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Analysis 4-men tournament 28/03


Written by Michael Schiavello.

On March 28, the K-1 GP season kicks off at the Yokohama Arena in Japan with a four-man tournament to determine the new K-1 World Heavyweight under 100kg champion. K-1's English language commentator, "THE VOICE" MICHAEL SCHIAVELLO, analyses the four contenders for the coveted crown.

Melvin Manhoef
The Human A-Bomb


No fighter has captured the imagination of K-1 and MMA fans in the last 18 months more than Melvin Manhoef. FEG's version of Clubber Lang is a ripped, stripped and striated wrecking ball who, while barely qualifying as a heavyweight, instills fear into opponents with his amazing power-to-weight ratio.

Indeed it is said that Manhoef has the greatest power-to-weight ratio of any fighter on the planet. Standing only 5'10" and fighting between 89 kg and 92kg, Manhoef is a light heavyweight/cruiserweight who consistently bangs with 100kg-plus fighters often with devastating results. What he lacks in height and weight, the man known by such apt monikers as "Mini Tyson", "No Mercy" and "The Animal" more than makes up for in sheer aggression and ferocious punching power.

Melvin's last ring outing at Dynamite on New Year's Eve produced a moment fight fans will long remember when he braved 4oz MMA gloves against former K-1 Grand Prix Champion and PRIDE star Mark Hunt. The Samoan Hunt, himself one of the world's most feared strikers at 120kg, had never been knocked out until he ran into a Manhoef left hook within 16 seconds of the first round and was sent to the astral plane.

Three weeks earlier, on December 8 at the Yokohama Arena, Manhoef fought Ernesto Hoost-trained Polish/Australian fighter Paul Slowinski. Slowinski, a triple world Muay Thai champion and former K-1 European and Oceania champion - himself a blown up light heavyweight - weighed in at 106.5 kilograms. Once again it was the diminutive Manhoef who prevailed when he caught Slowinski with a hellish left hook at 2:26 in the opening round to knock Slowinski out cold.

Indeed Manhoef's record is littered with K-1 and MMA knockouts of devastating fashion, including first round knockouts of former WBC champion Yousuke Nishijima, MMA legend Kazushi Sakuraba, and that scary first round knockout of Ruslan Karaev in a superfight at the Amsterdam Arena in 2007, after which Karaev was laid out for nearly five minutes.

On March 28, Manhoef finally gets his chance for a K-1 strap. More than this he gets his chance to win the strap previously held by his stablemate Badr Hari who was stripped of the title following the antics of the K-1 World Grand Prix Final in which Hari was red-carded against Remy Bonjasky. To win the strap Manhoef must beat two opponents in one night, the first being Golden Glory's Chalid "Die Faust".

In Chalid you have an opponent who is a better natural boxer than Manhoef and who, like Manhoef, prefers to trade hands rather than any mix legs and knees. Chalid is a proficient combination boxer who, while boasting incredible power for his small stature (not as much power as Manhoef however) relies on breaking down opponents with high punching output. Expect this fight to be battled almost exclusively on the inside as Manhoef throws heat to Chalid's jaw while Chalid tries to ride out the storm, cause Manhoef to gas and break down Mini-Tyson with high-scoring combinations.

Age: 32
Height: 174cm
Weight: 90kg
KO Ratio: 71% (stand up), 96 % (MMA)
Last Fight: Mark Hunt KO Win
Best Weapon: Left hook, right cross. Both equally destructive.

Chalid "Die Faust"
K-1's John McClain


Chalid "Die Faust" is one of the most amicable guys on the K-1 circuit. The self-made business tycoon doesn't fight for the money; he fights for the love of competition and to feed an insatiable appetite to put beatings on people.

Die Faust is K-1's John McClain: the type of guy who will beat you up without any fancy movies inside the ring, and who you want to share a beer with when it's all over. Just like Die Hard's cinematic hero of the people, the odds are often stacked against the no-fuss, small and simplistic Chalid Arrab. But like McClain Arrab has proven time and time again that he's K-1's "fly in the ointment... monkey in the wrench... pain in the ass."

Trained by Cor Hemmers and Ramon Dekker out of the fabled Golden Glory Gym in Holland, the 33-year-old German Chalid stands 5' 10 and weights just over 97kg. A former amateur boxer who amassed an impressive record of 34-3 with 31 knockouts, he won the 2006 K-1 Las Vegas tournament a week after walking away unscathed from a serious car crash in Germany. Unfortunately for Chalid, his career since winning the Vegas tourney hasn't been crash hot at all. His last K-1 victory was his best, against Musashi in Osaka at the 2006 Final Eliminations. Over the last two years, Chalid has suffered four losses, his most recent being a devastating second round KO at the hands of Ruslan Karaev at the Final 16 in Seoul last September, after Chalid had knocked down Karaev earlier in the fight.

