Kunlun Fight

Kunlun Fight 56: Buakaw, Jomthong and Superbon feature in New Year’s Day extravaganza

Kunlun Fight have certainly made their mark on world kickboxing in 2016, with a series of 70kg 4-man tournaments throughout the year, building up-to their year end extravaganza in China. The new year’s day event will focus on the Kunlun World Max finals, featuring: Davit Kiria vs. Jomthong Chuwattana and Superbon Banchamek vs. Cedric Manhoef; headlined by, Buakaw Banchamek vs. Tian Xin.

Kunlun have featured a good few Thais on their events as they established themselves in Southeast Asia initially, with Buakaw being one of their key name fighters. Along with Artur Kyshenko as they have expanded, focusing more on attracting fight fans from the western world.

Davit Kiria vs. Jomthong Chuwattana

Kiria is a former GLORY lightweight champion and now trains with Nieky Holzken; Joining the recently dethroned GLORY welterweight champion at Team Holzken this year.

Kunlun

Photo credit: Kunlun Fight

Kiria made the move in an attempt to rejuvenate his kickboxing career after mixed results in the last couple of years. The change has done him well resulting in a couple of wins against Robbie Hageman at Kunlun Fight 48 and  Dzianis Zeuv at Kunlun Fight 52 – both by decisions and part of the overall qualifying process for the Kunlun World Max.

Jomthong on the other hand is a master of various striking skills and rule-sets including, a pro boxing record of 9-1 and three continental titles. He is also a three time Rajadamnern stadium champion but really made his name in Muay Thai with a huge win over Anuwat Kaewzamrit for the WBC featherweight crown in 2008.

Of the two, Jomthong has been the more active this year with six wins from seven fights, the majority of which were on Kunlun events this year including a notable decision win over Buakaw’s opponent on the night, Tian Xin at Kunlun Fight 53.

Superbon Banchamek vs. Cedric Manhoef

Of the four fighters in this year’s Kunlun Max semi-finals, Superbon is most probably the favorite to win the tournament, having defeated Sitthichai Sitsongpeenong at Kunlun Fight 48 in the previous round. The win was a rematch for the two following on from Kunlun Fight 37 where Superbon was on the wrong end of a knockout in the semi-finals of the Kunlun Max event in 2015.

Before Superbon had leveled the aggregate score, Sitthichai, who is currently the GLORY lightweight champion, had been undefeated for the 21 consecutive months, collecting nine wins in a row. The list of world class kickboxers that he had seen off in the last two years included: Mohamed Mezouari at Kunlun Fight 43, Marat Gregorian (twice), Robin van Roosmalen at GLORY 31 and even Davit Kiria (with a brutal knee to the body) at GLORY 28.

Cedric Manhoef is the ‘dark horse’ of the semi-finalists and although he has the heart of a lion and does his family name proud by hardly ever taking back steps in the ring (Melvin Manhoef is actually his nephew – yes, you read that right); the 23 year old is very much a work in progress still. However, Superbon cannot afford to underestimate the Surinamese fighter with any complacency to progress successfully to the final.

Buakaw Banchamek vs. Tian Xin

Buakaw has been fighting for the Chinese promotion since Kunlun Fight 32 in October 2015 and has had a great deal of success, excluding of course, the most controversial decision loss of 2016 against Yi Long at last month’s WLF event in Nanjing, China.

As for how Xin will fare against the living legend and ‘old skool’ K-1 veteran remains to be seen. However, from the Chinese kickboxer’s clash with Andrei Kulebin at Kunlun Fight 50 there’s a possibility that Buakaw could possibly capitalize on Xin’s fighting style with strong clinch-knee entries.

Nevertheless, Buakaw vs. Xin has all the makings for an exciting headlining fight in Sanya on January 1, 2017 since both have the ability to fight well at a high tempo. The new year will be very interesting to see if and how the talented Chinese fighters like Xin can enhance their profile globally along with the continued growth of Kunlun Fight.

