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Overeem Leads K-1 Presence at Strikeforce

 

Alistair OvereemI was debating discussing this story at all. I mean, yes it does involve K-1 Grand Prix champion Alistair Overeem, but there are so many places where the Strikeforce Heavyweight Tournament is getting coverage that it seemed maybe unnecessary. Then this morning, Strikeforce added an extra fight to the tournament that really piqued my interest.

In an upcoming fight, Valentijn Overeem will face one of K-1’s favorite sons, Sugar Ray Sefo. The fight is not 100% confirmed yet, and it is unclear if it will be on the Feb. 12 card or a future date, or a prelim or main card fight.

Now, here’s the interesting thing from our end about this tournament. You have 8 names in the main draw, plus 4 more Heavyweights currently set to compete in fights on these shows. Of those 12, 3 are current, active K-1 fighters (Overeem, Sefo, Sergei Kharitonov) and one more (Andrei Arlovski) was very nearly in the 2010 Grand Prix. This tournament is a major event – the most prominent US tournament in MMA since Don Frye won the UFC Ultimate Ultimate way back in 1996. For the tournament to feature a significant K-1 presence is definitely a point worth discussing.

Much has been made of the Strikeforce/Dream partnership that has resulted in fights like Shinya Aoki v. Gilbert Melendez and Tatsuya Kawajiri v. Josh Thomson. But one aspect that has been largely overlooked previously is that Dream and K-1 are both part of FEG, so as Strikeforce works with Dream, they open the door to working with K-1. We are seeing that door crack open here in the tournament. Now, obviously the fighters we are seeing her are not K-1 exclusive fighters, and all have experience in MMA; most fans still view Overeem and Kharitonov as primarily MMA fighters trying their hand at K-1, while Sefo has been working on his fledgling MMA career for the past 2 years. But they are all fighters whose recent careers have been more marked by K-1 action than MMA, and who hold interest for K-1 fans.

Last year, there were vague rumblings of Strikeforce considering running some kickboxing fights in the US – remember that Strikeforce started in the kickboxing heavy California scene – but these plans never came to fruition. Since then, we have heard rumors of It’s Showtime making their US debut in 2011, though again, nothing is confirmed. With this tournament including some big players in the kickboxing scene (and right now, no one is bigger than Alistair Overeem), there definitely is potential to generate some stateside interest in kickboxing.

Will this tournament lead to Overeem v. Badr Hari here in America? No, but depending on how they promote Overeem, Kharitonov, and Sefo, it could lead to a significant number of MMA fans hearing an awful lot about K-1 and kickboxing throughout the course of the tournament. Much will be told by how the videos and commentary position these three fighters. If they focus on MMA, there will be little benefit for kickboxing. But if they talk up Overeem as the GP champ, Sefo as a K-1 legend, and Kharitonov as pursuing a kickboxing career, it will give kickboxing valuable exposure to the large US MMA audience. And as K-1 struggles at home, increased international exposure can only be a good thing.

Alistair Overeem faces Fabricio Werdum in the quarter-final round at a date yet to be determined. The winner moves on to the semi-finals to face either Fedor Emelianenko or Antonio Silva, who meet on February 12.

Sergei Kharitonov v. Andrei Arlovski is also set for February 12 with the winner meeting Josh Barnett or Brett Rogers in the other semi-final.

Ray Sefo v. Valentijn Overeem may be on Feb. 12, or may be at a later date. The other announced fight is a reserve fight on the Feb. 12 card between Shane Del Roasrio and Lavar Johnson.

No dates are yet set for the 2nd half of the quarter-finals, semi-finals, or finals.

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Isuzu Tournament to Determine Participant in Next Thai Fight Tournament

A 67 kg, 147 lb, tournament sponsored by Isuzu Motors is currently underway in Thailand. According to Rob Cox, based in Bangkok, the winner receives one million baht and an Isuzu pickup truck, as well as the opportunity to represent Thailand in the next Thai Fight Tournament. The Isuzu Tournament proceeds in a "Groups" format where fighters in Group A and B will have multiple fights within their respective groups before proceeding to the semi-finals.

Group A consists of: Kem Sitsongpeenong; Sudsakorn 13 Coins; Nopparat Keatkhamtorn; Kongjak Sor Tuanthong.

Group B is: Prakaisaeng Sit-Or; Thepsutin Pumpanmuang; Dernchonlek Sor Sor Niyom; Thanongdet Petpayatai.

These fighters are all highly regarded in Thailand and fight anywhere from 147 to 160 lb. Fights are spaced out with one fight per week.


