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LiverKick Best of 2013: Fight of the Year

Photo (C) GLORY

The year 2013 was a tremendous year for the sport of Kickboxing as we saw GLORY take aim at America as one of its home bases and really made some strides that I honestly thought we’d never see for the sport here. GLORY not only ran shows, but they ran a bunch of shows and those shows were attended by a good number of paying customers. Then, to top it off, GLORY moved from CBS Sports Network and internet PPVs to Spike TV, picking up steam and viewers with every show. That was a big deal.

GLORY wasn’t the only organization to make moves, either, as we saw another season of the SuperKombat World Grand Prix, the birth of LEGEND in Russia and K-1 starting to get the gears in motion by running both a Heavyweight World Grand Prix and a World MAX tournament within the same year. But which company did what doesn’t really matter, what matters are the fights and the fighters.

Throughout the coming week we’ll be looking at the best of 2013 throughout multiple categories, with yesterday being the Fighter of the Year and today instead turning to the fights themselves. There were a lot of great fights this year, but only one of them could be the Fight of the Year. Surprisingly enough, the Fight of the Year happened near the tail-end of 2013 in the GLORY 13 Welterweight tournament.

LiverKick 2013 Fight of the Year: Nieky Holzken vs. Joe Valtellini

This was a fight that had everything going for it. Throughout the year there were a lot of upsets in the major GLORY tournaments and fans didn’t always get what they wanted to see, but going into GLORY 13 the fans wanted to see Nieky Holzken square off against Canadian fighter Joe Valtellini and they got just that. Valtellini moved on to the finals after a beautiful headkick KO on Raymond Daniels while Holzken picked up a decision over Karapet Karapetyan, leading into what was the fight that the fans wanted to see.

This was a fight that had it all; drama, technique, momentum shifts and even ended with a knockout. If you are a Kickboxing fan this is the kind of fight that gets you excited and makes you want to share it with non-Kickboxing fan friends in an attempt to turn them. In this fight Valtellini showed any of the remaining doubters that he belongs in the top of the Welterweight division and can not only hang with the likes of Nieky Holzken, but get within a breath of taking Holzken out. Without a doubt a possible rematch is something to look out for in the future.

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LiverKick Best of 2013: Fighter of the Year

Photo (C) Bauzen

The year 2013 was a tremendous year for the sport of Kickboxing as we saw GLORY take aim at America as one of its home bases and really made some strides that I honestly thought we’d never see for the sport here. GLORY not only ran shows, but they ran a bunch of shows and those shows were attended by a good number of paying customers. Then, to top it off, GLORY moved from CBS Sports Network and internet PPVs to Spike TV, picking up steam and viewers with every show. That was a big deal.

GLORY wasn’t the only organization to make moves, either, as we saw another season of the SuperKombat World Grand Prix, the birth of LEGEND in Russia and K-1 starting to get the gears in motion by running both a Heavyweight World Grand Prix and a World MAX tournament within the same year. But which company did what doesn’t really matter, what matters are the fights and the fighters.

Throughout the coming week we’ll be looking at the best of 2013 throughout multiple categories, but first we kick things off with LiverKick’s 2013 Fighter of the Year, which was probably the most competitive category of them all. Just about every GLORY tournament winner deserved a spot as Fighter of the Year and the decision between the last two was incredibly difficult, but a decision was rendered. First, let’s look at the runner-up.

LiverKick 2013 Fighter of the Year - Runner Up: Andy Ristie

Man, what a year for Andy Ristie. The man was a wrecking machine with a five-fight win streak in 2013, including two wins that eclipsed the rest. Ristie’s wins were over Alessandro Campagna, Albert Kraus, Niclas Larsen, Giorgio Petrosyan and Robin van Roosmalen. The last two were by knockout to claim the spot of #1 in the 70kg division across the world, which is a herculean feat.

If it wasn’t for the guy who claimed the top spot having as great of a year as he did, Andy Ristie would have been a shoo-in for Fighter of the Year.

