Last year, K-1 expanded westward from its Japanese home and found great success in Korea.
BUDAPEST, February 9, 2008 -- Swiss karate stylist Bjorn Bregy beat Poula Mataele in the Main Event, and Hungarian Kempo fighter Attila Karacs brought the crowd to their feet with his penultimate bout victory over Petr Vondracek tonight at the K-1 Europe Grand Prix '08 Final Elimination in Budapest.
Last year, K-1 expanded westward from its Japanese home and found great success in Korea. Tonight, the world's most prestigious fightsport made a foray eastward from its traditional European base in Holland. Held before a capacity crowd at Budapest Sports Arena, this was the first-ever World GP event in Central Europe. The one-match tournament qualified six fighters for this year's Europe GP Final, set for Amsterdam in April.
In the first tournament elimination matchup it was last year's WGP Las Vegas finalist Zabit Samedov of Belarus taking on Brazilian muay thai fighter Vitor Miranda. A fast and technical first round, both men throwing good hard kicks and combinations, closing aggressively with the fists. In the second, Miranda was first forward, leading with the jab and pumping in the body blows. Samedov threw some good hard stuff and scored the strike of the round with a high kick, but Miranda's blocking was otherwise good, as were his counters. Samedov set the pace in the third, in early with body blows and uppercuts, making partial contact with a spinning back punch. Miranda wanted to mix it up late, but Samedov wisely stayed back, and picked up the win by majority decision.
The next fight featured boxer and muay thai fighter Erhan Deniz of Turkey and Rumanian Catalin Morosanu, a former rugby player with a face only a mother could love. Morosanu says his K-1 hero is Bob Sapp.
Deniz trains in Holland with Andre Mannaart, and the renowned coach spent the first round in the corner, screaming non-stop for the low kick. That was because Morosanu had come out like a loaded gun, hurling in the haymakers, one after another, looking a lot like Bob Sapp intent on overpowering his opponent. Deniz could not control the distance, although his blocking and a tough chin stood him in good stead. The Turk started the second with low kicks, but did not sustain this strategy, and when the distance closed ate a Morosanu hook. Deniz got some punches through here, as Morosanu quickly started to run out of gas -- again, looking a lot like Bob Sapp. By the end of the round, both fighters were so tired they could hardly stand.
The fatigue factor followed the fighters into the third, as some of Morosanu's anemic low kick attempts barely made it high enough to brush his opponent's ankle. Locked in an exhausted mid-ring embrace, the pair looked like a couple of sailors holding each other up after a shore leave binge. When the referee moved into separate them, they very nearly collapsed.
At the final bell, the judges could not pick a winner, and so the pair -- almost humorously -- were sent back at it for a tiebreaker round. Here Deniz again could not manage throwing the low kicks his manager wanted, while Morosanu briefly slipped out of his funk, managing a bit of a rally midway through. This allowed him to squeak out the win.
"I don't have so much technique," said Morosanu afterward, "so I wanted to beat him hard. I got tired, but I couldn't give up, I'll fight till I die, and if I die in the ring that's ok! His low kicks didn't hurt me, I played rugby so my legs are strong. But I want to make my punches stronger, so now I'm going to go back to Rumania and eat two pigs!"
In the next fight it was muay thai fighter Sergei Gur of Belarus and French kickboxer Freddy Kemayo. This was a revenge match -- Gur got the knee up to KO Kemayo when these two met last time. Kemayo weathered an early challenge, avoiding the well-balanced Gur's tight hook and low kick combinations before starting to hurt the Belorussian with low kicks. In the second Kemayo put the low kicks onto Gur's thighs to score three unanswered downs and take the win by TKO.
Dutch kickboxer Errol Zimmerman stepped in against Damir Tovarovic of Croatia.
Zimmerman trains with Stefan Leko at the Golden Glory Gym, while Damir cut his teeth in the sport sparring with Mirko CroCop. A strong start, Damir connecting with a body blow, Zimmerman stinging himself when his back kick smacked Damir's ankle. Lots of strikes but little apparent damage here. In the second, Zimmerman got a knee up Damir turned away from the follow-up, prompting a standing count. Zimmerman came to life now, quickly scoring downs with a low kick in the right hook. A fine outing for the 21 year-old Zimmerman, whose cool-headedness and textbook technique bespeaks his work with one of the world's top gyms.
Next up, Attila Karacs of Hungary took on K-1 veteran Petr Vondracek of the Czech Republic. Karacs' opening ceremony introduction and ring entrance both were greeted enthusiastically by the partisan crowd.
