Photo courtesy of USA TODAY
Eight of the most dangerous knockout fighters on the planet will step into the ring this upcoming Friday night (March 15, 2013) in Arena Zagreb in Zagreb, Croatia, and only one man will be crowned a winner.
K-1 has not taken the entrance of GLORY into the kickboxing combat sports world sitting down, staging its "Final 16" event in Oct. 2012 to prepare for its legendary year-end tournament.
Eight fighters made it through to the quarterfinals (see results here), ready for a crack at one of the highest honors in the sport. Then 2012 ended with neither an apocalypse nor a K-1 World Grand Prix final. But, good things come to fight fans who wait. And this Friday night (March 15, 2013), K-1 is proud to present its one-night, eight-main tournament that made it famous.
K-1 World Grand Prix Final 8 will indeed go down at Zagreb Arena in Zagreb, Croatia. And MMAmania.com will have LIVE coverage of the event, starting with the pay-per-view (PPV) broadcast, which can be can purchased for $20 right here for $20, at 3 p.m. ET.
Considering the kind of excitement events like this tend to produce, I for one consider it well worth the price. However, if you're disinterested or too cheap, you'll just have to settle for the K-1 World Grand Prix Final 8 preview below and the recap that will follow shortly after the event concludes.
The format should be familiar to longtime fans of the sport; eight competitors will participate in the tournament. The quarterfinals and semifinals will be followed by a series of non-tournament "superfights" to give those in the tournament time to rest. Unlike GLORY's recent tourney, the fights will be three three-minute rounds. As far as I know the two-knockdown rule will be in effect (the fight is over if one fighter goes down twice).
The Field, Left Bracket:
Defeated Paul Slowinski in the Final 16
Daniel Ghita is not the only monster from Romania; Morosanu has established himself as one to watch as well, currently riding a 12-fight winning streak since a stoppage loss to Errol Zimmerman in May of 2010. His list of victims includes the likes of K-1 veteran Stefan "Blitz" Leko, GLORY tournament competitor Anderson "Braddock" Silva, and French veteran Freddy Kemayo. Oddly enough, he is a fan of Bob Sapp.
Replaces Makoto Uehara
The Ukrainian-Russian Zhuravlev has dabbled in pro boxing, but has enjoyed significant success in kickboxing, owning wins over Gokhan Saki, Mourad Bouzidi, and recent Bellator signee Alexei Kudin. He has also split a pair of bouts with fellow tournament competitor Ismael Londt, winning their last meeting in December. He was not originally part of the tournament, but is stepping in for Uehara
Defeated Randy Blake in the Final 16
The legendary "Cro Cop" needs no introduction; having returned to kickboxing since his release from the UFC, he's put together three straight wins to earn a shot at the big time. He first stepped into the K-1 ring 17 years ago almost to the day, beating Jerome Le Banner in his debut and eventually taking out the likes of Sam Greco, Mike Bernardo, Peter Aerts, Remy Bonjasky and Mark Hunt. He is the oldest member of the tournament by nearly a decade.
Defeated Arnold Oborotov in the Final 16
Miller, a New York Golden Gloves finalist in 2007, has been busy. In addition to kickboxing, he's recently laced up the gloves in professional boxing, competing twice since his Final 16 bout with Oborotov. He's currently 4-0-1, all four wins by technical knockout. He is also one of the chief sparring partners for heavyweight boxing brothers Vitali and Wladimir Klitschko.
The Field, Right Bracket:
In one of the most intriguing developments in a while, Morocco's "Bad Boy" -- while awaiting his trial -- has been granted permission to replace Aussie bruiser Ben Edwards, who was forced to pull out due to scheduling conflicts. Facing charges of aggravated assault and attempted manslaughter, Hari is competing for the first time since an unexpectedly-close bout with "Braddock" Silva last May. Despite being one of K-1's biggest stars, Hari has yet to win a World Grand Prix, suffering losses in the finals his last two attempts.
Defeated Xavier Vigney in the Final 16
The Azerbaijan-born Samedov has not tasted defeat since being put down by none other than Badr Hari in 2009. He has been competing since the age of 16, facing and beating such varied foes as one-time "Cro Cop" slayer Michael McDonald, UFC heavyweight Pat Barry and Ray Sefo. He also defeated tournament alternate Sergei Lascenko in 2009, stopping him with low kicks.
Defeated Singh Jaideep in the Final 16
The man they call "Mr. Pain" -- a training partner of kickboxer and part-time thermobaric bunker-buster Melvin Manhoef -- Londt has never won more than two decisions in a row. In addition to his above-mentioned bouts with Pavel Zhuravlev, he's knocked out Peter Aerts understudy Mourad Bouzidi, Croatian standout Mladen Brestovac and GLORY competitor Rico Verhoeven.
Defeated Sergei Lascenko in the Final 16
Since sandwiching a crushing knockout loss to Daniel Ghita between decision losses to Rico Verhoeven, Gerges has righted the ship with two straight wins over Lascenko and Carter Williams. The tallest member of the tournament, Gerges has fought for both K-1 and the two organizations (GLORY and It's Showtime) that have merged to form the present kickboxing juggernaut. Gerges owns a DQ win over Badr Hari after Hari, frustrated with his opponent's refusal to stay down, stomped on his face.
As much as I adore Cro Cop and as much as a victory of his would pretty much make my decade, whoever wins the right bracket wins the tournament. Cro Cop will probably beat Miller, who has no experience at the upper echelon of kickboxing and doesn't look like anything special, and has an okay chance at beating the brawling Morosanu, who I expect will meet him in the semis.
But, unless something goes drastically wrong, either Hari or Gerges is going to meet him in the finals.
Were this Hari at his best, I'd pick him to win this tournament with incredible ease. However, his time under lockdown and his mediocre performance against Silva, combined with a major weight loss in that span, have me worried. He should take out Samedov without too much trouble, but I expect Gerges to get revenge for the stomping before moving to the finals and stopping "Cro Cop" for the World Grand Prix Final 8 win.
That's a wrap.
Remember to join us tomorrow for LIVE K-1 World Grand Prix Final 8 results at 3 p.m. ET. See you then!