Last night in Seoul, South Korea, eight men qualified for the K-1 World Grand Prix Final which will take place on December 11 in Japan.
The exciting card—11 fights in total—featured knockouts, upsets, and many close fights.
The night's opening bout featured two Korean fighters, Min Ho Song and Hyun Man Myung. The fight was the shortest of the event with Myung knocking out Song with a powerful right hook in just 35 seconds.
The main card began with the first of two superfights. In the night's second contest, MMA veteran Sergey Kharitonov halted former Japanese prospect Takumi Sato with a brutal right hook at the end of the first round, which he dominated.
Kharitonov, in only his second kickboxing match, looked impressive, and now expects to come to America to complete his first fight with Strikeforce, who he signed with early this summer.
In the second superfight, Bosnian veteran Dzevad Poturak badly damaged German veteran Chalid "Die Faust" Arrab's leg in the first round which resulted in an early corner stoppage in round two.
This was the first win in five fights for the "Bos Cop", as Poturak is called. Arrab, who has now lost five consecutive fights, hadn't competed since the 2008 K-1 Final 16.
After the conclusion of the last superfight, the first of eight tournament bouts began.
Tyrone Spong became the first fighter to qualify for the year-end Final when he defeated 2000 K-1 World Grand Prix runner-up Ray Sefo by unanimous decision. The 39-year-old Sefo was a late addition to the card after Ruslan Karaev withdrew from the fight with Spong due to injury on September 21.
"Sugar" Ray Sefo landed a few of his trademark right hands, but they were not enough to hold of the calculated attack of Tryone Spong, who picked apart the veteran with repeated leg kicks.
In the second tournament bout, popular Turkish kickboxer Gokhan Saki squared off with French veteran Freddy Kemayo. Both fighters have fast hands and strong punch power, and the widely expected knockout was delivered in the first round of this bout.
Saki, always energetic and explosive, was able to put together multiple combinations early and dropped Kemayo with a flurry of punches two minutes into the fight.
Daniel Ghita shocked the 12,000 in attendance in the third tournament fight when he KO'ed Dutch kickboxer Errol Zimmerman with a quick straight right early in the second round. Ghita, who was the underdog in this fight, becomes the first Romanian to qualify for the K-1 World Grand Prix Final.
The fourth tournament bout was easily one of the most anticipated and competitive matches of the night. K-1 legend Jerome Le Banner and K-1 Heavyweight Champion Kyotaro gave it their all in a fierce three round battle. After the regulation time expired, it was nearly to close to call.
It was unclear if Le Banner won the fight after an impressive first round and a comeback late in third round, or if Kyotaro fought well enough to earn an extension round. In the end, the judges declared the first three rounds a draw, and Le Banner, who was obviously unhappy with the decision, refused to return to the ring, forfeiting the match. This will be Kyotaro's first Finals appearance.
Next up was a tightly contested fight between three-time K-1 World Grand Prix Champion Peter Aerts and Kyokushin karate expert Ewerton Texiera. The Brazilian Texiera, who was brutally knocked-out by Alistair Overeem at last year's Final, had developed a reputation for lackluster and slow fights, but that was the case for this bout with kickboxing legend Aerts.
After three action-filled and fast-paced rounds, two judges scored the fight a draw which led to an extension round. In the bonus three minutes, Aerts dominated the Brazilian and earns his 17th Finals appearance in the 18 year history of the tournament.
The upset of the night came in the sixth Grand Prix match. The scheduled fight of former UFC Heavyweight Champion and 22-year old Romanian Raul Catinas was called off after Arlovski pulled out of his K-1 debut due to a broken nose on Tuesday.
Mighty Mo, the popular heavy-handed American Samoan, took the fight with one day to train on Thursday. In the bout, Mo was able to use his immense power to knock down Catinas, who wrongly opted to engage in a slug-fest with the Samoan, midway through round one.
Mo maintained his pace throughout the fight and earned an impressive unanimous decision. He qualifies for his second Final of his career and looks to return to form after losing seven of his last ten fights.
Next up was four-time and defending K-1 World Grand Prix Champion Semmy Schilt's bout with Egyptian kickboxer Hesdy Gerges. The two met in March 2009 with the K-1 Champion claiming an easy decision. This time, however, the young Egyptian was better prepared for the 6'11" Dutchman.
Schilt was able to control the fight early with his crisp left jab and efficient leg kicks and clearly won the first two rounds. Gerges, however, freed himself of Semmy's deadly rhythm and badly bruised the giant's lead leg in the third round. Ultimately, the late surge by Hesdy Gerges wasn't enough though, as Semmy Schilt snagged the split decision in what he called one of the toughest fights of his career. "The Hightower" will look to claim his fifth K-1 title in six years in December.
The final match of the night featured two sluggers- K-1 World Grand Prix 2010 in Canberra Champion Ben Edwards and Strikeforce Heavyweight Champion and rising K-1 star Alistair Overeem. The Australian Edwards came out of the gate with a powerful barrage of strikes, but "The Demolition Man" fended them off and was able to score a knock-down with a right hand one minute into the fight.
Within in a minute, Overeem scored two more knock-downs resulting in a TKO victory over the young Aussie. As expected, Alistair Overeem was dominant and intimidating and is the favorite to rival Golden Glory training partner Schilt at this year's Final.
In review, the K-1 World Grand Prix 2010 Final 16 was a greatly entertaining event stacked with surprises and quality contests. The eight competitors who qualified for the Grand Prix Final will now have two months to train for the year-end event on Decemeber 11.
Youngsters Tyrone Spong, and Daniel Ghita will look to make their mark in K-1 this December in their Finals debut. The showstopping Gokhan Saki will try to earn three more KO victories along with a Grand Prix Championship. Kyotaro hopes to prove he can hang with not only the under 100 kilogram fighters but also the Super Heavyweights of K-1.
Mighty Mo will have a chance to return to form and re-establish himself as an intimidating presence in kickboxing. "Mr. K-1" Peter Aerts will look to silence anyone who claims the three-time Champion is heading towards retirement and earn earn a record-tying fourth Grand Prix title.
MMA veteran Alistair Overeem can prove himself to be a true kickboxing talent and boost his K-1 career with another. impressive Finals showing. And lastly, Semmy Schilt can solely claim the record of most Grand Prix titles with a fifth Championship.
Are you thinking what I am thinking? This is going to be a very interesting Grand Prix Final
- Sergey Kharitonov def. Takumi Sato by KO (Round one, 2:50)
- Dzevad Poturak def. Chalid Arrab by TKO (Corner stoppage, Round two, 0:06)
- Tyrone Spong def. Ray Sefo by Decision (three rounds, 3-0)
- Gokhan Saki def. Freddy Kemayo by KO (Round one, 2:14)
- Daniel Ghita def. Errol Zimmerman by KO (Round two, 0:18)
- Kyotaro def. Jerome Le Banner by forfeit
- Peter Aerts def. Ewerton Texiera by Decision (Ext. Round, 3-0)
- Mighty Mo def. Raul Catinas by Decision (three rounds, 3-0)
- Semmy Schilt def. Hesdy Gerges by Decision (three rounds, 2-1)
- Alistair Overeem def. Ben Edwards by TKO (Round one, 2:08)