Good positioning and movement from both fighters to start, a cautious Karacs tossing in the low kicks, Vondracek closing with body blows. The second saw Karac, spurred by a chant of "Attila!" from the crowd, begin to use the fists, threading a left through to bloody Vondracek's nose and score a down. Circling now, the strategically superior Karacs dodged a Vondracek right before picking up another down with a couple of quick lefts and a right. Vondracek pushed in the third, making contact with an overhand right, but once again the cool Karacs picked his spot perfectly, firing in a right hook to score the decisive down and pick up the victory and bring the crowd to their feet in delirium. A fine technical and tactical effort from the Hungarian.
"I appreciate my fans giving me such support tonight," said a smiling Karacs in his post fight interview, "but when the bell sounded in the match started, all that audience noise stopped, and I just focused on my opponent and what my corner was telling me. Vondracek is powerful and dangerous, but I won because of my cool head. Then, when the bell sounded to end the fight, I suddenly became aware again of the crowd, as there cheer hit me like a steam locomotive!"
The last of the tournament elimination bouts featured K-1 veteran and karate stylist Bjorn Bregy of Switzerland, and kickboxer Poula Mataele of New Zealand, who started his K-1 training with compatriot Ray Sefo before moving to Holland last year. Bregy won the European Grand Prix in 2006, and was runner-up last year. Bregy had trimmed down some with the intention of coming out fast here, and that is exactly what he did. The Swiss fighter moved forward from the start with the fists, making good with a left and a high kick before bringing up the knee. A determined Mataele got back into it, a left and a middle kick sending Bregy recoiling, a series of body blows leaving him on the ropes. But Bregy countered well, cocking Mataele's head back with a couple of straight punches late in the round. In the second Mataele showed less lateral movement, which proved costly as he could not match the power behind Bregy's punches. After weathering a barrage of blows, Mataele slumped back against the ropes, and the referee stepped in to call a count. The Kiwi managed to stand, but was in no state to fight, and so the contest was called in Bregy's favor.
"I feel satisfied," said Bregy. "I hadn't fought for a long time, so I needed one round to wake up. Poula is a good young fighter, but it's still early for him. When he hit me, he wasn't enough to hurt me, but it woke me up! I'm looking forward to Amsterdam, and I think of the fighters that won here tonight, Attila might be the toughest, he looks very good!"
In the first of two "Prestige Fights" on the card, it was kyokushin karate fighter Tibor Nagy of Hungary against kickboxer Dzenan Poturak of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Nagy had the crowd on his side, but their vocal encouragement couldn't stop Poturak's surgical right hook, which caught him hard on the jaw and put him down cold. An impressive KO win for Poturak, coming just 38 seconds into the fight.
The second Prestige Fight saw Daniel Torok of Hungary take on 37 year-old Antonin Dusek of the Czech Republic. Torok dominated the first two rounds, throwing low kicks, knees and punches, although not a lot got through Dusek's high and close guard. The fatigued pair resorted to clinching in the listless third, which slowed the contest considerably. Torok had however mounted enough attacks to take the comfortable unanimous decision.
Since K-1's inception in 1993, apart from a solitary trip New Zealand, the WGP Championship has remained in Europe, usually Holland. The first-ever K-1 champion, Branco Citatic, hailed from Croatia. Is there any chance this year's K-1 Champion could also come from Central Europe? K-1 European Coordinator Igor Jushko was optimistic: "Central Europeans have been working very hard trying to catch up with the Dutch, which I think they've accomplished. Sooner or later -- I think maybe sooner than later -- we will have a new champion coming from Central Europe."
With their tournament victories this evening, Hungarian Karacs, Romanian Morosanu and Belorussian Samedov will be representing the region at April's Europe GP Final. It was clear in Budapest tonight that the Western European fighters who have dominated K-1 over the last decade and a half are heroes for the emerging Central European fighters and fans. A robust reception was awarded a trio of ringside guests -- Dutchmen Ernesto Hoost, Peter Aerts and Remy Bonjasky. Between them, these guys have won no less than nine K-1 World GP Championships.
There was also a mixed martial arts HERO'S Rules bout on tonight's card, in which hometown favorite Sandor Bardosi required scarcely a minute to submit Paulius Poska of Lithuania.
In undercard bouts:
Tihamer Brunner of Hungary dispatched Ghita Lonita of Rumania by second-round TKO; Zsolt Nagy of Hungary scored a majority decision over Cimpoieru Valentin of Rumania; and Hungarian Team Peter Varga fighter Attila Dropan out-slugged compatriot Adam Veres to take a win by split decision.
The K-1 world Grand Prix Europe Final Elimination attracted a capacity crowd to the Budapest Sports Arena I was broadcast live across Europe. For a delay broadcast information, contact local providers. For official results and comprehensive coverage of this and all K-1 events, check with the K-1 Official Website (www.k-1.co.jp/k-1gp).