"Best of 2017" on Kunlun Fight
Kunlun Fight 2017 season reached its finale, as fans in China and around the world witnessed the crowning of new royalty in the various divisions. The past year has been nothing short of inspiring moments as well as shocking upsets, as the world spectated the relentless drama that played out on the KLF stage.
Defeating the Undefeated
Fans of female kickboxing action were not left out as Kunlun Fight introduced an all-new Mulan Legends Championship back in 2016 to recognize the best women fighters in the world. The inaugural Mulan tournament reached its crescendo on July 15th when the top 2 contenders faced each other at KLF 64. An epic slugfest erupted between knockout extraordinaire, Wang Kehan and Dutch mixed martial artist, Anissa Haddaoui. It is worth mentioning that prior to this fight, Wang had been on an incredible undefeated KLF campaign since 2014. Four savagely-fought rounds ended with Anissa winning via decision to be inaugurated as the Kunlun Fight female champion, staining Wang’s impeccable record in the process.
Later in the year, Kunlun Fight brought the Mulan Legends competition back for a one-night only, 8-woman tournament at KLF 68. Kunlun Fight MMA double-champion, Zhang Weili piqued the interest of fight fans as she seeked to expand her collection of championship titles with a transition to kickboxing. Coincidentally, the combat specialist entered the fight with a clean record since 2014 just as Wang Kehan did. History repeated itself in the Mulan finals when Zhang was trounced by the unassuming Sanda kickboxer, Guan Acui. Proving once again that there’s no “undefeated” in the unpredictable world of fight sports.
The battle for glory in the 66kg featherweight division was every bit as exhilarating as what the fans ordered. Chinese Sanshou kickboxer, Yang Zhuo overpowered an international ensemble of adversaries that began with Japanese Kenta Yamada at KLF 65, for place in the tournament’s final 8.
On tournament night at KLF 67, the “Dynamite” bested fellow countryman Wei Ninghui, Colombian David Mejia, before culminating in a climactic showdown with Muay Thai legend, Singdam. Yang strategically evaded a direct clash against the notoriously steel shins of Singdam, choosing instead to make use of the split-second gaps and outscoring with an effective counter-offensive. The Chinese kickboxer picked up the decision after a closely-matched 3-round to be awarded the Kunlun Fight world title for 66kg in front of an home crowd that went wild for their local hero. Yang had lived up to all expectations, and the win solidifies the place of Chinese fighters among the very best in the kickboxing world.
On the other end of the weight class spectrum, the colossal 100kg+ world championship contributed raging waves of seismic activity in the squared circle. Heavyweights from all corners of the globe descended in China for a shot at the prestigious KLF world title.
World number 10, Roman Kryklia from Ukraine thundered his way to the tournament finals at KLF 69 where he faced an underdog Iraj Azizpour. Azizpour, who hails from Iran, went into the final bout fresh after a gravity-defying head-kick knocked out his semi-finals opponent in round 2. Despite an advantageous reach of the 2-metre tall Kryklia, Azizpour retaliated with an arsenal of quick-reflex moves that took the fight into an extra round. The Iranian outscored in the decisive round 4 with a series of sweeps and takedowns to have his hand raised momentously in the end.
At KLF 61 in May, Yodsanklai Fairtex defeated Soichiro Miyakoshi at the World Max qualifying round, only to announce his retirement a month later in June due to injuries. The news caught the global fight community by surprise, shattering fanboy fantasies of a possible meet between Yod and Superbon in the finals.
In a turn of events, the Boxing Computer recently made his return to the ring and fans now eagerly await his return to the KLF stage. More highly-lusted than anything else, is the prophesied match between Yodsanklai and Buakaw Banchamek. If that were to ever come into fruition, it would truly be the fight of the century. Yod has hinted on the strong possibility and the world is keeping fingers crossed.
Besides its flagship kickboxing events, KLF’s mixed martial arts series presented fight fans with an alternative source of combat entertainment. The MMA events have set a high bar in the industry with the most flamboyant fighting styles and deadly moves ever seen in the caged octagon.
