Reposted from Head Kick Legend, which will be your home for the K-1 World Grand Prix this weekend.
The K-1 World Grand Prix is coming and it is coming fast, so it is time to get down to it and pull out some predictions. Kid Nate and Leland Roling of BloodyElbow fame throw their hats into the ring alongside myself and Fraser Coffeen as we break down what could be the greatest combat sports card of the year.
Badr Hari vs. Ruslan Karaev
Dave Walsh: These guys have met before, as I went over a while back, and I have to say that along the way Badr Hari has continued to grow while Karaev has stalled. Ruslan holds a controversial win over Badr, which by all means should have been a no contest or a DQ, and Badr holds a blockbuster KO over Karaev. Karaev has not had the best of years and I think his 2009 in K-1 will come to a close staring up at the ring lights.
Leland Roling: While a lot of fans are looking at this rubber match with an eye for the explosive results the first two encounters produced, I'm a bit hesitant to believe we'll see the same Ruslan Karaev we saw in both those previous match-ups. Hedsy Gerges made Karaev look completely out of his element at Ultimate Glory 11, and he was able to inflict significant damage during that fight. That bout really wasn't that long ago, and I'm willing to bet it won't take long for Hari to exploit some weaknesses in Karaev's limbs from the damage he took in that fight. Furthermore, Hari's new strength & conditioning program looks to have visibly bulked him up. That'll give him even more power with his vaunted striking game. I think Hari takes out Karaev convincingly within the span of the fight. Badr Hari via KO.
Kid Nate: It depends on how much Karaev has left. I don't think he's the same fighter who has been such a nemesis for Badr Hari in the past.
Fraser Coffeen: Quarter-Finals - I'm lumping these together as in all four fights there is a clear cut favorite, and I'm not picking any upsets. Karaev looked terrible in his recent loss to Hesdy Gerges, and I can't imagine he's been able to train at 100%. This should be a quick and easy Hari KO. Teixeira is a tough fighter who I don't think has any tools to beat Overeem, but will prove to be an irritant, dragging the Demolition Man to a drawn out decision win. Le Banner is beloved, but he's just not a factor - Schilt by decision. The 4th quarter-final is probably the most compelling, As Errol Zimmerman showed last year that he has the potential to be at the top level. He had a rough start to 2009, but has come back in recent months. Still, Bonjasky is just too skilled and experienced for him. Bonjasky by KO.
Ewerton Teixeira vs. Alistair Overeem
DW: I feel like this is the fight that most MMA fans are interested in, and probably the fight that will surprise a lot of people. Teixeira is not a push over by any means and has all the technique in the world to counter Overeem's power. Overeem is clearly the favorite, as he should be, but Teixeira is going to make him earn this win.
LR: Some would say this is a rather tough pick because Teixeira has a range game that could give Overeem some problems if he isn't able to close distance, but Overeem's size and ability to close distance quite easily due to his improved defense should bank him three rounds of battering Teixeira around like a rag doll. Teixeira should really focus heavily on hurting the knees of Overeem, but I imagine he'll eat some fierce punches for his efforts. Overeem should be able to close distance and give Teixeira way too much to handle. Alistair Overeem via decision
Kid Nate has Teixeira picking apart Overeem.
Jerome LeBanner vs. Semmy Schilt
DW: Schilt has been underestimated by fans who caught their first GP (or their first GP in a long time, as it could be) on HDNet last year, primarily because he was not in the finals last year after Peter Aerts skillfully removed him from contention. Fans had no such luck this year and the Tower of a man is back in the hunt, looking for his fourth championship. JLB just doesn't have the drive anymore, Schilt does.
LR: I'm a huge JLB fan in the heart, and his spirit to continue driving forward despite being pretty incapacitated at times due to exhaustion or injuries is quite unbelievable to watch. The problem for JLB is that he simply can't land the combinations that he used to drive through his opponents' chins earlier in his career, and his slow, plodding style really leaves him open to fighters who can use distance and length to damage him. Schilt is the epitome of that type of fighter, and his size is formidable to any fighter regardless of who it actually is. Schilt should cruise through this fight, but look for LeBanner to will his way to finishing the fight still on his feet. Semmy Schilt via TKO
Remy Bonjasky vs. Errol Zimmerman
DW: Zimmerman has youth on his side, which should also be a factor in it not being too heartbreaking when Remy flying kicks his head off. I expect both men to take some damage in this fight and hope Zimmerman puts on a good show, but ultimately this is Remy's fight to lose.
