Tournaments have long been admired in the world of combat sports. Rooted deep in the beginnings of mixed martial arts, tournaments were the deciding factor for who was the best.
In November of 1993, the Ultimate Fighting Championship introduced an eight-man, one-night tournament that featured members of different martial arts backgrounds in a quest to determine the best martial art. The smallest man in the field, Royce Gracie, was able to defeat three other men en route to the inaugural UFC tournament championship. The UFC would continue the trend of one-night tournaments until UFC 23 in May of 1998, running a total of twenty one-night tournaments with sixteen different tournament champions.
Outside of the world’s largest promotion, tournaments were the norm in many Japanese martial arts. Pancrase and Shooto were running large amateur and professional tournaments each year, while Pride Fighting Championships began running grand prix tournaments in the year 2000 to determine the best fighter in a certain weight category. While tournaments have come and gone, and come again in the modern world of mixed martial arts, they have always been tradition in kickboxing competition.
The largest and most prestigious kickboxing promotion during the boom of mixed martial arts was the Japanese-based K-1. Each year since it’s inception in 1993, the K-1 World Grand Prix was the longest running and most reputable one-night tournament in the sport. The field started with just eight in a one-night tournament finale, but the promotion soon expanded in 1998, adding qualifying tournaments in different regions of the world to help bring the best fighters available from around the globe. The K-1 World Grand Prix successfully ran from 1993 until the year 2010 when the company stopped the event due to financial troubles. With the addition of K-1 MAX, tournaments for the best lighter weight division fighters and a number of qualifying tournaments for heavyweights, lightweights and youth, K-1 promoted well over 200 tournaments while the company was the top dog in the kickboxing world.
The kickboxing landscape changed in 2012. An absence of K-1 led to smaller promotions coming to prominence all while fighting over the No. 1 spot left in K-1’s absence. GLORY debuted during that window in 2012. The promotion brought in many of the displaced K-1 fighters into the newly formed GLORY kickboxing promotion. GLORY would build momentum early on with tournaments in multiple weight divisions, but would find financial troubles of it’s own in the last half of 2014. An inaugural pay-per-view event that featured an eight-man tournament with top names like Artem Levin, Joe Schilling, Simon Marcus and others, reportedly sold under 10,000 buys. While the one-night tournament still exists in the GLORY promotion today, some of the talent has dispersed to other regions of the world.
That same year, Kunlun Fighting Championship made its debut in Pattaya, Thailand. The Chinese-based combat sports promotion made a successful debut in Jan. 2014. The promotion has continued to grow since it’s inception, signing talented fighters in kickboxing, Muay Thai and mixed martial arts. While the company has yet to reach the Western fans on a consistent basis, the promotion has slowly and quietly become one of the powerhouses in the kickboxing world. Evidence of the product building can be found in one of the most unheralded tournaments of 2015. While MMA promotions have and plan to run one-night tournaments in 2015 — Bellator MMA held a one-night light heavyweight tournament at their Dynamite event in September and World Series of Fighting plans on holding a one-night, eight-man tournament on Nov. 20 — the best tournament this year has taken place under the Kunlun FC banner.
Kunlun FC amassed a field of 64 athletes to begin its 2015 70-kilogram tournament offering. The tournament was split into four separate brackets that funneled down to a final 16-man tournament. Instead of running a single night of tournament fights, Kunlun FC decided to run multiple four-man, one-night tournaments throughout the year. Kunlun FC brought in many of the world’s top 70-kilogram fighters for the tournament, showcasing that talent in the first four-man tournament on Jan. 3 with two of the world’s top-10 in the weight category: Sitthichai Sitsongpeenong and Andy Souwer. Sitthichai defeated GLORY veteran Murthel Groenhart and Souwer on his way to qualifying for the final field of 16. The names continued to appear on the fight cards with each four-man tournament, Amansio Paraschiv, David Calvo, Chingiz Allazov, Dzhabar Askerov and many others won qualifying tournaments throughout 2015.
The field has been narrowed down to the final 16 fighters with tournament qualifiers and invitees Yodsanklai Fairtex, Davit Kiria and 2014 tournament champion Dzianis Zuev. The groups and match-ups are listed as follows:
Superbon Banchamek (Thailand) def. Zheng Zhaoyu (China) by knockout (knee). Round 2 – Kunlun Fight 31
Sittichai Sitsongpeenong (Thailand) def. Jonay Risco (Spain) by decision – Kunlun Fight 31
Davit Kiria (Georgia) vs. David Calvo (Spain) – Kunlun Fight 32
Dzianis Zuev (Belarus) vs. Victor Nagbe (Australia) – Kunlun Fight 32
Yodsanklai Fairtex (Thailand) vs. Dzhabar Askerov (Russia) – Kunlun Fight 33
Amansio Parashiv (Romania) vs. Zhang Chunyu (China) – Kunlun Fight 33
Kong Lingfeng (China) vs. Wu Xuesong (China) – Kunlun Fight 33
Enriko Gogokhia (Russia) vs. Steve Moxon (Australia) – Kunlun Fight 33
Kunlun Fight 32 will take place this Wednesday, Oct. 28 in Dazhou, China. The event will host two tournament quarterfinal bouts as well as the finale of the women’s 52-kilogram tournament. Arguably kickboxing’s most popular fighter, Buakaw Banchamek makes his second of his six contracted appearances in the Kunlun ring. Buakaw fights Gu Hui in the main event. The 70-kilogram tournament inches closer to a close with four more tournament quarterfinals taking place at Kunlun Fight 33 on Saturday, Oct. 31 in Changde, China.
For more information as the tournament closes in, continue to follow Combat Press for all of the updates.