|12.||Jerome Le Banner|
Welcome to the first edition of our LiverKick.com rankings. These rankings are an attempt to break down the top 25 fighters in two different weight classes - Heavyweight, for fighters above the 77kg limit, and Middleweight, for fighters at the 70-72.5kg limit. We'll be posting rankings on roughly a quarterly basis, with the inaugural Middleweight rankings out tomorrow. Before we discuss, I want to stress that all rankings are inherently subjective, and are sure to ruffle a few feathers. To be clear, our rankings are based on in-ring accomplishments and recent wins and loses, and as such, we hope they reflect where these fighters currently stand.
The biggest talking point here is likely the ascension of a new #1. Alistair Overeem, with only 14 pro kickboxing fights to his credit, rises to the top spot by becoming the 8th man to win the K-1 Grand Prix crown. Always a subject of controversy, many fans still view him as an outsider to kickboxing, and can't fathom The Reem as the #1 man. But with wins over Saki, Aerts, Hari, Teixeira and Spong, plus the GP victory, it's hard to place him elsewhere. Beyond that, there's also the question that if Overeem is not #1 - who is?
Also making a huge move up the ladder is Peter Aerts. Aerts looked like his time near the top was at an end just a few months ago, but with a history making win over Semmy Schilt, Aerts moves into the #2 spot. Glad to see the Dutch Lumberjack there one more time.
A few fighters are near the point of being removed from rankings due to inactivity - most notably #4 Remy Bonjasky. Bonjasky has not fought in over a year, and may have one last fight in him before retirement. If he doesn't announce another fight soon, it will be hard to keep him ranked. It's a similar case with the often unreliable #16 Ruslan Karaev, who likewise has not competed since the 2009 GP Finals. Finally, #15 Ashwin Balrak may be dropped out of the rankings, as his next few years could be spent behind bars after his 2010 cocaine bust.
Looking ahead, there are not a huge number of big heavyweight fights currently announced, which is always the case as the year ends. A few cards are worth noting though.
At Dynamite!! on Dec. 31, #7 Kyotaro will face Gegard Mousasi under K-1 rules. Also competing on that card are Overeem and #12 Jerome Le Banner, though both fights are under MMA rules.
January 30 marks the 2nd round in the Ultimate Glory world series event. This round of 4 includes #6 Gokhan Saki v. Wendell Roche, and #18 Brice Guidon v. #21 Mourad Bouzidi, with the winners meeting at the April 21 finals.
Finally, It's Showtime heavyweight champion #10 Hesdy Gerges has a busy time ahead of him. He faces #9 Daniel Ghita on March 6 in an absolute blockbuster of a fight, and Alexey Ignashov on July 3. That Gerges v. Ghita bout could be the biggest heavyweight fight of the next 6 months, though it could see some competition from the It's Showtime/K-1 Qualifying Grand Prix event on May 21 - no names yet announced for that show, but expect some big fights.
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, is available now via Kindle and Paperback.