Results thus far:

Dernchonlek def. Prakaisaeng, Points

Thanongdet def. Thepsutin, Points

Sudsakorn def. Kongjak, Points

Kem def. Nopparat, KO Rd 3

Dernchonlek def. Thanongdet, Points

Prakaisaeng def. Thepsutin, KO Rd 4

Sudsakorn def. Kem, Points


Upcoming Matches:

Nopparat vs Kongjak on January 22nd


Of these, Sudsakorn vs Kem is easily the most anticipated. Kem is favored to win the whole tournament and both he and Sudsakorn have put on very strong showings internationally. The last time they fought, it was a vicious, technical bout ending in a third round knockout of Sudsakorn by Kem. Kem will give up two pounds to Sudsakorn in this next bout because of Kem's higher seeding. Though 1 million baht and and an Isuzu is a substantial reward, the spot in the next Thai Fight may be just as important. Thai Fight was introduced in 2010 and is quite prestigious in terms of prize money and recognition. It is rare to see a full Muay Thai rules tournament that offers so much in the way of winnings. Adding to the appeal of the tournament is the fact that the field for fighters above 63.5 kg, 140 lb, in Thailand is quite limited, as attention usually focuses on fighters between 55 and 61.5 kg, 122 - 135 lb.

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Finally, Welcome to LiverKick.com

I know what you are thinking, LiverKick.com has been up and running for a solid two weeks now, why now? Well, while LiverKick.com has been live for a few weeks now, it was with minimal fanfare and really, no solid explanation behind the move, concept and what to expect. Now that the MiddleEasy Network has launched, I feel like a weight has been removed from my chest, the gag order removed and the cat is out of the bag.

Our oral history and mission statement follow.

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Krush Year Begins This Weekend

Krush TournamentThere's still plenty to discuss about the end of 2010. From the poor Dynamite!! ratings, to the K-1 v. MMA debate, to the Fight of the Year, we definitely remain in year end wrap up mode.  But now that it's 2011, and now that we've officially joined the awesome new MiddleEasy.com network (click the link!), let's stop looking back for a moment and look ahead.  Because even though K-1 may not be producing any fights for a few months, there's plenty of action upcoming.  In fact, we're just a few short days away from the first major event of 2011.

On January 9, Krush presents the Krush First Generation King Tournaments Round 2.  Which is a fancy way of saying this show will feature the first round in Krush's tournament to crown an inaugural 63kg champion.  The four tournament fights include:

-Koya Urabe, whose last fight was a win over K-1 63kg champion Tetsuya Yamato v. Korea's Sung Hyun Lee, last seen scoring a decision win over Kizaemon Saiga at the K-1 MAX Final 16

-Team Dragon member Ryuji Kajiwara, who defeated Naoki Ishikawa at Krush.9 last year v. TaCa

-Yuki Yamamoto, a WBC Muay Thai Japan champion v. Krush Rookies Cup winner Takuya Shirahama

-Kizaemon Saiga, one of the breakout fighters of 2010 v. Naoki Terasaki

Winners move on to the March 19 finals.

Urabe is the clear favorite to win the tournament, as he has looked more and more impressive with every outing.  I would love to see him meet both Saiga and Kajiwara before the tournament is done.

The main event this weekend is a big one for Krush, as the #5 ranked Yoshihiro Sato faces Shemsi Beqiri.  Sato is the definite favorite here, but don't rule Beqiri out.  He had a great 2010, including a win over Alviar Lima, and is just outside the top 25.  He has his work cut out for him, but is an exciting fighter, and this is a good match-up.

Two other MAX veterans are on the card - #17 ranked Yuya Yamamoto faces Masakazu Watanabe, and K-1 MAX Japan 2010 tournament participant Yuji Nashiro looks to continue his strong 2010 as he faces Daisuke Tsutumi.

This is the first of 4 shows Krush already has scheduled for 2011.  Up next is the March 19 event featuring the 55, 60, and 63kg tournament finals.  After that will be the 70kg quarter finals on April 30 with the finals on July 16.  With these tournaments, Krush has great potential to capitalize on the strong year they had in 2010.  Thanks in part to K-1 emphasizing the smaller fighters with their new 63kg division, Krush stars have begun to gain greater prominence in the larger kickboxing world.  But Krush has always been boosted by a relationship with K-1, and while that helped them in 2010, it may cause them trouble in 2011.  If K-1 de-emphasizes MAX and the 63kg division, it will definitely have an impact on Krush.  In the short term, it may help them to book more big name fighters who now find themselves with less Japanese fights.  But in the long term, if MAX fades, Japanese interest in the smaller weight classes may also fade, which would be a great trouble for Krush.  This is definitely a pivotal year for the company as they look to further establish their own identity apart from simply a K-1 feeder.

But that's all down the road.  For now, the next 6 months of Krush are bright and full of good fights - and those fights begin this weekend.

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