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Dave Walsh

Dave Walsh

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.

Dave (a) LiverKick dot com | @dvewlsh

Website URL: http://www.dvewlsh.com

What Could Have Been - The Cautionary Tale of Alexey Ignashov

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Fame, like many things in life, has its pros and cons. It can be a blessing and a curse; bringing opportunities into ones life that they otherwise would never have had. It's up to that individual to dictate where a lifestyle of fortune takes them. Often times, that task is too heavy for one to bear and tragedy soon follows. No one knows that better than Alexey Ignashov.

Alexey was born in Minsk, Belarus on January 18th, 1978. He developed a passion for combat sports early in life. Muay Thai is where the Belarusian would get his start. Training at Chinuk Gym, The Red Scorpion, as his fans call him, would go on to win two Muay Thai titles in less than a year, defeating future K-1 legend Remy Bonjasky, in the process. It was clear that Ignashov had the talent to compete at an even higher level as he soon moved to K-1 to try his hand at fighting the worlds best kickboxers.

Picking right up where he left off, Alexey was the victor in his first three fights in K-1 and in the process, won the K-1 Belarus 2000 Grand Prix which qualified him for the World Grand Prix in Yokohama. Alexey would lose to Matt Skelton in the quarterfinals but it was apparent that a star was quickly rising on the global kickboxing scene.

Between 2000 - 2004, Alexey would go on to defeat such K-1 luminaries as Peter Aerts, Badr Hari, Semmy Schilt, Mike Bernardo, and Paul Slowinski, among others. Quite an accomplishment for the young Ignashov. With this amount of success comes great acclaim and all that goes with it. Alexey took full advantage.

Partying and alcohol abuse replaced time in the gym for Ignashov, triggering a downward spiral in his career. Alexey would lose four straight fights in 2005, failing to qualify for the prestigious K-1 World Grand Prix in the process. His lack of dedication was apparent. Ignashov was now the victim of fighters that were climbing the ladder of the K-1 world. A stark contrast to where he was just two years earlier.

Though he made it to the semifinals in the K-1 Amsterdam 2006 Grand Prix, Alexey would go on to lose to Turkish superstar, Gokhan Saki. A blow to the psyche of the fragile fighter.

Ignashov would toil in smaller promotions for the next three years. During this time, Alexey transplanted himself to Auckland, New Zealand to train at Balmoral Lee Gar Gym under Lollo Heimuli. It was then that he would become sober and work on returning himself to the prominence he once enjoyed - even though it must have seemed like so long ago that he was there.

After preparing himself to the point where he felt ready to enter the K-1 ring once again, Alexey approached K-1 president, Sadaharu Tanikawa to give him his shot. Tanikawa was hesitant but granted him the chance at one more go around.

Not drawing the easiest of fighters, Ignashov was given a fight with K-1 superstar Badr Hari on April 3rd, 2010 at the K-1 Yokohama Grand Prix. You could tell that Alexey had been out of the spotlight for many years as he looked sluggish and unambitious while Badr Hari took the unanimous decision win.

Some thought that we had seen the last of The Red Scorpion but he found himself in the K-1 Bucharest Grand Prix a month later. Scoring a knockout win over Mindaugas Sakalauskas and a decision win over Freddy Kemayo, it looked like Ignashov was going to finally return to the dominant fighter of old. But it was not to be - Alexey was injured during his fight with Kemayo and could not continue. Another setback.

It's hard to know if Alexey will ever return to being the superstar fighter of his youth. At 32, he is certainly young enough to continue fighting for years to come but it's more than age that determines your success as a fighter - it's winning the mental game. It looks as though Alexey has won the battle over alcohol and the vices of this world. Now, he must win the battle over self-doubt and be willing to stand at the bottom of the mountain and work his way back to the top.

