Thursday, 12 July 2007

K-1 Asian Grand Prix, Seoul, South Korea 2005 - TV Review

As part of their Fight Club series Eurosport continued their coverage of the Japanese mixed martial arts K-1 promotion with coverage of their Asian Grand Prix event in Seoul, South Korea this past March. The coverage centered on the Grand Prix tournament itself, and sadly the other matches were edited out of the show. However, this didn't spoil my enjoyment of this show.
The tournament began with a bout between Qing Jun Zhang, the youngest entrant in the tournament, and Kaoklai Kaennorsing, the winner of last year's tournament, and the only Thai to ever win a K-1 tournament. Although Zhang put in a good showing, Kaennorsing was always going to be the winner of this bout. Zhang showed some good skills, but the Thai fighter's superior skill showed through, and you could see just why he won the tournament last year. Kaennorsing did enough to win the match with a unanimous points decision.

Next up we saw Myeon Ju Lee of Korea, a Muay Thai specialist, take on Japan's Hiraku Horu. Another good contest between two of the smaller men in the tournament , although Horu went into this bout with a distinct size advantage. Although he had the home crowd behind him, Lee couldn't do enough to put Horu away. Halfway through Lee was bleeding from a busted nose, and Horu continued to do enough to keep control of the bout and to win the points decision.

Then we saw one of the giants of the tournament, as Grand Sumo champion Akebono, just two weeks before his sumo bout with the Big Show at Wrestlemania 21, take on Nobuaki Kakuda,  who had come out of retirement for this tournament. I had seen some of Akebono's previous K-1 fights before, and I hadn't been impressed. The lumbering behemoth was going into this bout looking for his first K-1 victory. Once again, the big man failed to impress me, and despite the vast differences in size, Kakuda was able to put up a good showing. The bout really slowed down in the third round, as the size of Akebono and the age of Kakuda finally took their toll, but some Sumo champion hung on to score the points victory, and to win his first K-1 contest.

Then the real giant of the tournament made his entrance, as Korea's Hong-Man Choi, standing over seven feet tall and weighing in at about 350 pounds, and the country's new national hero, took on another Sumo star, Wakashoyo. Wakashoyo didn't stand a chance against the man mountain, as midway through the first round, Choi clobbered him senseless with a good looking right, making this the first bout of the tournament not to go the distance.

The first semifinal saw Kaennorsing take on Horu. The young Thai fighter took his Japanese counterpart to school, dominating him to such an extent that during the third round he kept his guard down throughout, he was that unworried about his opponent. This was probably the easiest job the judges had to do all night, because it was obvious who was going to win.

Then it was the battle of the giants, as Akebono took on Choi. Another bout that didn't last long, and another example of how Akebono failed to impress. Hampered by an apparent leg injury sustained in the bout with Kakuda, Akebono was easy pickings for Choi, and it got so bad for the Sumo star that his corner threw in the towel.

The final itself was a David v Goliath affair, as Kaennorsing gave up a great deal of height and weight against the massive Choi. Although the crowd were clearly behind Choi, it seemed that Kaennorsing was doing enough to stay out of the way of Choi's massive blows, and doing enough to win the fight, But as the bout went the distance, and it went to the judges, one scored it in favour of Choi while the other two declared the bout a draw, so it went to a fourth, deciding round. This was probably the best round of the bout, with Choi using his power to good effect, and Kaennorsing using his speed to good advantage, and although it seemed that Kaennorsing had done enough to win the bout, the judges seemed swayed by the local hero and awarded the bout and the tournament to Choi.

Overall, Eurosport's coverage of the tournament was impressive. They've rectified the mistakes they made in previous tournaments, in which they showed the finals before the semis and the quarters. My only criticism is that the three super fights on the card were omitted from the coverage, although I'm sure that a tape trader or someone will be able to
supply a DVD of the full event. Match of the tournament goes to the final bout between Choi and Kaennorsing.