Two years ago, the inaugural ONE Featherweight Kickboxing World Grand Prix went down as the greatest eight-man tournament the sport has ever seen. And fortunately for striking fans, the prestigious kickboxing spectacle will return next month for a second installment.
The next edition of this tournament was recently announced and features eight of the best featherweight kickboxers on the planet – all of whom will appear in the quarterfinal round of the Grand Prix at ONE: FIRST STRIKE on Friday, 15 October.
Here are five reasons kickboxing fans will be on the edge of their seats come fight night.
#1 A Clash Of Legends
Both men have built impressive resumes in the sport, but they also have even more to prove.
Souwer is coming off a dominant win over “Bamboo Sword” Zhang Chunyu at ONE: BIG BANG last December. Fans witnessed the “Souwer Power” of old at that event, as he tore into his opponent with thunderous punches and kicks to clinch the unanimous decision win.
Still, the 38-year-old Souwer is nearing retirement, and he has one more mission before hanging up the leather for good – win a ONE World Title. In order to get there, he’ll first have to overcome a man who’s looking to accomplish the same goal.
For his part, Grigorian enjoyed a successful start to his career in ONE. On the same night that Souwer beat Zhang, the Armenian-Belgian athlete stoically wilted Ivan Kondratev with a left hook to the body, scoring the second-round knockout.
There’s nothing these men want more than a shot at kickboxing greatness, but only one of them can take a big step forward on 15 October.
#2 A Kickboxing World Champ Returns From Muay Thai
Sitthichai “Killer Kid” Sitsongpeenong took a break from kickboxing to compete in Muay Thai after seven years away from the sport. And that decision paid off at ONE: BATTLEGROUND III in August, as Sitthichai defeated #4-ranked bantamweight Muay Thai contender Tawanchai PK.Saenchai Muaythaigym by split decision.
It was a back-and-forth battle that left hardcore fans wanting to see the Thai stars go another two rounds. And Sitthichai proved he hadn’t lost a step in “the art of eight limbs,” even attacking Tawanchai with elbows and grappling in the clinch.
With his confidence soaring, the #4-ranked featherweight kickboxer is now switching back to his main sport, where he’ll take on #5-ranked Tayfun “Turbine” Ozcan in the Grand Prix quarterfinals.
If the Sitsongpeenong representative scores another victory, not only will he advance to the tournament semifinals, but he’ll prove he can compete in both stand-up disciplines simultaneously. Ultimately, we might even see him make a run at two-sport supremacy.
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#3 ‘Turbine’ Roars Into Long-Awaited Debut
After a couple of false starts due to illness and injury, Ozcan will finally enter ONE Super Series in a huge battle against Sitthichai.
“Turbine’s” nickname represents his style fittingly. The Dutch-Turkish star pushes the pace while putting together high-volume combinations to smother his rivals in leather before twisting their tops with high kicks.
That said, it’s his right hand that opponents have to watch out for most. Ozcan’s power punch has finished many elite-level kickboxers – including Souwer, whom he chinned with a right hand to score a fourth-round walk-off KO in 2018.
However, Sitthichai won’t be an easy target to hit. Even the tactical Tawanchai couldn’t touch his chin with 4-ounce mixed martial arts gloves.
Moreover, “Killer Kid” has never been knocked out in his kickboxing career. Ozcan will look to change all that in their quarterfinal clash in the ONE Featherweight Kickboxing World Grand Prix.
#4 Sana Gets Second Shot After Runner-Up Finish
In 2019, Samy “AK47” Sana made it all the way to the inaugural ONE Featherweight Kickboxing World Grand Prix Championship Final after defeating striking greats “The Boxing Computer” Yodsanklai IWE Fairtex and Dzhabar Askerov in the first two rounds of the tournament.
Unfortunately for Sana, he couldn’t overcome Giorgio “The Doctor” Petrosyan at the historic ONE: CENTURY PART II and dropped a decision loss to the Armenian-Italian, missing out on the ONE Featherweight Kickboxing World Grand Prix Title and the accompanying US$1 million prize.
“AK47” will now get another chance to prove himself when he takes on Chingiz “Chinga” Allazov in a quarterfinal contest.
Sana will be favored in that opening clash, but he’s surely aiming much higher given how close he came to winning the whole tournament two years ago.
#5 Kehl Aims To Continue Winning Run
Enriko “The Hurricane” Kehl entered The Home Of Martial Arts with an impressive second-round TKO win over Liam Nolan in 2019, but he succumbed to Askerov in the ONE Featherweight Kickboxing World Grand Prix quarterfinals later that year.
However, Kehl used that momentary setback to regroup and handed Armen Petrosyan a second-round TKO courtesy of punches and knees.
He then produced a stunning performance against Allazov at “ONE on TNT I” earlier this year. Kehl won the back-and-forth duel by a narrow split decision, and the bout went down as a “Fight Of The Year” candidate.
Like Sana, Kehl is getting a second chance to compete in the ONE Featherweight Kickboxing World Grand Prix – and he’ll no doubt try to starch his opponent, Davit Kiria, to send a stern warning that he means business this time around.