The 2011 K-1 Season: Middleweights (MAX)

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Can Anyone Stop Petrosyan?The past two years in K-1 MAX have been transformation years for the K-1 MAX division. In 2009 an Italian fighter by the name of Giorgio Petrosyan looked poised to take the whole tournament, Japanese ace Masato decided not to participate in the World MAX tournament and instead announced he would retire by the end of the year. Yuya Yamamoto seemed poised and energized to take that "Masato spot" in K-1 MAX until Giorgio Petrosyan beat the ambition out of him. Andy Souwer and Buakaw Por. Pramuk met again in the semi-finals, with Souwer moving on to the finals where Petrosyan took him to task and handily took his first title.

Then 2010 was a strange year for the K-1 MAX division. There was no Masato, there would be scheduling issues galore, with the traditional line-up of shows not happening. A few of the Final 16 bouts happened on the -63kgs show, then a few in Europe way later in the year. Yuya Yamamoto fell, and hard, while Yuichiro Nagashima looked like a man-on-fire, determined to take MAX by storm. The one thing Nagashima didn't account for was "Iron" Mike Zambidis having a career revival, putting on a FOTY with Chahid Oulad El Hadj and then KO'ing Nagashima in the 3rd round. Something felt missing for fans, as there was no Masato and Buakaw Por. Pramuk had apparently not been invited back into the MAX tournament, nor had Andy Souwer, the man who made the finals the year before and was in Masato's retirement bout. Zambo's run at the top was stopped by Petrosyan and Yoshihiro Sato's run to the finals was met with stiff competition from Petrosyan, who easily captured his second crown.

This leaves us in an existential quandary over 2011. Here is what is clear; Giorgio Petrosyan will rip through the competition as long as injuries don't hold him back. Yoshihiro Sato will be back and looking to finally take his place as the Japanese ace, but will he choke in the big matches again? Yuya Yamamoto might want to prove that his run in 2009 wasn't a fluke, but the chances of him succeeding are not high. Yuichiro Nagashima ended 2010 by destroying Shinya Aoki at Dynamite!! during the MMA rules portion of their fight, and his cosplaying fans have apparently been giving poor Aoki a tough time and haunting him everywhere he goes, to the degree that his Twitter is gone and he is basically in hiding. Let's not kid around, Nagashima had a breakout year in 2010 and might be able to do better in 2011.

Of course, the man that derailed him last year was ZAMBO, "Iron" Mike Zambidis. Nobody expected Zambo to come to war and make it as far as he did, but he did. That fire that was lit under him will most likely not disappear, expect him to be a force again this year. Artur Kyshenko was upset by Mohammed Khamal in the Final 16, but Kyshenko will be back with a vengeance, and expect the young blood of Khamal to once again come to fight. Then, of course, there is Gago Drago. Drago is one of the most exciting and frustrating fighters in the world, with his recent string of losses and inconsistent performances and the rise of much more exciting and consistent fighters in Europe it is hard to argue he still has a spot in MAX. Mosab Amrani went to war with Mootje on December 18th and would make for an awesome inclusion in the MAX playing field. Artem Levin has been fighting at 75kgs, and if he can drop 5kgs more he could be an absolute beast in the MAX division, especially after taking home the gold at the Sport Accord World Combat games last year at 75kgs. I also fully expect Albert Kraus to be back and ready to fight.

Of course, with all of these favorites, the real question is, can anyone stop Giorgio Petrosyan?

The 2011 K-1 Season: Heavyweights

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Another year and what we can expect is another year of K-1 Grand Prix tournaments. Nothing is set in stone yet, as FEG is currently amidst a restructuring and planning period for a better part of the month, but if they decide to run the standard Grad Prix tournaments this year, there could be a lot of interest going into each one.

The Heavyweights

This one will hold the most interest for Western fans, and rightfully so. In 2010 we saw the "sure bet" of a Semmy Schilt victory derailed at the skilled hands of Peter Aerts in what might very well be his last K-1 World Grand Prix tournament. To say that Aerts went out on his shield is an understatement, Peter Aerts is Mr. K-1 and will always be remembered for his World Grand Prix runs, and his last run to the finals will be remembered fondly.