That Arrab gets a crack at the K-1 Heavyweight Title must certainly be a reward for his loyalty to FEG and his popularity among fans and fighters alike. However it would be foolish to underestimate Arrab as just a make-up-the-numbers fighter. As I said earlier, he dropped Karaev in his last fight; took Alexander Pitchkounov to a second extension round in Taiwan; took Glaube Feitosa to a decision; and took the legendary Ernesto Hoost to a decision even fighting with a broken hand for two rounds.

In short, Chalid can spoil and has the ability to make even the most technically proficient fighters work overtime for a victory.

Trainer Cor Hemmers, a strategic genius, will no doubt tell Chalid not to spend his pennies too early trying to knockout Manhoef but rather focus on a game plan based on three important words: guard, combinations, move.

Age: 33
Height: 178cm
Weight: 97kg
KO Ratio: 79%
Last Fight: Ruslan Karaev KO Loss
Best Weapon: Power hand combinations

Gokhan Saki
You Don't Mess With the Gokhan


Turkish-Dutch Gokhan Saki is one of the most impressive fighters on the planet. A well-rounded fighter renowned for his slinging leg kicks, before his loss to Remy Bonjasky at the K-1 World Grand Prix 2008 semi final Saki had gone an amazing 16 fight winning streak in and out of K-1. Among the fighters he beat during that run were Ruslan Karaev (decision), battle-hardened veteran Ray Sefo (decision two extension rounds), Paul Slowinski (knockout with a left), Mohammed Magamedov (decision), and Hiromi Amada (TKO with leg kicks in two rounds). Within this streak was also his blistering victory at the 2008 K-1 USA tournament in Honolulu when he took less than eight minutes to run through three opponents.

Saki has shown he has the mustard to win tournaments and the necessary skill set to deal with technically sound opponents (see Magamedov and Karaev victories) or power opponents (see Sefo victory).

What makes Saki such a special fighter is not only his durability and skill set but also his hunger. Another fighter from the fabled Golden Glory Gym, he trains tirelessly six days a week alongside main sparring partner Errol Zimmerman and under the watchful eye of Cor Hemmers and Ramon Dekker.

At six foot even and little over 97kg, Saki's stature is deceiving, as he appears a much larger specimen in ring. His stamina is unquestionably good, his defenses solid, but what makes him so dangerous is the variety of his attacks. This was proved in Honolulu last year when he knocked out all three opponents in different fashion: leg kick KO in the quarter final, a succulent left body rip in the semi final and then a clean left hook knockout of Randy Kim in the final.

Against Ray Sefo in the Final 16, Saki showed some signs of intimidation, which didn't allow him to fully showcase his repertoire. Although he grinded out a lengthy decision win over Sefo, his admiration and respect for the K-1 veteran was such that it reflected in one of Saki's lesser performances. However he powered back up for the 2008 Grand Prix with a fantastic showing against Ruslan Karaev in the quarterfinals, winning by decision, before succumbing to a Remy Bonjasky flying roundkick KO in the semi finals.

Age: 25
Height: 182cm
Weight: 97kg
KO Ratio: 73%
Last Fight: Remy Bonjasky KO Loss
Best Weapon: Leg kicks

Tyrone Spong
The Fresh Prince


Tyrone Spong's Japanese K-1 debut is something fight fans the world over have been anticipating for a long time. The 23 year old is universally regarded as one of the best fighters pound-for-pound on the planet and was recently listed by the respected International Kickboxer Magazine as one of the Top 25 Fighters in the World, inclusive of boxing, MMA, Muay Thai, kickboxing and K-1.

Spong is a freak of the fight game, having won titles in every weight class from welterweight (66kg) to heavyweight. Trained by the legendary Lucien Carbine, he made his professional debut in 2002 and has since amassed a stunning record of 82 wins in 86 fights with 58 wins by knockout.

Spong's incredible speed and proficiency to work techniques at will (especially off his hook) have led him to be dubbed the Mayweather of Muay Thai. Indeed Spong spent some time in the United States training with Floyd Mayweather Senior, who said of Spong: "He's got the range, he's got the reach, he's got the leverage and he's got the punch. Tyrone's the man to meet if you want to get beat."

