Melvin Manhoef

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

 

Why YOU should be excited for GLORY: Last Man Standing – Part 2

I’m going to break into my own fandom here a bit for part 2 of this article so I can tell you why I’m so damn excited about this tournament and why you should be too.

MELVIN MANHOEF. If you don’t know who Melvin Manhoef is, watch his highlights. Search on YouTube, “Manhoef vs. Cyborg”, for one of the best fights you will ever see. It’s an MMA match but there is very little groundwork and in reality it’s basically a kickboxing match with MMA gloves on. Manhoef was first, a kick boxer, despite his wealth of MMA experience. He is one of the hardest hitting fighters to ever compete in any combat sport. Another champion, Mark Hunt, is a fighter known around the world for his iron chin; Melvin Manhoef knocked him out moving backward.

Manhoef ‘s power and striking intent is very reminiscent of the great Mike Tyson. Every strike he throws has such a scary explosion to it that it offers you a glimpse into his mind by watching it. There’s much more than the desire to win a fight in those punches, there’s something primal.

Melvin has been in the ring with kickboxing greats like Remy Bonjasky, Tyrone Spong, Stefan Leko, Ray Sefo, and Gokhan Saki. Although he is only 5 foot 8 inches tall, which makes him the shortest fighter in the bracket for his his Glory debut, he has a vast amount of experience fighting in similar rule styles and knocking out much bigger, and taller men.

Melvin will need that experience because the next shortest fighter in the bracket for Glory: Last Man Standing is Simon Marcus, who is 6’1.

Simon holds wins in other organizations over three of the other fighters in the bracket. He’s beaten #1 ranked Artem Levin, he has two wins over the #2 ranked Joe Schilling and a win over the #4 ranked Filip Verlinden. Outside of these wins, there’s something else that makes Simon Marcus even more interesting in the tournament format. Although Simon Marcus has never competed in an 8-man tournament, he has fought more than once in a single night. One night in China, he KO’d two fighters in two separate fights and he never even got out of the ring between them. These were real fights too they were not shortened tournament fights and they were against real opponents who had real skills and at one point Marcus even found himself in real trouble. Crazy right? Well he’s done this twice and the second time he accomplished this, another Glory fighter, Israel Adesanya, was one of his opponents.

Simon Marcus or, Simon Sor Suchart, is also making his Glory Debut but has an impressive record of 39-0 with 1 draw. He is trained by Ajahn Suchart, at Siam #1 gym in Toronto and dons a dangerous and very traditional Muay Thai style. His wins over Artem Levin and Joe Schilling were under full Muay Thai rules which differs very greatly to the Glory rule set. In Glory, elbows are not permitted and neither are sweeps and throws. With the clinch being limited to 5 seconds, this may turn out to be the Achilles heel for the undefeated fighter.

Marcus is very skilled in the clinch and in the first fight he had with Joe Schilling which was under full Muay Thai rules, he dumped Schilling in such a way that he fell over on top of him as they both crashed into the canvas. The dump alone was not very devastating but what happened in the subsequent tumble left Schilling wobbled and concussed. When Joe got up he was clearly on unstable legs and was then KO’d with a monster left hook from Marcus. The circumstances around the KO were a bit frustrating with the tumble being more of an accident than a technique. In their second match Joe dropped Marcus in the first round with his own monster hook, although later losing the fight on points. It can be argued that one of the main reasons Joe lost the second fight with Simon was because of Simon’s high-level clinch, which will not be an issue in the Glory ring.

Simon has been known to start slow with his traditional style and use his high level skills in the clinch to secure victories. My question regarding Marcus is, can he tune his style to the fast pace action of the 3, 3-minute rounds under the Glory rule set and stay undefeated?

Another difference between full Muay Thai rules and the rules in Glory kickboxing is the emphasis that Glory puts on spectacular techniques in scoring. Techniques like spinning kicks and punches or flying knees of any variety. This motivates the athletes to bring a higher level of skill into the ring and is another rule that benefits Joe Schilling in a fight with Simon Marcus.

At Glory 10: Los Angeles, Joe Schilling won the Glory Middleweight Tournament Championship. Despite his being currently ranked #2, Joe won the tournament with wins over Kengo Shimizu and then (and still) ranked #1 Artem Levin. In the fight with Shimizu, Joe landed perfectly timed and expertly executed spinning back fists and all types of spinning kicks. At one point even putting them together in combination, landing a spinning back kick to the body and a spinning back fist as he recovered from the rotation of the first technique. It was truly spectacular to watch, both for fans and for the judges. In the final of the middleweight tournament at Glory 10, he dropped Artem Levin with a superman punch in the second round. Some critics of Joe may cite that Schilling landed a knee to the head of Levin while he was on his way down which may have been the cause for the knockdown. However, it is a fact that Levin was already wobbled and on his knees as Schilling’s knee connected, the knee making it a heavier knockdown, but a knockdown it still was, without the knee.

Now, you may have noticed that I have a slight bias towards Joe Schilling; I don’t deny that I am a fan of his and that this bias exists. I think he may win the whole thing. Though I must admit that what makes the tournament final of Glory 10: Los Angeles between Schiling and Levin so interesting is that Artem Levin won two of the three rounds but was knocked down in the second, scoring the match a draw. In the extension round, Joe scored a knockdown that I must admit, appears to be a slip.

