The World MAX 2012 began in earnest with a solid showing in Spain, whose capital Madrid hosted some of the world’s finest stand-up fighters for the world’s most exciting light-middleweight tournament, and some heavyweight superfights thrown in for good measure!
Badr Hari may have gotten the main billing, and between his and Artur Kyshenko’s victories, Mike’s Gym may have emerged as the triumphant party, but in reality Daniel Ghita was the star of the show. The big Romanian proved once again why I have referred to him as the best heavyweight K-1 kickboxer in the world today since 2010, barring the groin tear that in all likelihood changed the course of K-1 history, and he made his days of filling in behind Stefan Leko on Super Kombat cards in European title fights while the Croat-German contested the ‘world’ version of the belt seem like a very, very long time ago; simply put, he gets better and better, and looks unstoppable. On this night, he took on former It’s Showtime 95MAX star Wendell Roche, and became the first man to drop him with well timed punches. He dropped the game but outgunned Roche a second time with a head kick that he delivered while leaning heavily to one side, a truly unorthodox kick for such a big man, and when Roche bravely rose to his feet and continued, proceeded to chop him down with leg kicks until Wendell’s corner had seen enough, and hurled in the towel before the inevitable.
At this point, who can beat Ghita?
Literally the only fighter considered capable in K-1 rules, and according to my girlfriend, the world’s second sexiest man, is Badr Hari, but the Mike’s Gym standout slipped considerably in his fight with the decent, but limited Anderson “Braddock” Silva. Despite landing a trademark blitzkrieg of accurate, powerful punches to the Brazilian’s dome and sending him crashing to the canvas, the former It’s Showtime Heavyweight champion visibly slowed up his pace throughout the rest of the fight, and allowed his stunned opponent to arguably claim rounds 2 and 3 as his own. Hari was fortunate to be granted the victory outright, instead of the fight justly going to an extra deciding round. I guess K-1 Global want to protect their investment for the time being, knowing full well the potential of Badr vs. Ghita.
Also, as a former (and current, on paper) resident of Spain, I can guesstimate a claim on behalf of Badr by saying that in his trip to Madrid with K-1 Rising, he became the first Moroccan on Spanish soil in the last 100yrs who neither killed for fascism nor sold drugs. Bravo, Señor Hari, bravo.
Fellow Mike’s Gym competitor Artur Kyshenko showed that he has bounced back from his loss to 2009 and 2010 World MAX champion Giorgio Petrosyan with a solid performance in beating an undersized and overmatched Su Hwan Lee in round 2. Kyshenko is a huge 70kg fighter – his weight cuts must be horrible – but as a result almost everything he lands seems to be impactful, and he has sufficient speed and skill to supplement it that he looks outstanding against almost everyone in the division. And with his conqueror Petrosyan no longer competing under the K-1 banner, the former finalist of the World MAX must be salivating at the prospect of reaching a final without the Italian in it. And there’s no reason why he shouldn’t.
Mike Zambidis and Chahid El Hadj put on the fight of 2010 (the unforgettable opening salvo led to Michael Schiavello’s infamous call on commentary; “shit just got REAL in the MAX!!”) and so it was with great anticipation that we all looked to this rematch booked for the opening round of the 2012 World MAX. It is neither fortunate nor unfortunate, however, that part II never reached the emotional highs of the first leg, as while we were denied another classic war, we got to see a finish this time out, as Zambidis connected with a perfect right-left hook combination that staggered Chahid with delayed effect, before sending a wicked right punch down with him for company. Unsurprisingly Chahid was unable to beat the count, and Zambidis enjoyed a third round finish over a man he’d previously gone life and death with, in what must be a most gratifying victory.
Undoubtedly for the watching Mixed Martial Arts viewing public, the most gratifying win on this card from the fan’s perspective has to be that of Mr Nostalgia Tour 2012 himself, Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic. The former K-1 World Grand Prix finalist (1999) and PRIDE FC Open-Weight Grand Prix champion recently fought a lacklustre “retirement fight” in his home country against long-time K-1 warrior Ray Sefo, but then promptly signed for K-1 in its latest incarnation. At first I scoffed, then I began to worry about his health. But fear not, obviously fights against the likes of Ghita and Hari are not on Mirko’s schedule during the Nostalgia Tour, and more fights against the Loren Javier Jorge’s of the world will most likely not kill him. The Croat soundly outclassed the Spaniard, landing the more powerful punches and unhesitatingly trying to land his trademark left head kick. Eventually in round 2, a punch flurry was stopped and Jorge’s arm was examined by a ringside doctor. As soon as the fight resumed, Mirko wasted little time in mercilessly dispatching him to improve to 18-7 in K-1 rules fights, with all but one occurring under the K-1 banner, and wins over Remy Bonjasky, Bob Sapp (when it meant something), Mike Bernardo, Ray Sefo and Mark Hunt.
His “comeback” is nothing more than a nostaliga tour, so let’s just enjoy it for what it is.
Gago Drago may only be 26-years-old, but there was talk of his imminent retirement in the sense of PRIDE FC’s commentary from 2003 onwards whenever Kazushi Sakuraba fought. Drago is a talent, and a tough guy, but after a very punishing career up to this point littered with wars, he looks slow and sluggish, and takes far more damage than he should. Tonight, he got widely outpointed by young gun Andy Ristie, and while “passing of the torch” and “changing of the guard” were two terms used, one feels that it is more like an ageing star overstaying his body’s capabilities rather than passing the torch down to a successor.
While one young fighter comes across as a war-torn battle-scarred punch drunk veteran, a real veteran, former K-1 World MAX and Shootboxing S-Cup champion Andy Souwer, looks to be in fine form. The Dutchman – sans his usual leggings – comfortably outpointed Abraham Roqueni, and while the fight wasn’t a whitewash, “Souwer Power” proved he can still amp it up when necessary. And in the absence of Petrosyan, Buakaw and Kraus, he looks to be the main contender to the crown with only the hungry “bridesmaid” Kyshenko his rival on paper.
One fight that was enjoyable yet simultaneously disappointing was Longern Superpro Samui against flying knee master Chris Ngimbi. While Longern put forth a solid losing display, Thailand’s newest representative in K-1 MAX and on-paper successor to Buakaw is nowhere near the best 70kg fighter Thailand could field. Kem Sitsongpeenong, Saiyok, Sudsakorn and a whole host of others would undoubtedly school Ko Samui’s newest most famous son, but obviously the politicking behind the scenes dictates that It’s Showtime and the new K-1 favour Superpro Samui.
Full results from K-1 Rising: Madrd, World MAX 2012 first round:
World Max 2012 Final 16 Fights:
Mike Zambidis defeated Chahid Oulad El Hadj by knockout in Round 3
Andy Souwer defeated Abraham Roqueni by unanimous decision
Artur Kyshenko defeated Su Hwan Lee by knockout in Round 2
Yasuhiro Kido defeated Xu Yan by knockout in Round 3
Andy Ristie defeated Gago Drago by unanimous decision
Reece McAllister defeated Yuji Nashiro by unanimous decision
Murthel Groenhart defeated Harut Grigorian by knockout in round 3
Chris Ngimbi defeated Chain Superpro Samui by unanimous decision
Badr Hari defeated Anderson “Braddock” Silva by decision
Mirko Cro Cop defeated Loren Javier Jorge by knockout in Round 2
Daniel Ghita defeated Wendell Roche by technical knockout in Round 2
Sergei Lascenko defeated Rico Verhoeven by split decision
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