Kunlun Fight 56 – Fight card (and order of fights):

Abdullayev vs. Ma Shuo, 75kg

Denies Puric vs. Wang Wenfeng, 60kg

Felipe Stievano vs. Andrey Gerasimchuk, 100kg

Mohamed Mezouari vs. Dzianis Zuev, 70kg – Reserve bout, Kunlun World Max

Arthit vs. Khatal Dzhaniev, 70kg – Reserve bout, Kunlun World Max

Davit Kiria vs. Jomthong Chuwattana, 70kg – Semi-final A, Kunlun World Max

Superbon Banchamek vs. Cedric Manhoef, 70kg – Semi-final B, Kunlun World Max

Andrei Kulebin vs. Wu Xuesong, 70kg

Sergii Kulaiaba vs. Gu Hui, 67kg

Winner of semi-final A vs. winner of semi-final B, 70kg Kunlun World Max

Juan Javier Barragan vs. Wei Ninghui, 65kg

Buakaw Banchamek vs. Tian Xin ,70kg

Kunlun

Kunlun Fight 56 – Image via Kunlun Fight

 

Yodslanki and Buakaw confirmed to fight on Enfusion Live in 2017

Muay Thai legends Yodslanki and Buakaw will be fighting on Enfusion Live in 2017 (against opponents yet to be announced) as was confirmed by Enfusion earlier today to the Striking Corner; and it should be noted that Enfusion have made these agreements alone and not in partnership with any other promotion(s).

The breaking news follows on from Fabio Pinca joining the 67kg Enfusion League in the new year. 2017 is looking to be a an even busier year for Pinca who, had also confirmed after defeating Liam Harrison at Yokkao 19, that he’ll also be making his return to GLORY Kickboxing on what has since been confirmed against, Mosab Amrani on December 10 at GLORY 36 – the same night and preceding, GLORY Collision: Rico vs Badr in Oberhausen, Germany.

Earlier this year at Enfusion Live 37, the 72.5kg Enfusion League commenced consisting of: Mohammed Jaraya, Nordin Ben Moh, Jonay Risco, Serginio Kanters (who will now be replaced due to weight cutting issues at Enfusion Live 43), Crice Boussoulou and Tayfun Ozcan.

The 72.5kg Enfusion League returns in February 2017 and will include a mouthwatering rematch: Mohammed Jaraya vs Nordin Ben Moh – both of whom fought one another at Enfusion Live 37 in undoubtedly was one of the most spectacular fights of the year.

It isn’t only Kunlun Fight who have deep pockets to pay the big fees that attract the likes of Buakaw to fight for them. Enfusion have made a statement to the big boys i.e. GLORY and Bellator Kickboxing with this announcement, having organically developed their brand of kickboxing since 2008. The promotion started their journey with Enfusion Reality which, was a reality TV kickboxing show and featured: Eddie Walker, Cyrus Washington, Warren Thompson, Julie Kitchen and Andrew Tate as contestants.

The Striking Corner will bring you more news on both the 67kg Enfsuon League featuring Fabio Pinca and further updates on who and when both, Yodslanki and Buakaw will be fighting in the in the new year too for Enfusion.

Bellator 168, Florence – Kevin Ross: Bellator Kickboxing ‘doing it smart’ and amazed by mainstream exposure

Bellator Kickboxing returns to action on December 10 via Bellator 168, in the historic city of Florence, Italy. Kevin Ross will be taking on Alessio Arduino in what “The Soul Assassin” hopes will be a more technical fight compared to his previous visit to Italy when he defeated, Matteo Taccini via unanimous decision at Bellator 152. Also featuring on the Florence kickboxing card will be: Joe Schilling vs. Victorio Germano and Giorgio Petrosyan vs. Jordan Watson.

2016 has been a resurgent year for both kickboxing and Muay Thai with various global promotions such as: GLORY, Enfusion Live, Bellator Kickboxing, Kunlun Fight, Muay Thai Grand Prix, Yokkao, Thai Fight and Lion Fight, accumulating more mainstream media exposure (in the western world) than ever before for both rule sets of the striking arts.

Kevin Ross had recently guested on the Joe Rogan Experience with Gaston Bolaños following Lion Fight 31, in an excellent podcast that educated a much wider and different audience than both CSA Gym fighters normally have, about the difference in not only Muay Thai and kickboxing but also, the level of real world class striking compared to MMA. Most importantly, such media exposure (and more) is exactly what both sports need, in order to enhance the profile to the same level that pro boxing and MMA benefit from.

“Looking back to the majority of my career I never thought I’d still be fighting while kickboxing and muay thai was getting this kind of exposure. I never thought I’d be fighting on TV, ever! So for it to be happening and for it to be happening while I’m still active and a high level is amazing to me. You know I think back to not that long ago there was like, I don’t know if this was ever gonna happen.”

Ross was also optimistic about the long term direction in which Bellator Kickboxing were headed in and credited the promotion for not rushing too soon without first developing their brand of kickboxing and most importantly, their own kickboxing superstars that will generate a bigger fanbase into the future and safeguard the promotion’s viability too.

“This show is going to be amazing you know like I was saying before, its a little frustrating how slow it seems to be going but thats the way you have to do things correctly in order to build them up.”

