If you for some reason missed It's Showtime 45, you missed out on Mosab Amrani vs. Mohamed Khamal, an absolute, all-out war that not only went three rounds, but into an extension round before Khamal was able to pull himself together enough to pull off the big upset decision win.
In 2005, K-1 made its first major change to its clinch fighting rules. Fighters could now only throw one knee per clinch. Pre-2005, extended clinching with knees had been allowed, in the fashion of Muay Thai. People speculated as to why K-1 made this change, most citing Schilt's dominance with knees in the WGP, others citing the clinch skills of a fighter newly arrived in MAX, Buakaw Por Pramuk. No one really knows and, to my knowledge, K-1's explanation that it made fights more exciting was not readily taken up by the K-1 community.
This is from the 2006 K-1 MAX Final 16. Notice how Buakaw, very aggressive in the clinch against Kohi, now limits himself to one knee in the clinch, in accordance with the rule change in 2005. Until 2006, referees seemed unsure as to how to enforce the rule, but by this point they were quicker in breaking clinches and warning fighters, as they do in the third.
Virgil Kalakoda, a South African boxer, turned to K-1 in 2005. He was slow to add weapons to his repertoire and, facing Buakaw the year after his debut, he employs mostly hands in a bullying, smothering style.
Watch Virgil's attempts to shut down Buakaw's traditional kicking game and how Buakaw responds to Virgil's strategy. Virgil actually has a large weight advantage over Buakaw, being as he moved down from 78 kg, 170 lb, in boxing to fight K-1 at 70 kg, while Buakaw moved from 63.5 kg, 140 lb, to fight in the MAX. The mass likely makes his tactics more effective. Buakaw wears the red gloves in this bout, Virgil the blue.
In light of the upcoming UFC event headlined by Junior Dos Santos and Alistair Overeem, I thought it'd be worthwhile to look back on Alistair's K-1 fights. Fan predictions for Dos Santos vs Overeem are predictably varied, and I think rightly so. Some fans are quick to label Overeem as chinny, citing his Pride FC performances; others point out his vastly improved performance at heavyweight, where he has improved stamina, technique, power, and, most importantly, a much more solid mental game.
I think Overeem's main flaw, that he can be hurt -- especially when tired -- is still there, but he's learned to manage it much better with sound defense and safe gameplanning.
Tyrone Spong manages to hurt him in this bout from 2010, convincingly take a round from Overeem. His temporary advantage is due in part to an edge in speed but, man, does he have some sweet hook counters. Overeem, for his part, recovers well, and uses a solid pressure game to grind Spong down for a decision win with a standing eight count in the final round.
Why do I bring up this fight? Because Spong, technically as sound as the elite heavyweights, is not known for power. People doubted whether his frame could handle the one hundred plus kilos he was carrying, and he'd recently lost a decision to Jerome Le Banner without inflicting much damage of note. Yet, he manages to hurt Overeem.
Here's their bout from 2010. Overeem is in red, Spong in blue.
This fight is part of a series discussing changes in K-1's clinch rules. I'll be posting fights that demonstrate what fights in different eras of the clinch rule had the potential to look like. The next fight will be post-2005, when "one strike in the clinch" was enforced.
In 2004, the clinch was essentially unchanged from Muay Thai. Fighters could throw as many strikes/ knees as they wanted and it was often used to avoid distance fighting by fighters like Takayuni Kohiruimaki and Yoshihiro Sato. Sato, before joining K-1, had a great career in Muay Thai and full rules Japanese Kickboxing in the AJKF where he utilized knees and elbows to great effect. His build looks similar to that of famous knee fighters of old, like Dieselnoi Chor Thansukarn, who was 188 cm, 6' 2", and fought at 63.5 kg, 140 lb.
In Thailand, Buakaw Por Pramuk had climbed the Lumpini rankings at 135 lb lightweight to no.2 before stopping in deference to a stablemate who held the belt. He competed at 140 lb in Thailand before being invited through Ingram Gym connections to fight in K-1 MAX. Because he moved directly from 63.5 kg to the MAX, he regularly weighs in at 69 kg or 70 kg without cutting weight, while other fighters in the MAX cut the usual 5 to 10 kg. Buakaw was only in the promotion for one year before the rules changed.
Takayuki Kohiruimaki, in 2004, was an up and coming prospect in Japanese K-1, having wins over Kozo Takeda, Hayato, and Mike Zambidis, and Masato (This was very early in both their careers, being both of theirs second bout.). Kohiruimaki changed his name to Taishin in 2008 after coming back from a long, injury-related layoff. He currently has not competed since 2009, the year he won his third J-MAX title. Kohi debuted in 1999 in K-1 and used the clinch and knees as a mainstay of his style.
Keep in mind that most K-1 fights of this era did not look like this. In fact, this is one of very few examples where offensive clinching is decisive. The rules merely allowed matches to potentially look this this. This was the semi-final of the 2004 K-1 MAX Final Tournament. Buakaw wears blue gloves in this bout, Kohi wears red.