This is the third post in a series on K-1's changes to its clinch rules over time and how they affected fighter performances in the ring.
The first fight in the series was Buakaw Por Pramuk vs Takayuki Kohiruimaki in 2004, when full clinch was allowed, and the second featured Buakaw vs Virgil Kalakoda in 2006, after the one strike per clinch rule was in place. As of this time, the last update to the official K-1 rules site was in 2008, so the webpage displays the rules that were in place at the time of this match. See Article 6.7 for discussion of the clinch.
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.
Thanks to 24113kiel for the upload. Note that, at the time, Alistair Overeem was being marketed as the enemy of K-1. As an MMA fighter, his scoring victories over the K-1 elite was a threat to the prestige of K-1.
This led to hypotheses that the rule changes were made to prevent him from becoming too dominant in the Grand Prix. K-1's stance on this again was that it made action in the ring more free-flowing. This proved true, to some extent, as it further restricted fighters from stalling in the clinch, as some were wont to do by initiating the clinch, throwing their one allotted strike, then holding on to their opponent.
Overeem was obviously not interested in this type of rule-bending. As the sub one minute fight above illustrates, Overeem was interesting in maximizing damage, not minimizing it. In what is really the first significant exchange of the fight, Overeem delivers a thoroughly convincing knockout. Overeem knees Teixeira after grabbing him in southpaw stance, then brings his left knee up to Teixeira's chin. What he does is essentially illegal, but a referee in that position really has to make a quick decision between penalizing the offender, a move that usually sits poorly with the audience if said fighter has just delivered a stunning knockout, or "just going with it."
In a case like this, where the rule in question is often tested and inconsistently enforced, I think it's the right choice to let the knockout stand. It is also unclear whether the referee has a clear view of Overeem's two knees from the clinch from his position on Overeem's right, especially with Overeem in southpaw. A knee is not an inconspicuous technique, however, especially from someone the size of Overeem, so I assume the referee makes a quick judgement call.
The following year, after the second rule change, referees were less lenient. The referee in this instance, whose choice allowed Overeem to make his first K-1 WGP run, seems vindicated now by Overeem's current importance for the K-1 brand's popularity.