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Up Next for Hunt, CroCop in the UFC

Mirko CroCopLast week we talked about the much discussed Strikeforce Heavyweight tournament and why fans of K-1 and kickboxing should have some interest in these events, even if they don't care at all about Fedor Emelianenko.  Well, Strikeforce is not the only MMA game in the US to feature notable K-1 veterans, as the UFC has a handful of fights on tap worth a look.  At the moment, the UFC has 3 former K-1 heavyweights on contract (a 4th, Antoni Hardonk, quietly retired last summer with little notice), and all 3 have fights scheduled in the coming weeks.  Let's take a look at what's next for our former kickboxing names, and take a quick look at their chances:

MIRKO CROCOP vs. Brendan Schaub, UFC 128: Shogun vs. Evans, March 19 - Without a doubt, Mirko CroCop Filipovic remains the gold standard by which to judge any K-1 fighter looking to make the transition to MMA.  After leaving K-1 behind in 2003, CroCop was dominant in MMA, terrorizing Pride with his brutal head kicks.  But in recent years, that dominance has looked more and more like a thing of the distant past.  He's had a lackluster 4-4 run in the UFC, and is coming in off a dull loss to Frank Mir where the former K-1 GP finalist was KO'd by jiu jitsu fighter Mir.  There were flashes of the old CroCop in his fight with Pat Barry, but those flashes are increasingly rare.  Schaub is a young fighter and relatively new to the UFC, but is currently on a 3 fight win streak.  His last win was a career best victory for him, as he defeated Gabriel Gonzaga - the man who famously CroCop'd CroCop in what was the beginning of the end for the Croatian's career.  No doubt at all I'll be rooting for CroCop here, but Schaub is young, hungry, and a deceptively tough challenge.

MARK HUNT vs. Chris Tuchscherer, UFC 127: Penn vs. Fitch, February 27 - Like CroCop, Mark Hunt traded in K-1 success for a strong run in Pride.  And like CroCop, he's recently fallen on hard times in the ring.  The 2001 K-1 Grand Prix champion is on a dreadful 7 fight combined losing streak in MMA and K-1, and has not won a fight since retiring Tsuyoshi Kohsaka back in May 2006.  Recent fights have seen the once unstoppable Hunt KO'd by Melvin Manhoef and repeatedly submitted, seemingly with ease.  This show takes place in Australia, and maybe this will be a good opportunity for Hunt to take part in his final fight, as he just doesn't seem to have the drive any more.  His opponent, Chris Tuchscherer is a training partner to Brock Lesnar, and has yet to show much of note in the UFC, but I still find it hard to pick Hunt over him.  Despite Hunt's recent troubles, I'm still glad to see him in the UFC, and it's particularly satisfying that with this fight and Overeem vs. Werdum in Strikeforce, MMA fans will see two of the K-1 Grand Prix champions in action next month.

PAT BARRY vs. Joey Beltran, UFC: Fight for the Troops 2, January 22 - The least K-1 experienced fighter of the bunch, Barry is also the youngest and the one with the most potential for a future MMA career.  While CroCop and Hunt are winding down their decorated careers, the 31 year old Barry seems to be just getting started.  Barry competed in a handful of K-1 events from 2005-2007, with his biggest wins coming against Gary Goodridge and Rickard Nordstrand.  A former Ernesto Hoost trainee, Barry has now been in the UFC for just over two years.  His last fight was a good match with CroCop, where the young kickboxer seemed a bit star-struck and allowed himself to be awed by Mirko's legend before being choked out.  Previous to that fight, he showed good skills against Antoni Hardonk, proving that he is a worthy prospect.  He faces the unfortunately nicknamed "Mexicutioner" Joey Beltran, best known for wrecking the much anticipated UFC debut of Rolles Gracie at UFC 109.  Beltran is a lot like Barry - another tough young fighter looking to move up, making this a good, even match.  In the end I think it will be Barry's stand-up skills that earn him the win, although his 7 month layoff could make him rusty.

Add in Alistair Overeem, Ray Sefo, and Sergei Kharitonov in Strikeforce and that's 6 current or former K-1 fighters competing in major American MMA promotions in the upcoming months.  Definitely should be some exciting fights to watch.

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Buakaw's Next Fight: Feb. 12

Buakaw Nuit des Titans2010 Shootboxing S-Cup champion Buakaw Por. Pramuk has just been announced for an upcoming fight.  On February 12, the 2 time former K-1 MAX champion will main event the "Nuit des Titans" card held in France.  His opponent will be Youssef Adgham-Boughanem, a French-Moroccan Muay Thai fighter.  The fight will be under full Muay Thai rules.

Boughanem has good experience, and is coming off a strong 2010 where he made the finals of the Isuzu Thai Fight tournament, ultimately losing to Fabio Pinca.  He's definitely not a can, but he is a huge underdog again Buakaw.  There's no shame in that as Buakaw is the clear #2 70kg fighter in the world at this point, and is currently riding a nice 6 fight win streak that includes his S-Cup championship run.

Since parting ways with K-1 at the end of 2009, Buakaw has been fighting in various organizations throughout the world.  This announcement also comes on the heels of Shootboxing revealing that Buakaw would be featured in their 2011 season.  Although it's unfortunate to have him out of K-1, it's nice seeing him compete in these different settings, and particularly great to see him back in Muay Thai competition as we see here.  It feels like he has transitioned into a new phase of his career where he faces various regional talents looking to take a shot at the legend.  These may not be the most competitive match-ups, but it is fun to see Buakaw do his thing.

Come Feb. 12, Buakaw's 2011 begins.  I don't expect Boughanem to provide much of a challenge just yet, so we will see just who can indeed challenge the champ in the new year.

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Shootboxing 2011 Schedule Released

We're still coming off of the big rush of the year-end kickboxing shows when Shootboxing gives us something to look forward to over the next year. There will be 5 shows spread out over the rest of the year, the first in February and the last in November. Expect the big names to return, with Buakaw Por. Pramuk looking to defend his Shootboxing S-Cup Championship honor, as will newcomer Toby Imada who made a giant impression making it further than anyone expected a MMA fighter who specializes in submissions and judo would make it in a stand up tournament. Also returning with be Andy Souwer, Takaai Umeno and Hiroki Shishido.

The schedule unfolds as such:

SHOOT BOXING2001 acts. 1 - 5, Korakuen Hall, Tokyo, Japan

  1. February 19
  2. April 23
  3. June 5
  4. September 10
  5. November 11

After all of the surprises that unfolded in 2010, expect 2011 to be another dynamite year for that strange kickboxing promotion with standing submissions and throws. Shootboxing has really gone out of its way to provide dynamic, exciting events for fans of K-1 MAX. [source]

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Tyrone Spong Keeps the Peace

Tyrone Spong Saves Lives at the It's Showtime 2010 Amsterdam Press Conference

This was back in 2010, so a bunch of you may have seen it already, but Tyrone Spong keeps humorous and awkward from becoming a genuine fracas. I smiled. The eventual Saki/ Manhoef match was pretty good, too!

Tensions between them might still be high, if you remember Saki's half-serious Tweet about wanting to submit Manhoef in MMA.

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