The big story going into the 2011 World Grand Prix will be the return of Badr Hari. We've received confirmation from Mike's Gym that Badr Hari is indeed back in training and will be ready to compete this year, and after making the finals two years in a row an taking 2010 off, Hari will be poised to take the Grand Prix by storm, and it very well could be his year, finally.

We'll also see Semmy Schilt return with a vengeance, with no Peter Aerts to foil him, his only big obstacles would be Badr Hari or the returning champion, Alistair Overeem. With all of the media hype Overeem has been receiving, look for him to return to K-1 and defend his title, unless this Strikeforce Heavyweight GP gets in the way.

There will be other names involved as well, with Peter Aerts possibly not involved there would be an open slot for a new fighter to make the Final 8, but expect strong showings from Tyrone Spong, Gokhan Saki, Kyotaro and Daniel Ghita. All four of these fighters could very easily find themselves the king of the K-1 mountain in short order. Also expect Ewerton Teixeira, Errol Zimmerman, Jaideep Singh, Hesdy Gerges and Jerome Le Banner to make their way into the Final 16. If JLB can keep his temper in check, I fully expect him to make the Final 8 and give the World Grand Prix a run to remember.

There could be a number of other entrants into the Heavyweight field, with Ben Edwards, Ray Sefo, Raul Catinas and Mighty Mo all be solid additions.

K-1 MAX Madrid Show This Weekend

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Here's a show announcement that kind of snuck up out of nowhere - this weekend in Madrid, Spain will be a regional K-1 MAX show.  The show is being put on by K-1 MAX Madrid, and will feature a traditional 8 man tournament.  These kind of regional events are not out of the ordinary for K-1, who brand many smaller, local shows as K-1 shows.  While these shows are affiliated with K-1, they are typically not a part of the official K-1 season - meaning don't expect mention of this event on the K-1 website, or for the tournament winner to automatically enter the GP Final 16.

The biggest name in the tournament is definitely Warren Stevelmans.  A K-1 MAX veteran who won the MAX 2008 Netherlands tournament, Stevelmans has been in there with the division's very best, including Andy Souwer, Giorgio Petrosyan, and Albert Kraus among many others.  He fights often, and almost always against tough competition, so his record only stands at 4-5 in the last 2 years, but those loses all come against tough opposition.  I would consider him the favorite in this field.

Stevelmans's toughest challenger here is likely Rachid Belaini, who comes in off a huge win over the top 25 ranked Khem Sitsonpeenong at It's Showtime in September.  If Belaini can keep that momentum going, he can definitely win this event and use that victory as the start of a big 2011.

Also in the tournament are WBC champion Alex Asumu; Hassan Ait Bassou, a good fighter making the move up to 70kg from his normal 63kg weight; Jonay Risco; Manzy Pauwels, a Muay Thai fighter who won a similar regional tournament in 2009; Rafa Del Toro; and Rafi Zohueir, a Muay Thai fighter who was slated to represent Spain on the ill-fated The Contender Asia Season 2.

Alistair Overeem Wishes You a Happy New Year

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We have just emerged from the holiday season, and were greeted by MiddleEasy.com turning into a Voltron-like entity that is the MiddleEasy Network. We all probably had to deal with some sort of crazed family members or crazed friends and family of our loved ones at some point, so what better way to alleviate that stress than to be wished a happy new year from a fighter whose knee could rip your head off. Check out K-1's photo album. While we are at it, the team at LiverKick.com would like to wish you a Happy New Year as well. I mean, if Overeem, Sakuraba, Aoki and the gang can, why can't we?

The Young Blood Of K-1

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Age. It's the unbeatable enemy of every athlete. Time cannot be stopped and one day, every athlete will succomb to it. The body gets to a point where it won't perform like it once did and even though the mind is willing, championships aren't won on mental strength alone.

K-1 fighters are no different and are probably more susceptible because of the physical toll that professional kickboxers must endure to reach the top and stay there for any amount of time. A fact that makes what Peter Aerts accomplished on December, 11th at the WGP Finals, all that more impressive. The Dutch Lumberjack, along with many of the top stars in K-1, are getting older. The aforementioned Aerts is 40. Jerome Le Banner is 38. Remy Bonjasky is 34 and on the brink of retirement due to an eye injury. Semmy Schilt is 37. I could go on but you see what I'm getting at - K-1 is growing old and in need of young stars to step up and fill the holes that will be left by all those giants of the sport when age has finally caught up with them. Who will that be? Let's look at some.