“Thats the mistake a lot of promoters make and have made is that they try to go too big too early. They didn’t take the time to build up their talent, local talent, their exposure and then they do this giant show and then nobody shows up and they lose all their money and they’re gone forever. So, Bellator’s been really doing it smart, taking their time, you know, pulling in the big stars when they can and kinda slowly building their resume, its great to be a part of.”

Bellator 168 – Bellator Kickboxing, Florence:

Lightweight: Giorgio Petrosyan (82-2-2, 1 NC) vs. Jordan Watson (48-11-2)

Flyweight: Denise Kielholtz (45-3) vs. Gloria Peritore (11-1-1)

Lightweight: Kevin Ross (31-9) vs. Alessio Arduini (26-14-2)

Middleweight: Joe Schilling (19-9) vs. Victorio Lermano (30-7)

Welterweight: Karim Ghajji (96-13-1) vs. Luca Novello (22-4-2)

 

GLORY Collision: Rico Verhoeven vs. Badr Hari preview – ‘Old skool vs. new school’

Rico Verhoeven vs Badr Hari is set to make kickboxing history on December 10 in Oberhausen, Germany where GLORY Collision takes centre stage at the, König Pilsener Arena. World kickboxing will excitedly tune in for what will certainly be a violent night of, ‘old skool vs. new school’ beef between, the “prince of kickboxing” and the “Golden Boy”; and the level of hostility between them has been on the ante since the infamous press conference at the, Heineken Music Hall in Amsterdam, Netherlands.

Despite his inactivity over the last couple of years, Badr Hari has been involved in some (if not most) of the biggest blockbuster fights in kickboxing so far, in a professional fighting career that is currently four years shy of two decades.

Two of the most explosive collisions from the past that instantly come to mind involving the Dutch born Moroccon are: his bitter feud with former K-1 World Grand Prix, Strikeforce and DREAM champion (now UFC heavyweight contender), Alistair Overeem; and more impressively, his emphatic first round KO of Semmy Schilt who, is a four time K-1 World GP champion and former King of Pancrase open weight champion (now retired) at It’s Showtime in 2009.

Standing at almost seven feet tall, Schilt is widely regarded as the greatest super heavyweight kickboxer of all time with an impressive list of success, titles and honours that no other has yet come close to competing with. He even managed to win the K-1 World GP three times in a row which, reinforces his dominance, during the peak of what was then the “Golden era”, or, as Rico Verhoeven puts it, ‘old skool’ kickboxing in Japan.

Rico Verhoeven has also fought Semmy Schilt back in 2012 in what was the GLORY Heavyweight Grand Slam a one-off event event of its type for the promotion (and a throwback to the 8-man tournaments of the K-1 days) at GLORY 4 in Tokyo, Japan. However, Schilt was too good on the night for Rico who, lost via unanimous decision at the quarter final stage. The “Hightower” would go on to secure his final trophy before later retiring from the sport as a legend.

Badr Hari was 24 years of age and had a fight record at the time of 101 fights (93 wins and eight defeats) when he shocked the world and knocked out Schilt in 2009. Whereas Verhoeven was 22 when he lost to the Dutch kickboxing legend and had a fight record then of 47 wins, nine loses and one draw. However, over the last five years a lot has happened in the lives and careers of both men especially for Hari who, has been subject to, a variety of alleged and or reported criminal  cases; and has reportedly been held on remand too.

Whilst Badr Hari had more than his fair share of reported personal issues over the last half-a-decade, Rico Verhoeven has grown as both a man and as a professional fighter since his defeat to Schilt and carries himself as a role model of the sport. Ever since that defeat, he has been on a great run of form with 11 wins (since 2012) and only one decision loss to, Andrey Gerasimchuk at Kunlun Fight 15 in 2015. Rico also won his MMA debut which, prompted even stronger rumours, that he would be making the transition from kickboxing to MMA in 2017; and that the UFC were allegedly monitoring the situation.

Many including Rico Verhoeven, have cast serious doubt over Badr Hari being physically sharp enough come December 10, compared to how he use to be in years gone by i.e. before all the reported troubles and Badr’s overlapping period of inactivity. However, Hari last fought in August 2015 and won by third round TKO against GLORY heavyweight, Ismael Londt in a right rollercoaster of a fight at, Akhmat Fight Show in Grozny, Russia.

Legendary kickboxing coach, Mike Passenier coaches Badr Hari and is confident that the “Golden Boy” will be in the best shape possible for Rico Verhoeven; especially with sufficient time and efficient preparation being implemented since ‘Collision’ was confirmed during the summer. Without a shadow of a doubt, both heavyweights will have the ‘bit between their teeth’ to give their all in the ring (and in their respective fight camps) to be the victor in Oberhausen in kickboxing’s very own, ‘good guy vs. bad guy’.

