AMSTERDAM, June 23, 2007 -- Dutch fighters Semmy Schilt and Peter Aerts and Aussie Paul Slowinski were the big winners on a big night at the K-1 World Grand Prix '07 in Amsterdam.
Held at the sold-out Amsterdam Arena, the 18-bout extravaganza featured a Super Heavyweight Title match, a trio of Superfights and a special K-1 Kids match, as well as an eight-man elimination tournament to advance a fighter to this year's K-1 WGP Final Elimination. Undercard action included mixed martial arts and K-1 bouts alike, with DJs and dancers providing entertainment between bouts.
The Main Event was the Super Heavyweight Title Match between Semmy Schilt of Holland and Mighty Mo of the United States. The over 100kg/220lbs weight class was introduced this year, and Schilt claimed the belt in March with a KO victory over Ray Sefo. A no-nonsense slugger, Mo was upbeat regarding his chances here, boasting at the pre-event press conference, "I have a big punch to go with Semmy's big size!"
Mo managed a few promising swipes at Schilt in the first but these were ably blocked. Schilt's strategy meanwhile was to check Mo's advances with low kicks, and this proved effective. When the distance did close the two ended up in the clinch too often -- the referee thrice calling time to implore the fighters to mix it up more. Schilt threw occasional low kicks as Mo continually circled, and as the bout wore on the American seemed less and less inclined to approach.
In the third Schilt was comfortably ahead and opened up some, throwing a couple of high kicks and making contact with a spinning back kick that stung Mo, whose relative lack of aggression made him an easy target. The Dutch behemoth won all three rounds to retain the Belt.
"I am very happy to defend my title," said Schilt in his post-fight interview. "I thought Mo would do more, and I heard he said afterward that his leg was not 100%, but then again every time I beat someone I hear things like that. As for me, I believe in my abilities, and I will fight anyone anywhere!"
Holland loves Peter Aerts. Soft-spoken outside the ring but lethal when the bell sounds, Aerts was the first Dutch fighter to win the WGP (he went on to claim the title three times), and the only fighter to compete in every WGP Final since K-1's inception.
In a much-anticipated Superfight, Aerts faced Bob Sapp of the United States, who last year, right here at the Amsterdam Arena, infamously went AWOL just minutes before his Main Event bout with Ernesto Hoost.
It was clear from the whistles and boos during Sapp's ring entrance and the standing ovation afforded Aerts that the crowd wanted a decisive win from their favorite son. They got the result they wanted, but it went down too quickly to be savored:
1. Sapp bulldozes forward, apparently wanting to bowl Aerts down.
2. Aerts meets him with a knee to the sternum, Sapp falls in pain.
3. The End.
"I'm sorry for such a short fight," Aerts told the crowd from center ring. "Next time, I hope I'll have a real opponent!"
In the card's first Superfight, Dutch kickboxer Melvin Manhoef stepped in against Ruslan Karaev of Russia. Manhoef must have eaten his stroupwafels with extra syrup this morning, because he showed a superabundance of energy, wasting no time closing in and attacking his opponent. It was a Manhoef left hook to the chin at just 31 seconds that did the job, knocking Karaev out cold.
Frenchman Nicolas Vermont's was a man with a mission -- intent on revenging his friend Jerome LeBanner's loss this March against Junichi Sawayashiki of Japan. In the first round of this Superfight Vermont tried a bit of everything -- low and high kicks, straight punches and knees -- but was stymied by Sawayashiki's sound blocking and positioning. In the second it was Sawayashiki who started in with tight combinations, peppering Vermont's left leg with low kicks to force the Frenchman to take a standing count. After resumption Sawayashiki simply went for the same leg to get a second down, then a third for victory.
The eight-man Europe GP elimination tournament kicked off with Bjorn Bregy of Switzerland and Brecht Wallis of Belgium. Bregy won the tournament last year, and started here in fine style, deftly planting a left hook the head to score a down, then laying in with the fists on his sluggish opponent to finish the first round in control. Wallis moved forward in the second but could not sustain attacks, while Bregy picked his spots with straight punches and knees. The third slowed down some, Wallis stepping in but telegraphing his attacks, Bregy better on counters. A unanimous decision and trip to the semis for the Swiss fighter.
