There aren't many fighters who aren't world beaters that fans can get behind. In these fickle days, especially recently where we saw the tides magically turn on MMA fighter Fedor Emelianenko for racking up the third loss in his storied career, the second in a row, and fans decided he could not be the Greatest of All Time, because right now he isn't the greatest competing. That sort of logic boggle the mind, as being an all-time great is not something that can magically be diminished at the twilight of one's career when they suffer a few losses that should push them into retirement. If Fedor goes on a 5-fight losing streak to lesser fighters, maybe we can have this discussion.
Anyway.This weekend in Japan there was a J-Network kickboxing show, and one of the names on the card was none other than Fire Harada. If you don't know who Fire Harada is, think back to the K-1 -63kgs Grand Prix. Harada was by far the underdog of the whole thing, he came in with a distinct lack of skill but a burning passion and a perennial underdog attitude. He discussed his love for professional wrestling, especially Super Delphin, formerly of Michinoku Pro, then Osaka Pro more recently. That was his hero. Well, going into this fight this weekend, Fire Harada had spoken with a few news outlets about possible retirement.
J-Network has a UStream account now, and the fight is on there. I urge you, to watch this, in awe, and understand how it is impossible to not become absolutely enamored with Fire Harada and wish he could fight forever. [source]
It has been a slow time of the year for news regarding K-1, at least in the way of positive K-1 news. Amidst all of the turmoil, it is still uncertain if we'll see a K-1 World Grand Prix this year. With that sort of uncertainty, I feel like it is time to take a look back at what made K-1 just so great and loved by many fans. The K-1 World Grand Prix began in 1993 and has stretched on, yearly, until 2010, and in those years we saw stars built and saw them live out the remainder of their careers in that tournament.
Everyone who watches highlight reels knows that for MMA, it is hard to beat LayzietheSavage, but the world of kickboxing has a new hero who has emerged over the past year or so, and that is user StillWill. You might know him as the guy who won all of the awesome It's Showtime gear in our recent contest, or the guy who did the awesome Badr Hari and Melvin Manhoef tribute vids. Well, he is back, and the latest video is a Godkhan Saki video.
If you aren't familiar with Gokhan Saki, this video gives you and up close and personal view of just how incredible "The Rebel" is and why we are all huge fans of him. [source]
Last night at UFC 126 we were all given the chance to see a great, legendary knockout by UFC Middleweight ChampionAnderson "The Spider" Silva. Anderson was able to get some distance on Vitor Belfort after a flurry and scramble and absolutely finish Vitor off with a front kick that will go down in history as one of the most out of nowhere knockouts in MMA history. Joe Rogan went on to say that he has never seen a front kick KO in any sport, and I humbly tossed my hat into the ring immediately on Twitter pointing out that K-1 MAX 2005 Japan Champion, Taishin Kohiruimaki (also known as Takayuki Kohiruimaki) is the exception to that rule.
While I'm sure that Joe Rogan knows that, as Rogan is a diehard fan of K-1, and part of his job as a UFC commentator is to sell the brand and the action happening in the ring, watch one of the other incredible front kick KOs in the history of combat sports as Taishin Kohiruimaki faces Akeomi Nitta in the MAX Japan 2005 finals. Much like with last night's kick by Anderson, this kick comes out of nowhere, and usually the front high kick is not known as a murderous blow, but I remember watching this in 2005 and jumping out of my chair, so excited to see such an amazing KO.
The -63kgs division in Japan is smoking hot right now, and since K-1 introduced the division last year and ran the K-1 -63kgs tournament, the eyes of the world have slowly turned towards Japan's -63kgs division. Of course, it has always been there, but sometimes it just takes people a while to come around to good things that are a bit hidden.