 

 

Enfusion Live champion, Andrew Tate, alleges Joe Schilling has always been ducking him

Andrew Tate will defend his 90kg Enfusion Live world championship in The Hague, Netherlands on December 3, against Enfusion’s current 85kg world champion, Ibrahim El Boustati who, is undefeated in all 44 career fights he has had to-date. Known as “The Beast”, for his aggressive and pressure fighting style, El Boustati has torn through the 85kg division including, a recent decision win (under controversial circumstances) over GLORY kickboxer, Filip Verlinden.

For those who may or may not be aware, Andrew Tate is a four time world champion and initially from a full contact kickboxing background who, made the smooth transition to K1 rules. He was also born in America but emigrated to the UK as a teenager with, his mother and younger brother when their parents’ marriage broke down. It was in England where he began his kickboxing career from scratch under the guidance of his coach, Amir Subasic, developing into a world class fighter.

However, “Cobra Tate” is returning from a lay-off of two years but insists that the lengthy time away from the sport has done him wonders in allowing his body to repair itself from numerous past injuries.

“I’ve had a couple of years off. Im not just a fighter, I have some money to make outside of fighting. I’ve enjoyed the break. It’s good to let all the injuries after 10 years. I’m not coming back to do anything other than defend this belt. I’ve had a lot of time off and I feel like a new man. I’m really looking forward to fighting again.”

Andrew Tate

Andrew Tate v Ibrahim El Boustati – Image: Enfusion Live, Fightsense

Tate is well known for being able to ‘talk the talk and walk the walk’ with some of his past and current rivalries in and out of the ring. He is a kickboxing promotion’s dream of a champion who, isn’t shy of expressing his strong opinions and backing up his promises of knocking out opponents in the ring too.

So, why haven’t GLORY Kickboxing signed him up to fight for them in recent years especially in the USA when taking into account he is an American who, proudly wears the stars and stripes on his fight shorts too?

“I was supposed to fight for GLORY many times. I signed contracts but fights never materialised many times.

That wasn’t all that Tate had to say on the subject of both GLORY and their former middleweight champion who, prior to signing for Bellator Kickboxing, was the public face of GLORY in the US, Joe Schilling; next fighting at Bellator 167 in a kickboxing bout on, December 10 in Italy.

“Joe Schilling’s been avoiding me since forever. I don’t even want to talk about him, he’s just afraid to fight me and he keeps getting knocked out anyway. I would’ve spanked him.” 

“So he knows I would’ve spanked him. He knew he was gonna get sparked that’s why he wouldn’t fight me. Before GLORY existed we were supposed to fight.”

Enfusion was set-up and still run by, Edwin Van Os after he sold his previous promotion, It’s Showtime which, has since been rebranded and relaunched as GLORY Sport International. Enfusion are a Dutch based promotion with a wealth of exciting and very talented young fighters that are not tied into exclusive contracts either, allowing them to fight in other promotions such as Kunlun Fight in China and K-1 in Japan.

“I think that Enfusion have done a really good job in growing organically you know. Getting as big as they can without spunking loads of money. Another thing Enfusion have done really well is they have built their own superstars. You can name some of the big names for Enfusion; they done a really good job with promoting people like [Mohammed] Jaraya and Ibrahim [El Boustati].

After defeating Verlinden at Enfusion Live 41 earlier this year, El Boustati’s next major challenge is to step-up in weight class and take on Tate in what will be a clash of two champions. The match-up will certainly be fascinating to witness since Tate has a fighting style that has caused countless problems for past opponents; with his mastering of distance and countering with powerfully fast and long limbs, from a more bladed stance than you’d expect from kickboxers nowadays.

“He’s done really, really well. He’s never lost. I can’t say anything about the guy. He’s had a very, very successful career; and, I’m very much looking forward to fighting Ibrahim – let’s see why he never loses.”

Enfusion Live 44 can be steamed online from Enfusionlive.com on December 3 and the Striking Corner will keep you updated on the event in due course too.

Is China the future of world kickboxing?

Over the last couple of years, China has emerged as a regular destination point for international combat sports, especially kickboxing.

However, this shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise when taking into consideration two main factors: Firstly, the ageless history of martial arts tradition and knowledge that has originated from China; and secondly, the fact that the Chinese economy has grown tremendously over the last decade and a half (despite any uncertainties it may currently face).

The two main Chinese fight promotions that are well known outside of China are Kunlun Fight and WLF. Both have the ability to attract international kickboxers to fight in China and have had the likes of, current GLORY heavyweight champion, Rico Verhoeven and former GLORY featherweight champion, Gabriel Varga fighting in China.

