Heading into last night's K-1 show, there was a lot of negativity surrounding the event. With a fight card split between older talent and young unknowns, plus a $10 fee for the Spike.com live stream, the general consensus was that the K-1 US Grand Prix Championship in Los Angeles was going to be a bust. And for the first hour, those fears looked to be confirmed, as a late start time, problematic stream, and "free" prelims that you actually had to pay for seemed to doom the evening. But then something rather amazing happened... the fights delivered.
Setting aside the early technical issues and the strength of names on the card, this was a pretty great show, with tons of actions, crazy finishes, and good production. Tech issues and fighter quality are important issues no doubt. But at the end of the day, when I tune in for a fight card, I primarily want to be entertained. And from a purely entertainment standpoint, K-1's big return to the US was an undeniable hit.
In the end, this show is a bit of a mixed bag. Looking at the fights, K-1 delivered, exceeding expectations and giving fans an action packed and entertaining night. But from a marketing side, it has to go down as a missed opportunity, as few saw those fights. For the future of K-1 and kickboxing in America, let's hope they can better capitalize on that opportunity next time out.
- I used the term action packed above, and that's exactly what this was. Of the 13 fights, 7 ended in KO or TKO, which is a high ratio for kickboxing. Most every fight was entertaining as well. Included in those 7 stoppages were a number of highlights, but for me the KO of the night is a tie between James Wilson and Shuichi Wentz - two very different moments. Wilson showed the power a true Heavyweight can bring, violently knocking opponent Doug Sauer out cold and crashing through the ring ropes. Wentz was all about the technique, landing a lightning fast head kick right on the money that had Romie Adanza stiff and twitching on the mat. Great highlight reel stuff from both men.
- The show was largely based on building up future K-1 stars, particularly for US audiences. So the big question - are any of these guys future stars? It's hard to say. When they are facing opponents at a similar skill level, it's tough to get a read on where they stand. They're certainly not at the level of guys like Tyrone Spong or Andy Souwer, but there are a number of fighters here I want to see more from - Jarrell Miller leads the pack, but I also am intrigued by Shuichi Wentz, Justin Greskiewicz, James Wilson, and Damien Earley.
More thoughts, plus full results, in the complete article.
- The one negative area of the show, and this should come as no surprise, was the Heavyweight Grand Prix fights. Miller almost single handedly saved that section (Cooper vs. Blake was fine too), but that couldn't overcome the clearly out of place Rick Roufus vs. Mighty Mo fight. As for Xavier Vigney vs. Seth Petruzelli - that was like a retread of the fights K-1 featured in the mid-2000's, and that's not a good thing. Vigney played the Hong Man Choi role of big guy whose size gets him past his gap in skill, while Seth Petruzelli played the role of, well, Seth Petruzelli - guy who just plain isn't good enough to be in there. Get rid of these guys and focus on the new talent.
- I quite liked the overall production. They decided to keep the old K-1 style of going big, with fighter introductions to start the evening, drumming, a live band (who were terrible, but hey, points for the effort), and I dug that - made it feel like a real event and not something insignificant. Yes there were tech issues with the stream during the first hour, but to be honest, those have always come with the territory in trying to follow kickboxing, and these weren't any worse than what many other companies do.
- Since I'm talking production, I need to mention the commentary from It's Showtime's old announce team of Vinny Shoreman and Kieran Keddle, plus rotating special guest. They did a good job overall, though were guilty of some extreme overhype at times. I get the need to sell the product, but there's a fine line between selling and overselling, and they crossed that line at times. The worst offender of this was Nate Quarry, who, during a prelim, gave us the old "every one of these fights could be a main event!" line. Really? Even this prelim between two total unknowns? Sell your product, but try to keep some credibility.
- In the end, have I seen more technically solid shows this year? Undoubtedly. Is this the old K-1? Not by a long shot. But was this one of the most entertaining nights of kickboxing in 2012? Absolutely.
- Next up for K-1 is the 2012 Grand Prix Final 16 on October 14 in Tokyo, then the MAX GP Finals December 8 in Athens, and finally the GP Finals December 26 in New York City. Don't miss them.
K-1 US Grand Prix Championship in Los Angeles - Full Results
Prelim #1: Mike Lemaire def. Glen Spencer via Unanimous Decision
Prelim #2: Damien Earley def. Jermaine Soto via KO, round 3
Prelim #3: James Wilson def. Doug Sauer via KO, round 1
MAX Fight #1: Justin Greskiewicz def. Bryce Krause via KO, round 3
MAX Fight #2: Joey Pagliuso def. Ben Yelle via KO, round 3
MAX Fight #3: Michael Mananquil def. Scotty Leffler via Un. Dec.
MAX Fight #4: Chaz Mulkey def. Kit Cope via TKO, round 2
Superfight #1: Shuichi Wentz def. Romie Adanza via KO, round 1
Superfight #2: En Gang def. Travis Garlits via Un. Dec.
Superfight #3: Gabriel Varga def. Lerdsila Chumpairtour via Un. Dec.
Superfight #4: Jeremiah Metcalf def. Markhaile Wedderburn via KO, round 1
Heavyweight fight #1: Xavier Vigney def. Seth Petruzelli via KO, round 2
Heavyweight Fight #2: Rick Roufus def. Mighty Mo via Split Dec.
Heavyweight Fight #3: Jerrell Miller def. Jack May via KO, round 1
Heavyweight Fight #4: Randy Blake def. Dewey Cooper via Un. Dec.