 

Is Badr Hari Innocent? Sources Say "Yes"

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Badr HariCrazier things have happened in the world of combat sports which is so delicately intertwined with organized crime and, well, crime in general (then again, what sports aren't?), but the odyssey of Badr Hari's criminal exploits which ruined his 2010 might be cleared up soon. Of course nothing is a lock yet, but there have been some reports of late that have given further detail into the case against Badr Hari and that his name might be unfairly attached as an attacker for simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time and being a world-renowned K-1 fighter.

There is an article up about comments left on a crime blog about the situation, seemingly from key witnesses at the night club that night. One of the comments below indicates that Badr Hari was simply with the group that attacked the bouncer, but steered clear to not risk injury.

The real story: He came with a group, and everyone was allowed inside except for two guys who previously been difficult. The doorman (a giant, larger than Badr himself) calmly handled the situation. Badr seemed at peace with the situation, only to suddenly throw a punch at the doorman. Badr remained calm and did his best to avoid the situation, as he was in training (and mean fighting) for K1 and did not want to the risk injury. Badr was with the group and the doorman was indeed beaten. Police: Create a chat with the staff and the DJ of that night .... you know enough.

The translation was cleaned up by me a bit, if you see anything glaringly wrong, let me know, I'm not a native Dutch speaker, obviously. As the article goes on to mention, the few comments of bloggers is not positive proof, but there do seem to be a few key witnesses and some stones that were left un-turned. This comes hot off the heels of reports on Dutch forums that Badr Hari has been back in the gym with Mike Passenier and his training partners getting back into shape.

Thanks our good friend Simon Raedts for the tip.

UPDATE: Minor translation tweaks.

The Official LiverKick.com Rankings

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LiverKick Rankings Updated on 12/29/2016

Heavyweight (Per 12/16)

1 Rico Verhoeven
2 Benjamin Adegbuyi
3 Roman Kryklia *
4 Jamal Ben Saddik ^
5 Ismael Londt v
6 Mladen Brestovac *
7 Jahfarr Wilnis v
8 Fabio Kwasi v
9 Guto Inocent v
10 Anderson "Braddock" Silva v

Light

Heavyweight (Per 12/16)

1 Artem Vakhitov
2 Saulo Cavalari
3 Zack Mwekassa 
4 Mourad Bouzidi 
5 Michael Duut *
6 Danyo Ilunga v
7 Roman Kryklia *
8 Fabio Kwasi *
9 Mladen Kujundzic v
10 Jorge Loren v
Middleweight (Per 12/16)

1 Jason Wilnis 
2 Simon Marcus 
3 Artem Levin 
4 Israel Adesenya 
5 Filip Verlinden ^
6 Alex Pereira ^
7 Joe Schilling ^
8 Dustin Jacoby ^
9 Cedric Doumbe ^
10 Fang Bian *
Welterweight (Per 12/16)

1 Cedric Doumbe ^
2 Nieky Holzken v
3 Artur Kyshenko v
4 Murthel Groenhart
5 Alexander Stetsurenko
6 Dmitry Valent *
7 Hicham El Gaoui v
8 Raymond Daniels v
9 Yoann Kongolo v
10 Zoltan Laszak v
Lightweight (Per 12/16)

1 Superbon Banchamek
2 Sitthichai
3 Robin van Roosmalen 
4 Giorgio Petrosyan
5 Marat Grigorian 
6 Cedric Manhoef *
7 Wu Xuesong v
8 Tayfun Ozcan v
9 Dylan Salvador *
10 Anatoly Moiseev v
Featherweight (Per 12/16)

1 Kaew Weerasakreck
2 Qiu Jianliang *
3 Ilias Bulaid v
4 Hidaeki Yamazaki v
5 Masaaki Noiri v
6 Minoru Kimura v
7 WEi Ninghui v
8 Abdellah Ezbiri v
9 Kim Minsoo v
10 Robin van Roosmalen *

Legend:

* - New Addition

^ - Moved Up

v - Moved Down

Rules:

The LiverKick.com rankings are living rankings that have existed in one form or another since 2009. After the initial rankings were tabulated, they moved on from there. If one fighter beats a fighter ranked above them, they take their place. If a new fighter is introduced, that means that said fighter is ranked above whomever he beat, moving everyone else down. 