LR: Errol Zimmerman is likely going to be a future star in K-1, but he's definitely ran into a downturn recently. He hasn't looked great in his last few performances, and taking on Remy Bonjasky in the quarterfinals will hopefully light a fire under him to come back into form. Remy still presents his stylistic advantages regardless of whether Zimmerman shows up to this fight. He has the ability to land flying kicks, flying knees, and devastating leg kicks at range and within close range, and he's one of the few fighters in K-1 that can be a real menace even if backed into a corner. While fans are mentioning the fact that Bonjasky can be a bit fragile, he'll defeat Zimmerman here. Remy Bonjasky via decision
Speculation - Semi-Finals and Finals
This is always dicey turf to predict fights that you don't know will happen or not, but we are dicey guys sometimes.
Kid Nate has Badr Hari over Overeem, then Semmy Schilt as your Grand Prix Champion.
Fraser Coffeen: Semi-Final #1: Hari v. Overeem - Now things get interesting. This is a fight that I have an incredibly hard time calling, and have gone back and forth on countless times. On the one hand, Hari has the fire, the experience, the stronger technical skill, and it just feel like his time. On the other hand, Overeem is on an absolute tear and has already shown that he has the power to capitalize on Hari's less than stellar chin. Truly, I see this as the fight that decides the 2009 Grand Prix champion. And, as much as I want to see Hari wear the crown, I have to go with Overeem here via KO.
Semi-Final #2: Schilt v. Bonjasky - Here's the thing about this fight: it's not that this is a bad match-up or that it's not a relevant fight. It most definitely is interesting - a clash between the two strong GP champions of the past 6 years, and a chance for Remy to finally topple the giant. But this just doesn't have the same sizzle as Hari v. Overeem. Still, it should be both a strong and potentially historic fight. Although I think Remy tends to be underrated, Schilt does too, and I don't see Bonjasky's style being able to take down Semmy. As seen in their last encounter, Schilt has the range, power, and accuracy to just power straight through Remy's normally immaculate guard and connect. I expect to see Schilt outpoint him here in an interesting, but not action-packed fight.
Final: Overeem v. Schilt - That seems like a weird final, but that's what I've got. And I think this is where Overeem's lack of K-1 experience will finally catch up to him. He simply hasn't been in this kind of tournament setting, facing multiple world-class fighters in a single night. I'm not doubting his conditioning, but I think this will prove too much for him, especially against a multi-time champion who knows how to pace himself and how to win it all in one night. I see Schilt keeping his distance and once again picking Alistair apart for the decision victory and his 4th GP title. As a brief caveat - if the final is Hari v. Schilt, Hari wins it.
Dave Walsh: Semi-Final #1: Hari vs. Overeem - I don't even want to have to pick this, because there is a history and I think Badr Hari's head was in an awful place at the time. Badr has collected himself and after the Schilt win earlier this year has been 'reborn.' Overeem is arrogant and I see Badr Hari shutting him up once and for all.
Semi-Final #2: Bonjasky vs. Schilt - This is a fight that on paper is incredibly compelling; two men who have tied with some of the other greats for all-time GP wins, and another GP win would be a new record. They've dominated the GP over the past few years, but they haven't done so in a truly exciting fashion. Both men will play up strategy in this fight and Semmy is just too big and will connect more, securing his spot in the finals.
Finals: Schilt vs. Hari - Now, full disclosure is when I saw the betting lines, +275 on Semmy Schilt made me spit water on my monitor and make my 'R' key now not function properly. Semmy Schilt has been completely overlooked this year and a lot of people will be proven wrong, I think. The ring is a bit bigger in K-1, Semmy will know what to expect and as long as he keeps it at his own pace, he'll secure his fourth World Grand Prix crown.
Undercard predictions to follow soon!