The second of the tournament bouts featured a couple of KO fighters, Magomed Magomedov of Belarus and Maksym Neledva of the Ukraine. The pair frequently dropped their guards during the first, Magomedov getting a good kick and punch combination through late in an otherwise uneventful round. Neledva had the fists and low kicks going, but the light-on-his-feet Magomedov slapped in a hard high front kick early in the second, and popped another up late in the round. In the third the ringside doctor had a look at a cut over Neledva's left eye and cleared him to continue. It was the cool Magomedov who made the most of his chances here to pick up the win by unanimous decision.
In the second tournament bracket it was Paul Slowinski vs tough guy Hiromi Amada of Japan.
Standing bolt upright, Slowinski looked a composed and confident combatant here, always closing with punch and low kick combinations, working Amada's right thigh for a standing count then earning the win at just 1:50 when the Japanese fighter turned away in extreme pain.
Finishing off the first-tier tournament bouts were Muay Thai fighters James Phillips of Germany and Zabit Samedov of Belarus.
Samedov worked the body here, Phillips responding with low kicks, and knees when the distance closed. Spirited action from the fast and technical fighters, a terrific Phillips low kick the strike of the round, almost putting Samedov down. In the second Samedov chased his opponent with big punches but aside from an incidental uppercut could not make it past the German's defenses. The third had Samedov again working the body blows against his opponent's high guard, Phillips firing in low kicks. Not a lot of damage evident here, but Samedov had landed more strikes and so judges gave him the decision and a date with Slowinski in the semis.
The first semifinal pitted Bregy against Magomedov. A listless start elicited whistles of disapproval from the crowd, and this set Magomedov to opening up and charging in with roundhouses. The situation suited Bregy, who used his 15cm/6" height advantage and superior power to beat down his opponent.
The intrepid Magomedov came hard at Bregy again in the second, and again paid the price for it. A left hook soon put Magomedov down, but after resumption the Belorussian once again went on the attack. This time Bregy got him in the corner and pumped in the fists, prompting the referee to stop the fight. The crowd gave the spunky Magomedov a huge cheer, and Bregy could only shake his head and frown at the jeers that came up when his own arm was raised in victory.
It was Slowinski and Samedov in the hard-fought second semi. Slowinski looked to be having trouble drawing a bead on the quick Samedov, who shocked his opponent with a right overhand for a down midway through the first. A minute later, Slowinski repaid the favor, scoring a down with a kick to the ribs. A wide-open exchange followed, Slowinski landing a left and Samedov going down for a second time in the round, giving Slowinski the win.
And so the final pitted Bregy against Slowinski. This one started with the pair snapping in one-two punch and kick combinations, Bregy getting a right straight punch in midway through the first, then making partial contact with a knee. But Slowinski remained cool and focused, staying out of serious trouble with good lateral movement. In the second Bregy went with power, landing some solid low kicks, while Slowinski waited for his chances, closing with body blows before finding Bregy out of position and pounding a right hook round to the side of his head. Bregy turned away awkwardly, took a couple of drunken steps, then crumpled ungraciously to the canvas.
The Swiss fighter somehow beat the count but was not in any shape to rally. Slowinski came in quickly on his foggy opponent, pumping in another right to send him back to the mat, where he stayed for a long time. A convincing performance for Slowinski, who will represent Australia at the WGP Final Elimination in Seoul this September.
"I am happy to win, training with Ernesto Hoost helped me a lot," said Slowinski afterward. "I understand now how to adjust my strategy for different fighters, that made a difference today. Now I want to focus on doing the same in September."
In the tournament reserve Gokhan Saki of Turkey beat Mourad Bouzidi of Holland by unanimous decision.
There was also a special K-1 Kids fight between Japanese wunderkind Hiroya, who is just 15, and Roy Tan of the Netherlands, who is 18 years-old. This bout comprised two-minute rounds. A couple of talented and energetic youngsters, with plenty of textbook low kicks and strong evasions and blocking on both sides. Hiroya had the more varied attacks and aggressive style through this one -- employing low and high kicks, a flying knee, and looking confident with his punches to take a comfortable unanimous decision.
Promoter Simon Rutz and his crackerjack crew did a great job, as the K-1 Europe GP '07 ran smoothly before a sellout crowd of 25,000 at the Amsterdam Arena. The event was broadcast live on SBS6 in Holland and Fuji TV in Japan. For delayed-broadcast information in other areas contact local providers. Check the K-1 Official Website (www.k-1.co.jp/k-1gp) for official results and coverage of this and all K-1 events.