Veterans Mike Zambidis, Yoshihiro Sato, Drago and Albert Kraus, and relative newcomers Yuichiro "Jienotsu" Nagashima, Mohamed Khamal and Michal Glogowski, will all be attempting to dethrone "The Doctor" and take the most prestigious title in kickboxing. Also, in MMA action Beijing judo gold medalist Satoshi Ishii will look to take the next step in his career when he faces "Mad Dog Wrestler" Katsuyori Shibata.
After the break, predictions so good that we may as well call them pre-fight results.
What: K-1 WORLD MAX 2010 -70kg World Championship Tournament FINAL
Where: Ryogoku Kokugikan in Tokyo, Japan
When: Monday, Nov. 8th. Broadcasting Nov. 20th on HDNet.
Mike Zambidis vs. Yuichiro "Jienotsu" Nagashima (70kg GP Quarterfinal)
Before we get under way with this, take a moment and watch Chahid Oulad El Hadj vs. Mike Zambidis from the Final 16 in Seoul earlier in the year. Certainly one of the greatest K-1 fights ever, and an excellent example of why it is worth watching this GP, despite it lacking the star power of past champions like Buakaw Por Pramuk and Andy Souwer.
Yuichiro "Jienotsu" Nagashima is not the "new Masato," but he is still bringing fans back to fight sport locally as he wins spectacularly, loses spectacularly and dresses up like anime characters while doing it. Unfortunately, his victory against Andre Dida to qualify for this year's finals was the least spectacular performance of his K-1 career, and it robbed him of any momentum he had from winning the Japan GP earlier this year.
Zambidis has a reputation as a knockout artist but in fact he has had trouble putting opponents away over the past few years. Luckily for Zambidis, Jienotsu's chin was exposed with two consecutive KO losses in 2009 and the pint size Greek still has enough power to put Nagashima to sleep with a hook after finding his range towards the end of the second.
Albert Kraus vs. Giorgio Petrosyan (70kg GP Quarterfinal)
If these men were on opposite sides of the brackets, I might very well expect them to meet in the finals. Defending champion Giorgio Petrosyan is riding a 26-fight win streak, while Kraus has only tasted defeat once in his last 13 outings and is currently at the peak of rebound after a few rough years from 2006-2008
Kraus and Petrosyan squared off during the quarterfinals of the tournament in 2009 and so it of course makes sense to look at that fight. It was that fight where Kraus last tasted defeat and it was extraordinary. Kraus is, and was at that time in 2009, considered among the best kickboxers in the world, but Petrosyan made the 2002 K-1 Champ look extremely average. Petrosyan has a near super human ability to read fighters and Kraus was no different as from the opening bell "The Doctor" easily avoided any offense coming in with Matrix like weaves and parries while serving up a steady stream of punishment.
Watching Petrosyan operate during a fight is incredible but seeing the precision of his movements in slow motion between rounds is breath taking. His Final 16 bout against Vitaly Hurkou was unfortunately awkward due to Hurkou's consistent clinching (or rather the problem with the current K-1 rule-set), but it is absolutely impossible to pick against Petroysan at this point of his career despite Kraus' recent form.
Drago vs. Mohamed Khamal (70kg GP Quarterfinal)
Chahid Oulad El Hadj vs. Mike Zambidis stole the show at the Final 16 but Mohamed Khamal's defeat of Artur Kyshenko also deserves some time in the spotlight. Kyshenko had lost some steam going into this year's Final 16 with losses to Hinata in Shootboxing and Teerapong Dee at the SportAccord Combat Games but he was still considered a heavy favorite against Khamal. The 20 year old Moroccan is lacking in power but the speedy combination fighter outworked a seemingly shocked Kyshenko to take a the unanimous decision.
Despite his highlight reel KO over Su Hwan Lee in Seoul, Drago is another fighter who somewhat lacks KO power but he more than makes up for it with his toughness.
Both fighters are a long shot to win the GP and given their fighting styles this has a tough decision written all over it, making advancing further than the semi-finals very difficult. Drago's significant experience advantage may save him but I see the Armenian getting sucked into a match where he tries to match the volume of Khamal. If that is the case then Khamal takes the decision as Drago tires.
Michal Glogowski vs. Yoshihiro Sato (70kg GP Quarterfinal)
Michal Glogowski is a newcomer to this level of K-1 looked stiff early and then a little too wild later on in his decision over over former two-time Lumpinee champion and former Rajadamnern champion Sagatpetch.
