilnis in October. Even the loss to Daniel Ghita in the semi-finals certainly won't diminish his stock. With 2013 having started, the difference is now that Jamal Ben Saddik isn't some random big guy on a GLORY show anymore and he's here to stay with some legitimate wins under his belt.