Set in Seoul, South Korea, the K-1 World Grand Prix 2009 delivered an action-packed night with a star-studded lineup. After a series of three-round battles, the night culminated with a swift, but highlight reel-worthy finish in the last event.
The night kicked off with an abrupt and controversial finish.
In the non-tournament bout, southpaw Morosanu pressed the action in the first round with heavy artillery of punches and kicks. He relentlessly stalked the distinguished karateka and K-1 veteran, Kin. The fight saw an odd turn of events at the end of the round: Morosanu mistook hearing the bell with 10 seconds left, and Kin nailed him with a right hand. Morosanu then sent the shockwave throughout the arena by clocking Kin with two devastating shots immediately after the bell. With Kin lying cold on the mat, and Morosanu was disqualified for the sucker-punch.
Yet suspicion arose as to whether the gong was loud enough.
The reigning three-time K-1 WGP champion, Remy Bonjasky, completed a trilogy of victories over the "mini-Tyson," Melvin Manhoef, via unanimous decision. Manhoef remained methodical throughout the fight, waiting for an opportunity to counter, In fact, he caught Bonajsky’s leg kicks and unleashed hooks to the body and big right hand to the head in the first round.
Manhoef stuck to his plan in the second round, trying to give Bonajsky -- also a counter fighter -- a taste of his own medicine. Bonjasky started to bear his fangs in the second round but Manhoef remained unfazed. Remy went on the offensive and dictated the pace in the third round: He opened up with his hands and low kicks and devastating knees from the close quarter.
Twenty three year-old Dutch standout, Errol Zimmerman, picked up a second victory over the Brazilian kyokushin karateka, Glaube Feitosa, via majority decision.
Zimmerman came out the aggressor in the first round with a barrage of strikes, but took a few minutes to start finding the target. Feitosa looked tentative throughout the first and second round but displayed a few nice counter strikes with mid-kicks and right hand to Zimmerman’s jaw. Despite making a good use of front kicks to keep his foe at bay, Feitosa struggled to remain active when faced with his opponent’s aggression. Feitosa picked up steam in the third round, countering effectively and pushing the action once Zimmerman started to slow down.
His third-round hurrah proved insufficient, however, as Zimmerman swayed the judges with crisp strikes and higher work rate.
Ruslan Karaev halted Kyotaro’s undefeated streak with relentless attack on the counter-attacking 2008 WGP winner. Kyotaro, formerly known as Keijiro Maeda, rose to the top last year with a Cinderella run through 2008 WGP, disposing of Melvin Manhoef and Gokhan Saki. Adhering to his trademark counter-striking style, Kyotaro got on his wheels to evade Karaev’s aggression with constant circular motion.
After an even first round, Karaev turned up the heat in the second round, stalking and cutting off the ring to land some nice combinations. In the third round, both fighters engaged, with Kyotaro switching gear and moving forward and finding the range. Karaev obliged, returning fire from close quarter. Despite having his moments, Kyotaro could not quite display the underrated power that took him to the top in the 2008 WGP, as Karaev scored the unanimous decision.
In a drawn-out battle that reached the second extension round, Singh Jaideep and Ewerton Teixeira frustrated the crowd with lackluster performance. At 21 years old, 6’5" Jaideep became the youngest fighter to enter the K-1 WGP. The decorated Kyokushin karateka, Teixeira scored with the trademark, stinging low kicks, but looked anemic throughout, not finding the target with his fist like he did in more impressive showings.
The fighters spent almost the entire fight trading strikes from range and clinching as the distance closed. Jaideep showed nimble footwork but could not capitalize on his reach advantage. He managed to stagger Teixiera with a knee strike in the third round. Sans the spurt of back and forth brawl in the later rounds, neither fighter found the aggression and killer instinct in the lone blight of the otherwise action-packed night.