While Sagatpetch was a newcomer to K-1, there aren't many fighting these days in MAX with more experience than Yoshihiro Sato. The Nagoya based Muay Thai practitioner has been fighting at a consistent level since he entered K-1 in 2005 but that level has just been below the elite as he has faltered when facing the best of the best.
Glogowski will have a lot of trouble winning a decision against the veteran as he has shown a wild streak that could be exploited. Sato should be able to use his ring experience and considerable length to keep Glogowski at bay while taking minimal damage.
Hinata vs. Andre Dida (Tournament Reserve Fight)
Hinata's victory over Artur Kyshenko this year in Shootboxing was a career highlight and even though he was quickly disposed of by Andy Sauwer shortly after that victory, it will continue to earn him some credibility for some time.
Andre Dida always comes to fight and did extremely well against Jienotsu in the Final 16, but he has shown over the past few years that he is not at this level. Dida does have one thing on his side though – luck. The Brazilian was recently accidentally shot in the head but amazingly the bullet just grazed his skull leaving only a large scar on his head but doing no serious damage. I don't know why, but I'm picking against the luckiest man in the world. Hinata should take the lopsided decision.
70kg GP Semifinal 1
If my predictions are correct (which they should be) then we should have a Giorgio Petrosyan vs. Mike Zambidis semifinal – a horrible matchup for the latter. Petroysan isn't a large fighter but the height and reach advantage that he has over the Greek fighter should lead to a comfortable fight for the reigning champ. Zambidis has a great jaw and incredible heart but his leaping and looping style can be exploited if one has enough skill and Petrosyan has it to spare.
70kg GP Semi-Final 2
Again, if my predictions are correct (which they will be) we will have Mohamed Khamal vs. Yoshihiro Sato for our second semi-final. For Khamal to have made it this far will have been a stellar run for the first timer but I don't see how he gets past Sato. It takes an extremely skilled fighter defeat Sato and Khamal relies more on volume than technique. Khamal might take Sato to an extra round as the Japanese fighter is slow to start but Sato takes the decision.
70kg GP Final
As I stated above – it takes an extremely skilled fighter to defeat Yoshihiro Sato and Giorgio Petrosyan is exactly that kind of fighter. Sato could give Petrosyan the toughest fight of his K-1 career, but the Italian fighter solves the Japanese riddle late in the first round as normal and then it should be mostly one-way traffic from that point onward as Petrosyan takes his second consecutive K-1 World Max 2010 -70kg world championship.
Satoshi Ishii vs. Katsuyori Shibata (DREAM Rules)
The sole MMA bout on the card got slightly less interesting as kickboxer Antz Nansen was forced of the card due to a thumb injury. At Sengoku 15, we saw Athens silver medalist Hiroshi Izumi choose to stand boxer James Zikic and although he won a (questionable) decision, he again ignored his base and chose to mostly stand with the Englishman.
The Beijing gold medalist was apparently planning to do the same against Nansen and it would have given us a good amount of insight into Ishii's future. Would he ignore his judo and put another mark on his record or would he have a shot at living up to the hype and utilize his judo?
The pro wrestler Katsuyori Shibata stepping in for Nansen we have a much less interesting fight. Shibata isn't a particularly skilled fighter and will come in about 44 pounds lighter than the judoka. We saw that Ishii could handle an experienced pro wrestler when he faced Ikuhisa Minowa in his last outing so look for a similar fight here.
Yuta Kubo vs. Hiroya
Yuta Kubo was one of the breakout fighters in K-1 this year with his fantastic run in the 63kg Japan GP, although he did falter in the final against Tetsuya Yamato after getting caught up in a slugfest. Hiroya is undoubtedly one of K-1's biggest disappointments. Hiroya was personally selected as Masato's successor at the age of 15 and although he took the 2008 K-1 Koushien title he failed to win over fans and has not fought since dropping a decision to Masaaki Noiri at Dynamite 2009.
Both fighters are technically gifted and this 63kg bout is an excellent example of why the division was created. Kubo is a tough match for anyone and with Hiroya taking 10 months off, it is even tougher. Kubo should take a close, exciting decision.
Yuya Yamamoto vs. Seichi Ikemoto
Former Deep champion Seichi Ikemoto makes his K-1 debut but really, it is a head scratcher. Although the Osaka-based fighter has solid striking, what set him apart in MMA was his stomps and ground and pound and has in no way indicated that he has the technical ability to hange on this level. Ikemoto is exciting though and fans should remember him for his match against Marius Zaromskis in the 2009 Dream welterweight GP but there is no way he gets past Yuya Yamamoto – double punches or not.