Recent events by both Kunlun Fight and Wu Lin Feng (WLF) have included the following match-ups:

Kunlun Fight 43 (15th April 2016):

Artur Kyshenko vs Murthel Groenhart

A rematch between two titans from their previous encounter in the, K-1 Max 70 kg Tournament Final in 2012 which Groenhart won by KO, and the two of them had been training partners at the time at Mike’s Gym. Kyshenko would get the better of Groenhart this time via unanimous decision (UD) after an extra round.

Sittichai Sitsongpeenong vs Mohammed Hamicha Moojte

This was the 4-man (qualifying) tournament final on the night, which for the winner, would secure a place in the 8-man Tournament later in the year. Sittichai is widely regarded as the best kickboxing /Thai boxing lightweight in the world right now and has given plenty of elite kickboxers in his weight class a torrid time. However, Moojte, who is based in the Netherlands, gave Sittichai a rough time and even knocked him down in the first round with an uppercut. Sittichai would secure the win eventually after an extra round by UD, but Moojte’s profile has significantly increased since then (his name was spelt differently by Kunlun as ‘Mohammed Mezouari’).

WLF – Glory of Heroes (2nd April 2016):

Isreal Adesanya vs Alex Pereira <==CLICK TO WATCH VIDEO OF FIGHT

Adesanya is from New Zealand and is a very skillful and exciting kickboxer to watch who, is also pursuing a career in MMA as well. Pereira is a Brazilian kickboxer who, made the transition from boxing to kickboxing in recent years. Both have fought for GLORY in the past and have come a long way since then. The winner by unanimous decision was Pereira, which did surprise me at the time.

Enriko Kehl vs Yi Long <==CLICK TO WATCH VIDEO OF FIGHT

Yi Long is probably the most famous Chinese kickboxing monk in the world and Kehl is the K-1 World Max 2014 Tournament winner (as a result of Buakaw leaving the ring when an extra round was called for) and is from Germany. Four of Kehl’s last six fights have either been under the Kunlun or WLF banner, however, Yi Long would get the win by unanimous decision.

Josh Jauncey vs Xu Yan

British Canadian kickboxer, Josh Jauncey, was the winner by delivering a devastating left head kick knockout in the third round. Jauncey has been on a recent run of good form since his loss (by unanimous decision) to Giorgio Petrosyan at GLORY 25 last year. As for Xu Yan, he is a multiple Sanhsou Chinese champion and was the more experienced fighter having fought in Japan for ‘K-1’ as far back as 2008.

Fabio Pinca vs Yinghua Tie <==CLICK TO WATCH VIDEO OF FIGHT

French-Italian Muay Thai legend, Fabio Pinca, who had previously won the Lion Fight welterweight title in 2013 by decision over Malaipet Sasiprapa, had been on a five fight win streak prior to this fight but lost by split decision to the home fighter.

Andrei Ostrovanu vs Zhang Dezheng

Ostrovanu is of Romanian descent (but if I am correct, has grown up in England) and won by unanimous decision. He is a young kick boxer who, I can recall was fighting on regional kickboxing shows here in the UK with some powerful performances not too long and then went onto fight Mohammed Jaraya in Enfusion (he lost that fight by stoppage but he certainly challenged Jaraya)

As for Dezheng (the home fighter), from what I’ve seen of him in his fight a couple of years ago with the explosive Australian, Brad Riddell, he’s a durable fighter and no pushover.

Here is his fight with Riddell:

From the above seven match-ups, 10 of the 14 fighters are known reasonably well in the western world by kickboxing enthusiasts.

The quality of international kickboxing match-ups by the Chinese has certainly been of a very good level – some may say that they have even managed to deliver better match-ups than GLORY at times.

It certainly is very interesting times for kickboxing in China and with regular shows throughout the year being hosted by the Chinese – especially Kunlun – it can only help the sport of kickboxing to develop on a global scale which has been a struggle in recent years since the financial crisis a few years ago that brought ‘K-1’ to its knees and the rapid growth and popularity of MMA.

Kunlun aren’t complacent with simply hosting events in China alone. They recently hosted Kunlun Fight 44 on the 14th May in Russia and their following event, Kunlun Fight 45, will be in South Korea on the 22nd May 2016, before they then return to China on the 6th June 2016.

Can the Chinese sustain a financially viable operation of not only promoting international kickboxing events and a spectacle of a show, while continuing to attract a wealth of fighting talent from around the world? Only time will tell but I know that I’m certainly not the only one that hopes that they will, for the sake of breathing long term life back into the world of kickboxing.