K-1’s Heavyweight Recovery
K-1 is in an interesting phase right now. After looking to replace its stars of the 90’s that were starting to show signs of aging with a few quick and easy fixes and failing, they have been building the promotion around the addition of legimate talent. While the UFC was blossoming a few years ago with stars like Forrest Griffin, Tito Ortiz and Chuck Liddell leading the charge and showing that MMA wasn’t some brutal new fad but a new, exciting sport, K-1 was pushing Bob Sapp, Butterbean and other fighters with little talent but size and freakshow appeal.
Bob Sapp Demonstrating His Technique
If you were a fan of K-1 during the glory days of Andy Hugg, Ernesto Hoost, Peter Aerts, Ray Sefo and company, this K-1 was a completely different company. It looked like they were paying Ernesto Hoost to possibly lose or just go easy on their new big star, Bob Sapp. It easily could have been that Hoost was simply getting older and didn’t have the same fire that he did ten years before. Regardless, K-1 was alienating the fans that tuned in to see the sport they loved in lieu of confusing fights taking place in what seemed like a pro wrestling atmosphere.
There should be no more doubts of late, with the past few years K-1 has churned out some great shows with the last 3 World GPs featuring great fights and surprises. Last year’s WGP Finals was hands down one of the best combat sports events of 2008, only really brought down by Badr Hari’s temper tantrum and Remy Bonjasky’s refusal to continue fighting after Badr Hari’s poor sportsmanship and hot temper led to him stomping on a downed Bonjasky.
The heavyweights of K-1 have always been the attraction, and unlike MMA or Boxing, K-1 doesn’t bog down their league with many regimented weight classes. This can easily be critiqued as a weakness, with fighters like Melvin Manhoef who fights in MMA at 185lbs competing against natural heavyweight. Unlike MMA, though, there is no grappling or real advantage of weight. In MMA, a few pound difference can mean it is more difficult to stop a takedown or defend against a dominant position on the ground. In kickboxing being a leaner fighter means increased speed and stamina (in most cases) and can be an advantage to a talented fighter. A few fighters in the heavyweight division have stood out over the past few years and helped the K-1 speedy recovery:
Remy Bonjasky –
The Flying Dutchman is known for his exciting style and taking to the air to overwhelm his opponents. Until you’ve seen Bonjasky connect with a flying high kick
or knee it is hard to really grasp the appeal of Bonjasky, but when you do it is a sight to behold.
Melvin Manhoef –
Melvin is a guy that could really use some style refinement, but his aggressive and punishing style has made him a quick favorite. Melvin isn’t a knockout artist, there is no art
to his destruction, he is a knockout wrecking ball
Gokhan Saki –
Saki is 25 years old but already has years of experience behind him. He was on the road to being the K-1 Heavyweight Champion before Keijiro Maeda was able to stop him in March in a heart-breaking loss. Saki is a very solid
muay thai practioner who will quickly become a mainstay on the World Grand Prix stage for years to come.
Ewerton Teixeira –
The Kyokushin practioner has made a quick impact on the K-1 world in 2008, winning 5 of his 6 fights and making an incredible impression on the world. Then this year got the better of K-1 mainstay Jerome LeBanner
Keijiro Maeda –
The current K-1 Heavyweight Champion
who seems to be in line to take K-1’s spot for top Japanese Heavyweight, a position they have looked to fill since Musashi’s decline in the past few years. Maeda has worked to become more aggressive and refine his style and looks to have a bright future.
Next: K-1 MAX
Still to come: K-1 vs. MMA