ORLANDO, Fla. – Five ferocious rounds of fighting in the Karate Combat 35 main event resulted in two historic moments for the organization, producing both the first-ever winner of a champion vs. champion superfight and also possibly the most controversial decision in the organization’s history.
Welterweight champion Josh "The Preacher" Quayhagen and lightweight champion Luiz "Pitbull" Rocha met at catchweight between their two weight classes – then met in the middle of the pit for a five-round war which tested both of them to their limit.
Power advantage went to Rocha, conditioning advantage lay with Quayhagen. The premise of the fight was always going to be which of them could impose their advantage on the other – would Rocha end the fight early, or would Quayhagen drag him into deep waters?
In the early rounds, it looked like the advantage lay with Rocha. The young protege of "The Pitbull Brothers" landed the cleaner shots and was doing excellent work with his right hand in particular. But the constant power-shots taxed his cardio and his rate slowed during the third.
This was where Quayhagen’s vaunted gas tank came into play. Rocha was still landing – including a clean 1-2, which staggered Quayhagen – but his output was lessening by the minute. In the fourth and fifth rounds he found himself in a dogfight, with Quayhagen spurred on by “USA!” chants from the crowd.
The final round was a war, with Quayhagen forging ahead and Rocha fighting a furious rearguard action and the crowd on its feet throughout. By the end of the final round Quayhagen looked close to scoring a finish on the exhausted Rocha, but the Brazilian showed his toughness and stayed in the game.
Prior to the main event the much-anticipated debut with Raymond Daniels ended in a dominant unanimous decision victory by the former Bellator Kickboxing world champion. Daniels quickly won over the hearts of the fans with the best walkout of the night.
Franklin Mina was able to land some clean gyaku tsukis (reverse punches) throughout the fight, but overall, Daniels utterly dominated the fight.
In the second round, Raymond dropped Mina with a body kick then used a wall run to get a better positioning for ground and pound before finishing with a somersault onto his opponent. Landed a two-touch kick that excited the crowd immensely, then later landed a clean left hand that dropped him again. That left kept landing throughout the fight.
Both fighters utilized the wall in unique ways for repositioning to get better angles on their opponent. But Daniels was definitely the more effective of the two.
After the fight, Raymond dedicated this fight to his teammate whose mother recently passed away.
Match 6 was the highly anticipated return of the heavyweights and did not disappoint. Achraf Ouchen got a big pop off when walking to the ring and Elhadji Ndour did as well when he entered the pit with a Bas Rutten style jump.
The fight was an absolute heavyweight war. Ndour landed good work early in both the pocket and at range, landing a beautiful mae geri (front kick).
As the fight went on, Ouchen began to walk Ndour down and showed the highest fight IQ when it came to using knees under this ruleset. But eventually it would be his hands that would wobble Ndour eventually leading to the only knockout of the night. Everyone was on their feet at the end.
The fifth match featured the Machida Karate protege Bruno Souza take on a Kyokushin-style kickboxer Maciej Tercjak in a very anticipated bout in the karate community. Bruno was controlling the fight really well until he took a nasty groin kick. After recovering from the groin kick Bruno landed the first tobi hiza geri (flying knee) in Karate Combat history.
Tercjak showed a lot of fighting spirit that Kyokushin is known for in this fight but ultimately, he couldn't find his range. Souza was landing beautiful combinations and kicks at range then when Tecjak would close the distance he would take Maciej down. Souza would win this fight by unanimous decision.
Crowd popped off hard for Maximo Nunes when he exited his portal. Nunes trains out of American Top Team in Florida. But fan favorite Teeik Silva also had equally strong support in the pit.
Teeik landed the hardest shots in the fight but Nunes controlled the fight, often putting Silva on the backfoot. Maximo would ultimately win a split decision.
Gabriel Stankunas showcased good blitz fighting but the momentum changed once Jesus Lopez interrupted Gabriels flow by taking him down and landing good ground and pound.
Jesus' takedowns and ground and pound would ultimately win him the fight by unanimous decision. Both these warriors took the fight on one week's notice proving as the winner Lopez says, "If you stay ready, you don't need to get ready."
Gabriele Cera showed massive improvements in his striking this fight by landing much cleaner strikes as well as better forward aggression in general. As the fight progressed Gabrielle ultimately kept increasing his pace landing mostly to the head but then started going to the body more and finding success with it. Broad fought with a lot of heart and landed some good shots, but ultimately Cera's pit experience was too much for the debutant.
Kevin Kowalczik came up short in his debut bout but was looking to get his first win in the pit against Karate Combat veteran Deivis Ferreras.
Unfortunately for him, while he showed great heart and creative striking (even attempting the first dragon sweep in Karate Combat history), it was ultimately not enough to win him the fight. Devis Ferreras pressure, superior tsuki waza (pugilism), and hard calf kicks ultimately won him the fight, giving himself a birthday gift in the process.