Picking up the slack after the Teixeira vs. Jaideep snoozefest, the three-time K-1 World GP champion, Semmy Schilt, and Daniel Ghita came in ready for action. Schilt used his towering height and reach advantage to work the jab and front kick to effectively cut off the ring. Ghita, a Romanian who recently broke Peter Aert’s fastest K-1 GP win by defeating three opponents in 5:15, struggled to navigate his way inside.
Nevertheless, he landed several crisp counterpunches in the first round.
Despite fighting valiantly in his first World Grand Prix appearance, Ghita found himself stymied, unlike Badr Hari who effectively attacked from angles to nullify Schilt’s physical advantage. Schilt wore his opponent down with jabs, kicks, and knees from the clinch. He knocked down the fading Ghita successively in round three with a left jab and hook en route to a unanimous decision victory.
With their careers on the line, the two grizzled veterans, Musashi and Jerome LeBanner, lit the fistic firework.
LeBanner kept busy with a jab and low kick throughout the first round. Coming off a late-career losing streak, the Japanese K-1 legend, Musashi shined offensively and defensively. Showing his improved hand speed, he went toe to toe with the fellow K-1 veteran. In the third round, LeBanner dropped Musashi with a right hook. LeBanner went on a late-fight surge to dominate the last minute of the fight.
After three rounds of high-paced action, LeBanner took the unanimous decision victory to advance in his umpteenth WGP appearance. Having announced retirement prior to the bout, Musashi received warm applause from the crowd – a well-deserved reception for a warrior who carried the torch for Japanese K-1 world for many years.
Back in action after suffering a hand injury during a nightclub fracas, the flaky Alistair Overeem looked sharp and technical against Mr. K-1. Overeem battered the Dutch Lumberjack, Peter Aerts, with crisp combinations and cornered the undersized veteran. Aerts picked up steam in the second round for a spirited back-and-forth action.
Despite not inflicting significant damage, the two fighters kept busy, with Overeem mixing in leg kicks and knees from the clinch. Aerts stayed active with punch-kick combinations but his attack lacked power against the much bigger foe. To the surprise of some, Overeem displayed good stamina, showing no sign of fatigue late in the fight. He took charge in round three, landing stiff right hooks and straights on the fading Aerts.
In the end, Overeem scored a unanimous decision victory, edging out the two-decade veteran of the sports.
In the last event of the night, the K-1 Bad Boy, Badr Hari, punctuated the night with an exclamation mark.
Coming off the 45-second destruction of Semmy Schilt in the It’s Showtime event in Holland, the Moroccan-Dutch standout kicked off the round with bad intention. Landing stiff right straight and low kick on the overmatched Zabit Samedov, the 6’6" Hari methodically picked apart his opponent. Samedov countered with several high kicks, but the end came when Hari leaped forward with a swift body shot: Crouched and clearly hurt, Samedov was unable to continue.
Hari again validated his superstar status by ending the night on a high note: He scored the sole knockout victory of the night.
Chi Bin Lim defeats Tahir Menxhiqi via unanimous decision.
Kin Taiei defeats Catalin Morosanu via DQ (late punch).
Remy Bonjasky defeats Melvin Manhoef via unanimous decision.
Errol Zimmerman defeats Glaube Feitosa via unanimous decision.
Ruslan Karaev defeats Kyotaro via unanimous decision.
Ewerton Teixeira defeats Singh Jaideep via unanimous decision.
Semmy Schilt defeats Daniel Ghita via unanimous decision.
Jerome Le Banner defeats Musashi via unanimous decision.
Alistair Overeem defeats Peter Aerts via unanimous decision.
Badr Hari defeats Zabit Samedov via KO, Round 1.
- The HDNet commentator and the international "voice of K-1," Mike Schiavello, delivered his usual, entertaining and jubilant performance behind the mic. He cleverly interspersed witty pop culture references with incisive commentary. I didn’t keep track of his remarks, but someone needs to start documenting the stuff that comes out of his mouth: He is more quoteworthy than Joe Rogan or Mike Goldberg.
- Some solid entrance music from the fighters -- did anyone keep track of them?