A few months ago the thought of K-1 running a show past the -63kg MAX Japan tournament seemed unlikely, never mind the thought of running a full K-1 World Grand Prix. The K-1 World Grand Prix is the top combat sports tournament that has run yearly since 1993, the cream of the crop. The K-1 World Grand Prix Finals is usually the one combat sports event of the year that is can't miss with nothing but action and high drama to keep you on the edge of your seat. A lot of us had resigned ourselves to the thought of having to exist in a world where the K-1 World Grand Prix was just an afterthought, but the rumors continue to grow and today Daniel Ghita posted on his Facebook wall a formal explanation as for why he won't be fighting Badr Hari for It's Showtime in September; he's been invited to the K-1 World Grand Prix Final 16 in China.
That, coming alongside a few other rumors makes a strong case for there being a World Grand Prix this year, so it is never too early to speculate on who will round out the Final 16 this year. If they play by the rules of past years, the Final 8 from 2010 will make a return appearance, which means we can look forward to; Mighty Mo, Peter Aerts, Semmy Schilt, Kyotaro, Gokhan Saki, Daniel Ghita, Tyrone Spong, and the recently-released from the Zuffa stronghold Alistair Overeem. Out of the 8 listed above, there are question marks for a few of them, namely Mighty Mo, who has suffered a few devastating losses since the K-1 World Grand Prix and should be considering retirement, and Peter Aerts who went on record stating that 2010 would be his last World Grand Prix. Of course, this is combat sports, so chances are Mr. K-1 isn't done yet.
So now the real question is, who will help round out the K-1 World Grand Prix Final 16?
This is really a no brainer. Badr Hari was a Finalist in both 2008 and 2009, and his absence in 2010 was simply due to legal issues. Hari was set to face off with Daniel Ghita in September and could easily translate into a fight that happens in the world Grand Prix. Badr is easily primed to take the tournament by storm and is an easy pick to enter the tournament.
Hesdy Gerges has to be one of the most unlucky guys in his K-1 career, drawing Semmy Schilt not once but twice as an opponent. In the Final 16 he was unfortunate enough to meet the four-time champion and put up a great fight against him, ultimately losing a decision. The battle with Daniel Ghita in March has been the most substantial Heavyweight contest to date in 2011 and Gerges walked away the better man, expect him to be in the Final 16.
|Jerome Le Banner||
JLB is another living, competing legend who has been keeping himself active in Japan by participating in IGF Pro Wrestling shows with the likes of Ray Sefo, Josh Barnett and Bobby Lashley. JLB is still a household name in Japan and can still go, while he has made disparaging remarks about K-1 and never fighting for them again, being paid what he is owed can help mend some fences. JLB is always a great addition to the K-1 field.
The Bonecrusher. After some spotty performances in 2010, Zimmerman has stepped it up again in 2011 with two big wins in impressive fashion. Seeing as though he has been a part of the World Grand Prix for the past few years, Zimmerman is also a safe bet.
Freddy Kemayo is a guy that just won't stop. He has had a few setbacks over the past few years, but he continues to march forward and has picked up 3 impressive wins this year, with two brutal KOs to his credit. His only possible hangup could be scheduling of Fight Code's Rhinos tournament, which he is involved in.
Ray Sefo is making a name for himself all over again, as he is being introduced to the UFC crowd, first with his Strikeforce fights and now for helping fighters like Vitor Belfort train. Sefo is a huge name in K-1 and as long as they backpay his $700,000 he is owed, I'm sure he'd be happy to get another crack at the crown.
He remains active in Kyokushin tournaments, coming in fifth place in the All American Open Karate Championships this year, but does not kickbox outside of K-1. Seeing as though he had two years of poor performances, he could be invited back, but I would not be surprised if we saw him replaced by a younger, European fighter.
Edwards showed a lot of heart against Alistair Overeem last year, and since then has learned a lot. In the realm of kickboxing in 2011 he put a hurting on Carter Williams and absolutely brutalized Mighty Mo with a knee strike. Ben Edwards deserves another shot at the top.
This is a darkhorse pick, but if K-1 is serious about America as the rumors are saying, they need an American Hero, and Mark Miller's insane comeback story was ripped out of a film. Miller is training with Golden Glory now, who have backed him very strongly, looking to push him as Golden Glory's American fighter. It would be a pleasant surprise to see Mark get a run at the top.
|Sergei Kharitonov||Sergei has had mixed results in K-1, but is extremely popular due to his MMA career. He has been training kickboxing with the best in the world and could make another fine addition to the K-1 World Grand Prix|
Dave Walsh has been covering MMA and Kickboxing since 2007 before changing his focus solely to Kickboxing in 2009, launching what was the only English-language site dedicated to giving Kickboxing similar coverage to what MMA receives. He was the co-founder of HeadKickLegend and now LiverKick. He resides in Albuquerque, New Mexico where he works as a writer of all trades.
His second novel, Terminus Cycle, launches on March 24th.