LiverKick 2013 Fighter of the Year: Tyrone Spong

Andy Ristie’s 2013 was incredibly impressive, but Tyrone Spong’s 2013 started off with a complete annihilation of a three-time K-1 World Grand Prix Champion in Remy Bonjasky before heading into the GLORY 9 Light Heavyweight tournament. GLORY 9 was unique in that it was an 8-man tournament, not a 4-man tournament, meaning that Spong had to win three fights in one night, which saw him knock out Michael Duut, pummel Filip Verlinden for three rounds and then stop the reigning king of the Light Heavyweight division, Danyo Ilunga, in just one round.

What followed after that was Tyrone Spong making up for one of the few strange points of contention on his record with a rematch against the legendary Nathan “Carnage” Corbett. Carnage has been the king of 95kg Muay Thai for what seems like forever now, remaining unchallenged. Carnage was on a seven-year win streak (with a random No Contest to Spong in the mix, even though he had knocked Spong out) before he met Tyrone Spong and not only did Spong look good against Carnage, but he looked incredible. No one has been able to make Carnage look that lost in the ring, which is what set Tyrone Spong apart and made him the LiverKick 2013 Fighter of the Year.

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A New Chapter for Cro Cop Ahead of Glory Debut

Glory

Peter Aerts has shown us that while a 40-year-old body that has endured a lifetime of physical punishment may not respond as vigorously as it once could, a smart gameplan can still provide a path to victory for an older fighter. Aerts’ shocking upset of Semmy Schilt in 2010 and near upset of Rico Verhoeven in 2013 was a testament both to his unreal physical and mental toughness as well as to his ability to execute an effective gameplan that pushed his opponents out of their desired fighting styles. Indeed, adapting and finding a way to win is both Peter Aerts’ unique forte and the source of his career longevity, remaining in the top-10 across multiple decades and generations of fighters.

When 39-year-old Mirko Cro Cop makes his Glory debut, he will find himself in a division full of dangerous young opponents ranging from skilled technical fighters like Rico Verhoeven to bloodthirsty knockout artists like Daniel Ghita, Gokhan Saki, and Errol Zimmerman. After enduring years of trauma fighting through the ranks of K-1, Pride, and the UFC, Cro Cop will have to fight smart, trading physical prowess for intelligent and perceptive kickboxing. He will have to become a crafty and tactically adept fighter to stay afloat in a shark tank of heavyweight talent.

Perhaps sensing the need for reinvention, Cro Cop has actually developed a close-ranged dirty boxing style in his return to kickboxing. This tactic appears to have paid off for the Croatian, who has now gone 6-0 with notable wins over SuperKombat veterans Ismael Londt, Pavel Zhuravlev, and Loren Javier Jorge as well as young American upstarts Randy Blake and Jarrell Miller, controversial home town decisions notwithstanding. While his new style may not please those who wish to see Cro Cop turn back the clock, the move reflects Cro Cop’s growth as a fighter and signifies his maturing expectations. It’s a wise decision that has allowed him to remain competitive in today’s kickboxing world.

While a fight against semi-retired Remy Bonjasky may not necessarily provide great insight into Cro Cop’s place in the heavyweight division, it will undoubtedly offer kickboxing fans around the world the chance to see one of the great legends of the sport return to the sport’s grandest stage, and in 2014, following a year of upsets which saw long-held titles, ranks, and orthodoxies overturned, Cro Cop may have some surprises--which hopefully include some vintage LHK finishes--left in store.

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Buakaw's Time to Reclaim the 70kg Throne in Kickboxing

Buakaw

The past few years have been turbulent times in the life of Sombat Banchamek, best known as Buakaw Banchamek, formerly known as Buakaw Por. Pramuk. The legendary fighter from Thailand is perhaps best known for his tenure within K-1, where he took home two K-1 World MAX Championships, cementing his legacy as one of the best 70kg fighters in the world. For fans of Banchamek, the last few years have been trying ones, as Banchamek found himself with tremendous personal and professional struggles that kept him out of the ring, or if he was in the ring, facing sub-par competition to keep the legend of Buakaw alive and well.

The first struggle was with his home camp, Por. Pramuk gym, where Buakaw felt that he was being treated unfairly and chose to leave. Well, things aren’t that simple in Thailand, with the bond between a gym and fighter being akin to that of an ironclad contract. Buakaw made impassioned pleas to the public about his poor treatment and how he, one of the biggest stars to come out of Thailand’s Muay Thai scene, was still living a life of moderate poverty and unable to visit his family at will.

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