Spong ventures to Yokohama on an amazing 13-fight winning streak dating back to March 2007. Over the last two years he has claimed such scalps as Samir Benazzouz (TKO), Gary Turner (TKO), Zabit Samedov (Dec), Azem Maksutaj (KO 2), and Aurelian Duarte (Dec). Other notable career wins include: Kaoklai (KO 1), Joeri Mes (TKO 5), Yodchai (TKO 1), and Dimitry Shakuta (Dec).

While there is no doubting Spong's sublime talent and incredible speed, a question mark remains as to how well this former 70kg fighter will handle life as a heavyweight. His venture to the higher weight division has been successful so far, with wins over Turner, Maksutaj and Samedov, but stepping into the K-1 realm where the likes of Manhoef, Hari, Saki, Zimmerman, Aerts, LeBanner, Bonjasky and Feitosa hunt for prey is a whole different ball game.

At 6' 2" and tipping the scales at 92kg, Spong is an impressive physical specimen. So long as he doesn't lose any of his amazing speed and can still deliver the slick power combinations that lead Peter Aerts to declare to me in Amsterdam last year that Spong is arguably the most naturally gifted kick fighter in the world today, K-1 fans are in for days of magic and madness as one of the world's finest fighting athletes is unleashed on the biggest stage of all.

Age: 23
Height: 188cm
Weight: 92kg
KO Ratio: 71%
Last Fight: Samir Benazzouz TKO Win
Best Weapon: Incredible speed with KO power


From: K-1 Official Website


Post new comment
stark (1143 posts)
Posted: 2009-03-24 at: 11:11
Really nice article. Thankx for sharing
Daniel, Sweden reporter (2501 posts)
Posted: 2009-03-24 at: 11:30
fantastic article yet again by Schiavello, readin this realy hypes you up for the event even more.

thanx alot for posting D-rop
Dennis, Administrator (1174 posts)
Posted: 2009-03-24 at: 01:17
I liked this article a lot two! As you said Daniel, hypes you up to the event!
universal (180 posts)
Posted: 2009-03-24 at: 02:10
nice but there is a rumor that chalid arrab is not going to fight. cant get his visum ready.

strange its the second time this year.

if its true who will face manhoef?????????
D-rop, Video editor (2420 posts)
Posted: 2009-03-24 at: 02:47
@universal, I hope it's not true. And if it's true, Maeda probably will step into the tournament, and they will find another fighter for the reserve fight.

@ all: yeah, great article; Schiavello writes like he talks: enthusiastic! And he knows a lot about K-1
Rob, Holland reporter (1964 posts)
Posted: 2009-03-24 at: 03:43
Thnx for a great article D-rop!
Man the tention is rising.. can't wait for this one!

It can go either way, allthough I don't see Chalid win it all. Manhoef has the power to knock anybody out at anytime. Saki en Spong are both technical but very hard fighters. I love it when you can't predict a tournament!

EDIT: d*mmit, I just realised I'm throwing my birthday party the 28th :S Now I gotta hope everybody leaves before 00.00 and all the other K1 fans remain, so we can watch it with an entire group haha
stark (1143 posts)
Posted: 2009-03-24 at: 07:37
@ Rob
Yokohama GP starts at 9:00AM CET. I don't think you'll have a problem watching it
Rob, Holland reporter (1964 posts)
Posted: 2009-03-24 at: 11:19

Thnx I know, but the Dutch television is broadcasting it at that time. And I have to work the entire day, so it's not an option for me. Oh well :)
Dennis, Administrator (1174 posts)
Posted: 2009-03-25 at: 09:36
@Rob Happy birthday though!

Rob, Holland reporter (1964 posts)
Posted: 2009-03-25 at: 10:29

Thnx Dennis! Ofcourse everybody from FOK1 is invited!

Back on subject: I think Manhoef and Saki are both fighters who deserve the titel. Spong is relatively new in this class and he'll get his chances in the future. But should he win it all, it's really no problem haha. It just shows his excellence. I wonder if JahJah will fight now that Chalid is out. Personally I think Manhoef will take him down.
nightmare (13 posts)
Posted: 2009-03-25 at: 02:46
man am lokking fort for tis tournemt
Boss@Mr.Ishii (35 posts)
Posted: 2009-03-26 at: 02:39
Official news
http://www.k-1.co.jp/jp/event/2009/0328_ wgp/index.html

tournament card

●Melvin Manhoef vs Keijiro Maeda

●Gokhan Saki vs Tyrone Spong

the reserve match isnt yet decided

K1Fan (846 posts)
Posted: 2009-03-28 at: 05:52
Maeda just won it. Crazy dude he is. With his crazy photo's and haircut, he surely is one in his kind.
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