One of the most striking upsets in the KLF MMA series took place at the 14th edition in Qingdao. Kunlun Fight’s very own MMA flyweight champion, Zhang Meixuan came in defense of his title against a young, dynamic Oscar Suarez. The 19 year-old Spanish fighter’s back-flipping walk-in instantly caught the attention of the spectators but it was nothing compared to the fight that transpired. The 2 competitors churned out some of the most acrobatic repertoire of gravity-defying kicks ever seen in KLF, each trying to outdo the other. Nothing prepared the audience for the finish when young Suarez knocked Zhang out cold with a staggering right overhand. An epic finish to an epic fight.
In another memorable MMA face-off of the year, Zhang Lipeng went head-to-head against old foe, Rodrigo Caporal in their third meet. Zhang was riding on an incredible 16-fight winning streak that includes a win over BJJ black-belt, Caporal at KLF MMA 11. With one win each over the other, the winner at the KLF MMA 15 main event would also walk away with the welterweight world championship title. The intensity escalated quickly with both sides dishing out punishing strikes as expected. Just when it looked like Zhang was gaining an upperhand, the Brazilian turned in a devastating right overhand KO that appeared seemingly out of nowhere. The feud between the 2 rivals now stands at 2-1 to Carporal, but there is no doubt that the resilient Zhang will be back to even the score.
The Undisputed Prince of Thai Boxing
Back in October 2017, fan-favorite fight star, Buakaw Banchamek ordained as a monk in remembrance of the late Thai King. After a period of absence from the ring, the celebrated athlete returned to Kunlun Fight to cement his place as the undisputed prince of Thai Boxing at the age of 35.
Buakaw returned visibly stronger, with an energy and power reminiscent of his legendary K-1 days. He announced his return by taking down the gigantic giant killer, Marouan Toutouh at KLF 67 and then the golden lion, Nayanesh Ayman at KLF 69. Felling his opponents with a left hook on both occasions from which there was no recovery, Buakaw has managed to silent his critics in convincing fashion with the 2 stellar knockout performances.
Rise and fall of The Prodigy
Meanwhile, Buakaw’s protégé, Superbon Banchamek became the only fighter in Kunlun Fight history to make it to the World Max tournament finals in two consecutive years. The Thai kickboxing phenom has gone on an amazing winning streak on Kunlun Fight since the start of 2016. As far as the odds were concerned, Superbon appeared on track to clinch the KLF 70kg World title for a second year in a row. The successful run ultimately came to an end in the eventual run-in with Marat Grigorian in the tournament finals.
Birth of A New King
The biggest shocker of the year was unquestionably Marat Grigorian’s 29-second brutal dismantling of Superbon at KLF 69. The Armenian kickboxer came into the fight as the underdog, literally beating the hot favorite in the Clash of Titans finals. It was a game of punches vs kicks where Marat prevailed with a sequence of powerful punches that knocked the Thai fighter out cold within 29 seconds in the first round.
In reality, Marat’s rise to the top should have been seen coming miles away. The 26 year-old has left a trail of brutal wins on his journey to the finals. The most notable of which was his clash against one of the tournament’s top contenders and last year’s runner-up, Jomthong Chuwattana. At KLF 65 in the final 16, Marat’s aggressive fighting style was unleashed from the onset, concluding Jomthong’s campaign in round 2 with the same heavy right hook that destroyed Superbon. Now with his enthronement as the new Kunlun Fight World Champion, Marat has firmly established himself as a force to be reckoned with in the kingdom of kickboxing.
A New Dawn
Marat’s stunning victory to clinch the KLF World Championship 70kg title signalled the curtain call - marking the conclusion of the final act. A new dawn now awaits as a brand-new season of the year-long KLF World Championship tournament will commence this 11th March 2018 with Kunlun Fight 70. The event will take place at the Mangrove Tree International Conference Center in Sanya City on Hainan island, China.