Artem Levin came in with a kick to which Joe reached for and with good timing, simultaneously threw a windmill overhand right that landed hard on Levin. There’s no doubt that the punch landed and it certainly appears as if Levin goes down from the impact. Still, Levin was not rocked and got up rather quickly. Upon closer inspection it looks likely that (and this is my personal speculation) it was more of a forward momentum while Levin was on one leg that caused the knockdown rather than the blow itself. Of course this is just my opinion but this knockdown was key in Joe’s victory and Tournament Championship and makes a potential rematch with Artem Levin terribly exciting.

Joe Schilling is another one of those fighters, like Manhoef, who strikes with murderous intent. However, another thing I must admit despite my bias for Joe Schilling is that he can sometimes become very emotional and drain his energy level causing his cardio to become somewhat suspicious. He has said in interviews that he is the only fighter that has ever beaten him. If this happens in a fight with someone like Melvin Manhoef, he may not be able to recover from the pressure that a fighter like that can deliver under such circumstances. Yet, I don’t think that Joe has gotten to this point in his career without learning from his mistakes and improving. I have no doubt that a hungry and prepared Joe Schilling can beat any fighter in the world, or in this case, any three fighters in the world.

Schilling is one of the American nak muays who are responsible for bringing America into the international spotlight. He, and the others who represent the brand Cant Stop Crazy, are the first group of American fighters that have gained significant notoriety on the world stage of Muay Thai and Kickboxing. There have been other American fighters that represent America internationally, but none who have gained the same popularity as these guys (and gal).

There is one other who is about too though. The American, Wayne Barret is still relatively young in the world of kickboxing but has done extremely well for himself. Barrett scored a surprise win over Joe Schilling at Glory 12: New York, dropping Schilling twice for an 8-count in the second round and winning a unanimous decision victory.

Wayne Barrett has always had a high knockout ratio. As an amateur he was 19-1 with 15 KO’s. He was WKA Amateur United States Cruiserweight Champion and Golden Gloves Boxing Champion in his home state of Georgia. In his pro debut he fought a 12-fight veteran and TKO’d him in the second round. He knocked out every opponent he faced in the pro ranks until he met Joe Schilling, who he dropped twice for an 8-count. Some might believe that Schilling overlooked Barrett based on his lack of experience. Wayne Barrett brought the fight to the Tournament Champion harder than anyone thought he would. I don’t doubt that the 4-0 fighter has the ability to shock us again in Glory: Last Man Standing.

The other fighters in the bracket are no easy task for anyone either. #4 ranked Filip Verlinden has competed at higher weight classes against guys like Tyrone Spong, Remy Bonjasky and Rico Verhoeven for top promotions of the past like K-1 and It’s Showtime, also winning the gold at the IFMA’s in 2010. Bogdan Stoica has become known internationally for his rarely used stunning techniques like axe kicks and flying knees and in 38 of his wins, 29 came by way of knockout. Alex Pereira from Brazil is the tallest fighter in the bracket and fought his way into the 8-man tournament the hard way, by winning of the Middleweight Contender Tournament in Zagreb at Glory 14.

Tournaments like these have always offered so many opportunities for unforgettable moments in sports. As fans we get to see the top athletes get pushed to their limits and either hit the wall and crumble or power through it despite fatigue and injury. Good fighters become great fighters and those who fail to win will experience a life-changing event that can either empower them to find their potential or reduce them into the realm of mediocrity. I can’t wait for June 21st.

Why YOU should be excited for GLORY: Last Man Standing – Part 1

If you’ve already seen a Glory kickboxing event then you’ve seen their 4-man tournament format where fighters compete twice in the same night for championship gold. On Saturday, June 21st, after Glory 17: Los Angeles airs live on Spike TV. The promotions first ever Pay-Per-View event, Glory: Last Man Standing will break new ground and enter into American martial arts history. Last Man Standing will feature their first 8-man tournament, the first 8-man tournament of the world’s best that America has ever seen.

Critics of the tournament format usually talk about how one of the fighters in the final may have had a more strenuous draw in the preliminary and semi-final matches than their opponent. Thus making the final competition somewhat inauthentic. I couldn’t disagree more. The tournament format brings another factor of intelligence into the fight. In a tournament a fighter must balance the inevitability of damage taken vs. damage given. It makes a champion cleaner and more effective.

There is an interesting effect on the mind of a fighter, on their strategy. If a fighter only focuses on the opponent that he deems most challenging in the bracket, the opponent he might visualize being in the final with, it may result in overlooking his other opponents and missing a crucial detail. It might result in losing the focus required for his preliminary and semi-final bouts and in a surprise loss earlier in the tournament. Conversely, if a fighter focuses on the fight in front of him so much that he doesn’t tune his style to the tournament format to consider the amount of damage taken in preliminary bouts, he may hamstring himself for the final match.

It’s this extra requirement, this –survival-mode-in-real-life factor that makes tournaments so much more exciting. Not only does a fighter have to beat the best in the division, he has to clear his division out in a single night. If the criterion of becoming a champion is that you have to beat the best to be the best. This extra criterion of beating the best and the two next-bests in a single night must surely make an even more authentic champion.

Here’s the complete bracket for the first Glory 8-man Middleweight World Championship Tournament.

#1 Artem Levin (47-4-1)
#2 Joe Schilling (16-5-0)
#3 Wayne Barrett (4-0-0)
#4 Filip Verlinden (41-11-1)
#6 Alex Pereira (13-1-0)
#9 Bogdan Stoica (38-5-0)
#- Melvin Manhoef (37-11-0)
#- Simon Marcus (39-0-1)

EDITOR’S NOTE: Later this week Joe will bring you an in depth look into each one of the fighters participating in GLORY’s “Last Man Standing” tournament, including his personal favorites. Stay tuned!