Fighters can drop or move up in the rankings without losing or winning, depending on the division in general. After 12 months of inactivity, or if a retirement is announced, fighters can be removed from the rankings. These rankings are also at our discretion.

Alistair Overeem And The Weight Of The World

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Like Atlas, I believe Alistair Overeem is holding the weight of the world on his shoulders. At least, the combat sports world.

Though he isn't Greek and may not be a Titan (mythologically speaking), Alistair Overeem does have much significance for the three organizations he is currently champion of: Strikeforce, K-1, and DREAM. Here is why.

Strikeforce: On June 26th of 2010, the heavyweight landscape in MMA, changed forever. Fedor Emelianenko suffered his first legitimate loss. Pundits were amazed, bloggers were being pulled off the ledge and even Fabricio Werdum, the man who just dethroned The Last Russian Emperor, had to take a second and make sure it was all real. For Scott Coker, founder and CEO of Strikeforce, victory could not be more bittersweet. On one hand, a fighter just made history and it was during your event. On the other, he completely gutted the future of your marquis division. Everyone expected Fedor to win and go on to meet Overeem in his next fight. Alistair, fresh off a first-round drubbing of Brett Rogers, even made the flight to sit cage-side and challenge Fedor when he won. He should have saved the frequent flyer miles.

I believe this can work in the favor of Alistair and Strikeforce. The Reem is the most marketable heavyweight that Strikeforce has access to. He speaks great english, is endearing to the fans, has a herculean physique, and holds two other championship belts. You can put Alistair on ESPN for an interview without having an interpreter butcher the translation. Certainly not the case with Fedor, as we've all seen.

With Alistair leading the charge, I believe that Strikeforce can enjoy success with their heavyweights. They need to bring in quality opponents that can give credence to the division which validates their opportunity to face the champ. Also, Strikeforce must learn to market and publicize their star fighters like Alistair. All the talent and media acumen in the world is of no good if the fans never see it.

The possibility for a match with Fedor Emelianenko is there and though it may not carry the importance it once did, it would still be a blockbuster fight.

K-1: Raise your hand if you're a Semmy Schilt fan. Anyone? That's what I figured. The four-time K-1 World Grand Prix Champion is arguably the least-liked champion in the sports history. He's viewed as a boring fighter by many and generally not an amicable person. With Semmy holding strong as the champ and Badr Hari mired in legal trouble, it seemed as if Hightower would reign over the K-1 heavyweight ranks as long as he chose to much to the chagrin of fans that were growing tired of seeing Semmy as champion.

It's always darkest before the dawn, is how the saying goes and that proved to be true as Peter Aerts made history and became the first man to ever defeat Semmy in the K-1 World Grand Prix. That accomplishment, now among so many others by the legendary Aerts, opened the door for Alistair to eventually meet Peter in the finals. Overeem went on to defeat Mr. K-1 and become the most exciting WGP champion the sport has seen in its recent history. The timing could not have been better as Alistair is on top of the combat world and soon, the entertainment world in Japan. He recently signed with Yoshimoto Creative Agency to have them handle his affairs that lie outside of the fight game. With clients such as Kousuke Fukudome, YCA has the ability and resources to make Alistair a huge star in Japan. Combine that with the fact that Fuji TV, broadcast partner with FEG, is very happy with Alistair and you have a recipe for longterm success.

DREAM: While K-1's TV future seems to be in good hands, DREAM is another story entirely. It's been well documented that Dynamite!! 2010 didn't do so well on TBS.

