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Free Agent Alistair Overeem Could Revitalize Kickboxing's Heavyweight Division

(C) Dan Herbertson

Today Bellator announced the signing of former WEC and UFC Lightweight Champion Benson Henderson. Henderson was a free agent after his UFC contract expired and him moving to Bellator is yet another big deal in the wake of UFC's grasp on the industry starting to wane thanks to Viacom's hefty check book and moves by the UFC like the Reebok deal that made fighting in the UFC a lot less attractive to fighters. There is another free agent out there that has interest from many sides and that free agent also has our interest as well, that is Alistair Overeem. 

Overeem's UFC career has been solid, if not average at 5-3 with big wins over Brock Lesnar, Frank Mir and Junior Dos Santos. But now he finds himself as a free agent and it seemingly comes down to taking a lesser offer from the UFC in hopes of getting a run at the UFC Heavyweight Championship, or to look for greener pastures. 

The question on lots of fans' minds is this; will he end up in Bellator. My question is a bit different; will he kickbox again? 

In a way it seems impossible, right? With all due respect to GLORY, the chances of them paying Overeem what he wants seems slim-to-none at this point and no other big kickboxing organization would really benefit from adding Overeem to their roster at his high price point. That is, if you are looking at things in a traditional, binary way of a promotion having only this or that, or just being MMA or just kickboxing. What if a promotion could offer both?

We've known about Bellator's Scott Coker looking to expand into kickboxing for almost a year now, but the wheels seem to be in motion starting at the April Oktagon event (although Bellator has yet to comment on this yet), with Joe Schilling confirming in his recent Reddit AMA that Bellator was going to venture into kickboxing. All of a sudden Bellator seems not only like a logical destination for a fighter like Alistair Overeem's MMA career, but for the final K-1 World Grand Prix Champion (at least under the FEG banner, I guess, are we counting Cro Cop's win?) to return to kickboxing and shake things up in heavyweight kickboxing. 

A huge part of why heavyweight kickboxing has felt so hollow over the past few years has been not only the dissolution of K-1's legendary heavyweight division, but the retirement or fading away of the stars that made that division so great. Alistair Overeem was the man to win the last real K-1 World Grand Prix while K-1 still had its roster in tact. A big part of why the division hasn't felt as vibrant would have to be that for years the champion would continue fighting in tournaments and when a new champion was crowned there were no lingering doubts because the system was clear. The system was incredibly simple; the champion won a one-night, eight man tournament each year. Period. That's it. 

GLORY has held tournaments since then, and K-1 held a World Grand Prix in 2012 that Mirko Cro Cop won, but all of these tournaments felt like they were missing something. In that period of time Rico Verhoeven has risen up to the very top of the food chain, but finding someone to challenge him has been a chore for GLORY. On top of that, some fans still don't accept him as the "real" champion for god know's what reason. I'd argue that a big part of that feeling is that the chain was broken and the champion didn't go on to fight in another tournament. There was no passing of the torch, so to speak. 

If Bellator is truly going to have their own kickboxing promotion this year who better to help build that promotion around than Alistair Overeem, former K-1 World Grand Prix Champion? And yes, he could do that while still fighting in MMA for them as well. Overeem's star power is undeniable at this point and while promotional logistics would make a potential clash between Overeem and Verhoeven difficult, never say never. 

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Wildly Inconsistent Judging Strikes Again, This Time Against Gaston Bolanos

In what has become a plague of sorts, yet another quality combat sports event happened this weekend under the Lion Fight banner and fans were left scratching their heads over it. The fight in question was at Lion Fight 27 between Gaston Bolanos and Kronphet. It was a competitive five round affair, the first decision for Bolanos and the young fighter learned firsthand why everyone always echoes the now empty sentiment of "never let it go to the judges."

Because he let it go to the judges and the decision rendered was not great. While it was a close fight, the body kicks from Kronphet were what scored him points with the judges. Unsurprising to many, but the two Thai judges scored the bout for the Thai fighter, while the other judge scored the fight for Bolanos. Simply watching the fight you can see in the later rounds how Bolanos grew more comfortable, was cutting off the ring and was scoring points with punches, elbows and the clinch sweeps, all of which he was landing consistently against the Thai. 

