The brainchild of Japanese martial arts master Kazuyoshi Ishii, K-1, a fighting circuit designed to gather fighters from all stand-up fighting disciplines into one ring to determine one champion, has taken the entire fighting world by storm since its 1993 debut in Japan.The brainchild of Japanese martial arts master Kazuyoshi Ishii, K-1, a fighting circuit designed to gather fighters from all stand-up fighting disciplines into one ring to determine one champion, has taken the entire fighting world by storm since its 1993 debut in Japan. Over the last two years, California-based martial arts super promoter Scott Coker has delivered three exciting K-1 tournaments, all of which took place in front of sellout crowds in the fight capital of the United States: Las Vegas. Always interest in bringing you the best fight coverage, Onthemat sent Tim Ferris (aka Mr. Bodyquicken) to Vegas to cover this prestigious event and he brought back both a fight review and interviews with the fighters.
Quarter-final #1: Giuseppe Denatale vs. Michael McDonald
Denatale, an unassuming Canadian and K-1 Milwaukee Tourney Champion, came to the ring with a red face, similar to at the press conference the previous day, where he was visibly nervous and quiet about his first round bout with McDonald. McDonald, the “Black Sniper” and WKKC World Champion, lost a close overtime bout to Maurice Smith in the finals last year, and he came to the ring with confidence and strategy.
The fight began by Denatale throwing lead inside low-kicks repeatedly, staying away from McDonald`s hands as he moved. Denatale was busy but did not do any damage. McDonald, the oldest competitor at 37, looked 24 and was the favorite to win the tournament before Rick Roufus replaced his brother, Duke, due to injury one week before the elimination tournament.
McDonald was methodical, saving his energy for future bouts but delivering painful kick-punch-low-kick combinations repeatedly through the end of the first round. In particular, his lead hook to same-side low kick delivered visible damage.
McDonald wins by unanimous decision after 3 rounds of 3-minutes each.
Quarter-final #2: Jeff Ford vs. George Randolph
Jeff Ford, USKA Ultimate World Champion, was visibly dwarfed by George Randolph, World Extreme Kickboxing Champion, who, at 6` 7″ and 250 lbs., had been dubbed “Eclipse” at the previous night`s press conference.
To everyone`s amazement, Ford, who is self-trained and self-managed, destroyed Randolph with an unrelenting succession of punches that led to a KO-win at the end of the first round. Randolph would extend his arms in defense, and Ford would use his forearm to elevate Randolph`s chin, following with lead-hook combinations to the chin and temple.
Jeff Ford wins by first-round KO– absolute destruction.
Quarter-final #3: Dewey Cooper vs. Jean Claude Leuyer (See Pre-fight Interview Footage)
Dewey Cooper, in his trademark swagger and to his “Black Kobra” moniker, climbed to the ring pounding his chest, his dreadlocks held to the back of his head like a warrior headdress. In the other corner, Leuyer stood solemn, an experience 4x world-champion.
Despite his experience, Leuyer had difficulty landing strikes due to Cooper`s youth and subsequent speed. Suffering several severe headshots, Leuyer lost the first-round with no doubters. However, in the second and third rounds, Leuyer landed the hardest low-kicks of the night, his trademark, against Cooper, who could barely stand and switched stances to avoid a TKO. Both fighters slipped numerous times, a trend that would be set and repeated in nearly every match of the evening. Ring decals seemed to cause the lack of traction.
Cooper wins by unanimous decision, with clear damage to both legs.
Quarter-final #4: Rick Roufus vs. Kurt Hasley (See Pre-fight Interview Footage)
Rick Roufus, world-champion in 6 weight-classes, made a clinic of this fight, versus Kurt Hasley, K-1 Milwaukee Semi-Finalist.
In between rounds where he was hit with every technique imaginable, from head kicks to body punches to spinning back-kicks, Hasley lay down on his back in the corner with his head resting on his gloves and his cornerman speaking down to him. A unique style of recuperation, indeed.
Roufus wins unanimous decision with a reserve of energy left for upcoming semi-finals.
Superfight (Muay Thai Bout): Angela Rivera vs. Karen Ousey
Semi-final #1: Michael McDonald vs. Jeff Ford
This was one of the stranger matches of the night. Ford`s first technique, a full-force front thrust kick to the abdomen, knocks McDonald across the ring and almost causes a knock-down. The first round ends after both fighters avoid each other`s punch range for 3 minutes.
2 minutes into the second round, Ford collapses in excruciating painâ€¦ a full 7 feet from McDonald. After 4 minutes of confusion and several slow-motion replays, it became clear that Ford had severely sprained his ankle after replacing his foot from a low-kick block. Clear swelling and an inability to place weight on his foot give McDonald the 2nd round TKO win and he advances to the finals.
Semi-final #2: Dewey Cooper vs. Rick Roufus
If you can`t stand the heatâ€¦ Cooper enters with usual swagger and fanfare, only to be met with Roufus` stare and extend straight arm, a trademark pose that seems to symbolize Roufus identifying his opponent for defeat. Cooper responds by marching directly towards Roufus, pounding his fist on his chest and shouting obscenities. Roufus meets him head-on, and the managers need to separate them before the fight begins.
Step one: low-kick, low-kick, low-kick to Cooper`s indefensible and damaged legs. Roufus came of the blocks in a charge, disarming Cooper`s convincing display with punishing leg kicks that rendered him nearly unable to continue past the first round, hopping on one leg and switching stances in evasion for both second and third rounds. Cooper`s heart was unmistakable, but his apparent lack of leg-kick training gave Roufus the unanimous decision and a step to the finals.
Superfight (K-1 Rules Light Welterweight): Melchor Menor vs. Danny Steele
5 x 3 minute rounds, and they went the distance. Menor vs. Steele, 2-time world-champion vs. 5-time world-champion respectively, was just as exciting as their previous two bouts. Fighting for the world-title championship vs. George Tsutsui in August, each fighter used their entire, and amazingly different, repertoires for the entirety of this bout.
Menor`s linear striking contrasted with Steele`s looping and arched strikes, landing more often, but delivering less power than Steele. Menor used his ring control and lead foot-jab masterfully, while Steele punished him with powerful leg-kicks and body hooks in the fourth and fifth rounds.
Menor wins a controversial split-decision and the right to fight Tsutsui for a third world title in August.
K-1 Tournament Final: Michael McDonald vs. Rick Roufus
This fight was arguably the slowest of the night in the first round, with both fighter hesitant to engage, with only the deep penetrating sound of McDonald`s leg-kick showing the discrepancy in leg-kick training experience.
Roufus exhibited clear pain in both legs, but seemingly from his previous bout with Cooper, not due to receiving kicks, but a hyper-extension of his left knee during a slip.
The fight ends in a draw, and a fourth-round of overtime is called by the judges, but Roufus is unable to continue. Many in the crowd booed and jeered foul until all doubters where silenced by a close-up of Roufus` knee, which had a football-sized protuberance of swollen tissue from the injury.
McDonald wins the finals and a rumored $200,000 purse, in addition to the right to fight in the August Las Vegas Semi-Finals at the Bellagio, where he will fight the winners of the Japan qualifier, Brazil qualifier, and South African qualifier. Viva Las Vegas, K-1 has arrived in America.