There is hope, though, as Alistair Overeem is set to become the next Bob Sapp in the eyes of Japanese fans. Bob has always been a big draw in Japan as he's all over the media.  What Alistair has that Bob certainly doesn't is the credentials to go along with his place in the Japanese media. He has all the talent, and now exposure, to help DREAM recapture the indigenous fans along with broadcast companies, and prove they're still a player that's relevant in the fight game.

That's a lot of responsibility for one man. But just as Atlas bore the weight of the heavens as his punishment, Alistair bears the weight of his own success. A weight that I'm sure he's proud to carry.

K-1 Striking vs. MMA Striking: The Tired, Worthless Debate

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Kyotaro vs. MousasiI've finally had a chance to sit down and watch Dynamite!! and there is a lot to say reflecting upon the events from that show. There has been a bit of an ongoing debate over the "level" of K-1 strikers and how they compare to MMA strikers. The general fallout from the internet seems to be that the disparity between K-1 kickboxers and MMA fighters is slim, with K-1 fighters being overrated by fans and the talent pool being shallow at this point in time.

Of course, it didn't help that at Dynamite!! we saw Gegard Mousasi take K-1 Heavyweight Champion Kyotaro to the distance and win the fight via decision. Mousasi even scored a few knockdowns, and this comes off the heels of his 2008 victory over Musashi.

The year 2010 was also the year that saw Alistair Overeem, a fighter primarily known for competing in Mixed Martial Arts take home kickboxing's most coveted prize; the K-1 World Grand Prix Championship. Overeem has long been an interesting topic for debate; is he good? Is he just alright? Do his poor Light Heavyweight performances from a few years ago reflect upon him now? What lengths has he gone to improve his performance? If he isn't that good of a striker, what does it say about K-1 competition?

The truth is, kickboxers are being beaten at their own game. Overeem holds wins over Badr Hari, Peter Aerts (twice), Ewerton Teixeira, Dzevad Poturak, Tyrone Spong and Gokhan Saki. That list is impressive and contains some of K-1's best fighters. Mousasi only holds two K-1 victories, over an aging and ready to retire Musashi and a sluggish if not exhausted from competing weeks before Kyotaro, but is still being used as an example of a MMA fighter making K-1 look bad.

It seems foolish and unfair to label these fighters as either this or that. What really makes a fighter? Alistair Overeem has been training kickboxing since he was a teenager, making his pro debut at age 17 before switching over to MMA. Gegard Mousasi began his career as a boxer and kickboxer, transitioning to MMA and using his judo background combined with his striking prowess to be successful.

As we saw at Dynamite in Satoshi Ishii vs. Jerome Le Banner and Hideo Tokoro vs. Kazuhisa Watanabe, a striker moving into MMA put in grappling situations can be easily lost and frustrated, while a MMA fighter put in a pure striking situation can appear to be competent.

To use Gegard Mouasasi and Alistair Overeem as examples of Mixed Martial Artists "clowning" K-1 kickboxers is crass and an exercise in semantics at best. As I posed before, what really makes a fighter? Do the fact that both fighters' records in MMA are more prolific mean that they are Mixed MArtial Artists, or does the fact that they began as strikers mean that they are strikers that adapted a grappling game for Mixed Martial Arts, found success in MMA and stuck with it?

Both men train at kickboxing gyms with some of the best kickboxers in the world (Mousasi trains with Golden Glory when preparing for fights). The Golden Glory gym is primarily a kickboxing gym, while they train MMA fighters, they will always be known (rightfully so) as one of the best kickboxing gyms in the world. To me, Alistair Overeem's affiliation with Golden Glory just speaks of how serious he is about his striking.

Kickboxing and Muay Thai are arts in and of themselves and are incorporated, at least partially, into Mixed Martial Arts. If someone wants to make this argument maybe the survey field needs to grow; take a fighter who grapples as their primary art, toss them into a ring with Kyotaro or an injured Gokhan Saki or Peter Aerts and see how they fare. Rinse, repeat, because we all know a survey from a shallow test field does not yield exact results.

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