The IKF was overseeing Lion Fight 27, from what we understand on somewhat late notice, but the rules going into the fight weren't in doubt. Interestingly enough, the referee didn't seem to grasp the concept of the rules and was quickly breaking up clinches between the two men, to the point where I've seen more clinchwork allowed in kickboxing fights, even recent ones. Confusingly enough, the referee wasn't the only problem, because the judges didn't seem to grasp the scoring, either. If in kickboxing what Sitthichai did against Robin van Roosmalen wasn't enough for a win, under muay thai rules what Kronphet did to Bolanos was essentially zilch. IKF's own rules spell it all out.

In fact, from reports that we've received, the two judges in question had scored Kronphet as the winner in round four for one judge and round five for the other, either one of those being objectively insane calls by most educated eyes. From what we understand the IKF is looking at the decision and may even be considering overturning it, but even if not, this fight will just be tossed onto the pile of evidence that officiating in kickboxing and muay thai needs a complete overhaul. Anyone that is to referee or judge a fight should understand the rules and be properly vetted, much like a jury is in a court case, to ensure that fighters won't have to keep working so hard to face this level of uncertainty and fear when they are fighting a tough opponent that they just can't seem to knock out. 

What's especially tough is that the onus here doesn't fall on the fighters or their coaches for failing in any way, or even the promotions, who aren't directly assigning these officials, but the overseeing bodies that exist in combat sports, all of which tend to feel outdated, insecure and relics from a time long since past. If we want to see the sports of kickboxing and muay thai gain a stronger hold not only in America, but in Europe and other parts of the world as well, there needs to be a unified front and we need to stop having these divisive moments happening every few weeks. 

I'm not here to point fingers, to accuse anyone, just at this point a plea for these people to remember that they are helping to frame the careers of all of these fighters and that their decisions carry long shockwaves that don't just stop when the bell rings.

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Lion Fight 27 Live Results

Here are the live results for Lion Fights 27. You can watch the fights live on AXS TV.

Full Results

WELTERWEIGHT TITLE: FABIO PINCA def. CHARLIE PETERS by Unanimous Dec

WOMEN'S SUPER BANTAMWEIGHT: TIFFANY VAN SOEST def. ASHLEY NICHOLS by Unanimous Dec

KRONPHET PHETRACHAPAT def. GASTON BOLANOS by Split Dec

BRIAN DEL ROSARIO def. CHRIS CULLEY by Unanimous Dec

ANVAR BOYNAZAROV def. COKE CHUNHAWAT by Unanimous Dec

TRAVIS CLAY def. JARED PAPAZIAN by Unanimous Dec

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Weigh-in Results For Tonight's Lion Fight 27

Joe Rogan's favorite stand-up promotion returns to the airwaves tonight on AXS TV with a big, two-title bout fight card that is sure to entertain during these winter doldrums. The main event sees the Welterweight title on the line between Charlie Peters and Fabio Pinca, while the co-main sees Tiffany Van Soest contend for her second championship at Women's Super Bantamweight against Ashley Nichos.

Also on the card is Gaston Bolanos against Kronphet, Brian Del Rosario against Chris Culley and everyone's favorite Coke Chunhawat against Anvar Boynazarov. 

Lion Fight 27 Main Card – Begins at 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT on AXS TV

Main Event – Welterweight (147 pound) Title Fight – Charlie Peters (146.4) vs. Fabio Pinca (145.2)

Co-Main Event – Women’s Super Bantamweight (120 pound) Title Fight – Ashley Nichos (119.2) vs. Tiffany Van Soest (119)

Welterweight (143 Pound) Fight – Kronphet Phetrachapat (143.6) vs. Gaston Bolanos (142.4)

Welterweight (147 pound) Fight – Chris Culley (150.2) vs. Brian Del Rosario (146.6)

Super Lightweight (137 pound) Fight – Coke Chunhawat (137.4) vs. Anvar Boynazarov (140.4)

Lightweight (132 pound) Fight – Jared Papazian (133) vs. Travis Clay (131.2)

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