One of Japan's standouts, Koya Urabe, has been on a bit of a roll in the past year and a half, so enter KRUSH from January 9th, as Koya Urabe squares off with Son Hyun-Lee in the first round of KRUSH's -63kgs tournament. Basically, watch as Urabe and Lee beat the snot out of each other for nearly 15 minutes and be in awe. Check out redrum7171's YouTube channel for a bunch of awesome videos from K-1 and other kickboxing promotions in Japan.
On Saturday December 5th, 2009 at the Yokohama Arena in Yokohama, Japan, one of the pivotal matches in K-1 history occured. A match that will be talked about and referenced for many years to come. Normally, a fight of this magnitude involves long-standing legends of the sport. Fighters such as Peter Aerts, Ernesto Hoost, Mike Bernardo or the late great Andy Hug. But not this one. This battle would be between a young gun by the name of Badr Hari and an outsider. A fighter known in other areas of the combat sports world that sought to add a K-1 title to his resume. While this fight could have been just another in the long history of kickboxing, it quickly became so much more.
2010 was a rough year for K-1 MAX. Three of the division's very top stars fought their (for now) last MAX fights in 2009, including Masato, the man MAX had been built around from the start. Shows were planned, then canceled. Only two qualifying Grand Prixs were held, and one of those 2 never aired. Half of the Final 16 fights were shoved onto the 63kg GP finals almost as an afterthought, and at one time, there were rumors that the 2010 MAX Grand Prix might not even happen. Fans of MAX were looking at the year as somewhat of a disaster.
That changed on October 3. Amidst all this chaos and confusion, the MAX Final 16 event in Seoul was a grand slam of an event - an all around fantastic card with every fight delivering. The next day, no one was talking about how K-1 MAX was struggling. Instead, they were talking about what a show it was. And they were talking about one fight.
That fight is your 2010 LiverKick.com Fans' Fight of the Year - "Iron" Mike Zambidis vs. Chahid Oulad El Hadj.
Coming into the event, this was a fight that on paper looked like it could be a good one. Both Zambidis and Chahid are exciting fighters who like to push the pace and have turned in plenty of fun bouts. But they are also two men whose presence in the Final 16 was questionable, as neither had claimed a significant K-1 win in some time. From the moment the two men meet in center ring for the staredown, any concerns about them not belonging flew out the window. Because right from the opening, you can tell this is going to be something special. Both men looked hungry, out for redemption, and just plain pissed off. They looked ready to tear into each other. And that's exactly what they did.
For four epic rounds, Zambidis and Chahid engaged in an all out war. By the end of the 3rd, the announcers are all on their feet waiting for the judges' decision. By the end of the 4th, fans are already writing their friends telling them what they just saw. And by the next morning, all the focus was on this classic.
Watching it now, I'm reminded of another all-time K-1 great contest - Ray Sefo vs. Mark Hunt (and if you've never seen that, watch it, seriously, now). Like Sefo vs. Hunt, this is a fight that doesn't need any backstory. It's a moment that stands on its own, where even if you've never heard of either man, the combination of heart, determination, technique, and aggression they show is enough to grab you. At a time in combat sports where the UFC is the clear top dog, and where Dana White's love of wild stand-up brawling has come to define how many fans view stand-up action, this fight is a definitive example of what stand-up can be. Yes it's a brawl, but it's also two supremely skilled fighters never losing track of the technique needed to fight at this level. It's a fight every fan of Griffin vs. Bonnar, Garcia vs. The Korean Zombie, or countless other recent fights really owes it to themselves to watch.
Chances are good you've already seen this fight, probably more than once. But as we say our final good-byes to 2010, do yourself a favor and watch it once more. You'll thank yourself later.
A big thanks to all our fans who voted in this poll. In the end, Zambidis vs. Chahid was the clear winner, drawing 34% of the vote. #2 and #3 were only separated by a handful of votes, with the sentimental favorite Peter Aerts vs. Semmy Schilt at #2, and the battle of the new guard in Gokhan Saki vs. Daniel Ghita at #3. For full results, click here, and don't forget to vote on our new polls every week here at LiverKick.com.
Manhoef and Saki are monsters in the ring. They both bring a unique brand of intensity to their contests and whoever thought of matching these two against each other was responsible for an act of minor genius. Who wouldn't want to see two knockout artists, both capable of powerful, flowing, knockout combinations, go to work on each other?
At the time, Manhoef was a slightly more established name than Saki, though the latter's name was on the rise. Manhoef was known in kickboxing circles for his trilogy with Remy Bonjasky, and was also responsible for one of the most violent knockouts in K-1 history in his 2007 match with Ruslan Karaev. Rather frighteningly, every one of his kickboxing victories is a knockout or stoppage of some sort. His record speaks to spotty defense, however, and most of his losses have also come by stoppages, making a Manhoef match an unpredictable affair.
Gokhan Saki's first win over a major name in K-1 was against Alexei Ignashov in 2006. Since then, he's really come into his own as a smaller fighter in the super heavyweight division. He's beaten Paul Slowinski, Ruslan Karaev, Ray Sefo, and Tyrone Spong since then. 2010 saw him put on his best performances yet, with a swift destruction of Freddy Kemayo and a four round war against Daniel Ghita.
Were the two to rematch now, Saki would be a heavy favorite, but at the time of this match, it was a much closer contest, especially since they were fully capable of KOing each other. Saki wears the blue gloves in the bout, Manhoef the red. Note that, even though Saki is already small for a K-1 super heavy, he still carries about 20 lb over Manhoef and stands 3 inches taller.
By the 2005 K-1 MAX Final, referees were more consistent in enforcing the one-strike per clinch rule by breaking clinches and issuing warnings and yellow cards. Fighters found inventive ways to circumvent the rules, however, or ignore them altogether, choosing to hazard a warning. After this World Grand Prix, clinch rules became more restrictive.
This was Alistair Overeem's debut K-1 WGP Final, and he was something of an unknown factor in K-1. He had obvious potential, but really was riding on the fame of his first performance against Badr Hari.
Ewerton Teixeira, too, was rather new in K-1. Like Overeem, most of his combat sports experience lay outside K-1, though he came from Kyokushin Karate circuits, while Overeem competed in MMA. Watch for the ways in which their styles contrast, especially in how they respond to being in clinch range. Overeem wears the red gloves, Teixeira the blue.
Kem and Sudsakorn are facing off a second time this January 15th as part of the Isuzu 67 kg Tournament. This post profiles their previous match-up in 2009.
Their January 15th bout is one of the most pivotal in the ongoing tournament, since both are strong contenders to win the finals. Prior to entering the tournament, both fighters were performing at a high level against foreign and Thai competition under K-1 and Muay Thai rules.
Kem was originally slated to participate in the Contender Asia season 2 as Khem Fairtex, but the show fell through and he joined Sitsongpeenong camp. Moving up from 63.5 kg, 140 lb, due to a lack of competition, he notched big wins over BigBen Chor Praram 6, Nopparat Keatkhamtorn, Singhmanee Sor Srisompong, and Diesellek King Boxing Gym, all former or current champions at the time of competition. He's dropped bouts in K-1 rules against Giorgio Petrosian and Rachid Belaini. He now fights from 147 lb to 154 lb.
Sudsakorn saw strong wins in Thailand over top fighters in the 63.5 kg, 140 lb division. He beat Kongfah Audonmuang, the Lumpini 140 lb champion, and Noppadet Chengsimew Gym, after losing to both fighters in earlier matches. He also fights in the range of 147 to 154 lb internationally and has wins over Andrei Kulebin and Chahid Oulad El Hadj. He drew with Moussa Konate and lost a match against Fabio Pinca, winner of the last Thai Fight tournament.
This fight was contested at Lumpini Stadium in Bangkok, with Kem giving up weight to Sudsakorn to make the match more even. Kemwears the red gloves and shorts, Sudsakorn the blue.