Jason Suttie's King in the Ring 8-man tournament returns for one final event for 2014 this Saturday night at the ASB Stadium in Kohimarama. On the line is Dan 'The Hangman' Hooker's 72kg crown, vacated after he was signed to the Ultimate Fighting Championship earlier this year. Also on the card are four trans-Tasman superfights with a formidable lineup of Australian fighters taking on representatives from SMAC Gym and Suttie's own Elite Thai Kickboxing. Without further ado, let's take a look at the lineup.
King in the Ring Middleweight Tournament
Pool A - Edwin Samy (ETK), Blood Diamond (City Kickboxing), Chris Eades (ETK North Shore), Jake Crane (Helensville Thai Boxing)
Pool A is the battle of the big smoke, with all four fighters living and training in Auckland. 'Electric' Edwin Samy (40-22-2) is the most experienced of the group, although Blood Diamond (30-10-0) and Jake Crane (33-5-1) are close behind.
'Electric' Edwin Samy trains under Jason Suttie at ETK and has made the final round of the past two 72kg tournaments. He fell short in his last attempt at the crown after a savvy Dan Hooker targeted his damaged midriff with a wicked left hook in the first round of their fight. It was an unfortunate end to a tough night for Samy, but it demonstrated what the King in the Ring is all about. It's one thing to win your fights, but it's equally as important to do so without absorbing too much punishment in the process. Easier said than done, but Samy will undoubtedly take care to do so and is likely a favourite to take out the tournament.
Blood Diamond, fighting out of City Kickboxing, is a stablemate of reigning cruiserweight champion Israel Adesanya. Like Adesanya, Blood Diamond has spent a significant amount of his career living and training in China. He fights with an unorthodox, explosive style, as evident in his 1-3 knockout ratio. He's also a former WMC, Commonwealth WKA and New Zealand IKBF champion. This will be his most publicized bout in New Zealand to date, and he'll be looking to bring another belt back to City Kickboxing.
Chris 'The Cobra' Eades is the younger brother of the 'Kyokushin Kid' Jamie Eades, and also trains out of ETK North Shore. Though his record stands at a mixed 9 wins with 7 losses, he's tough as nails and has taken the likes of Victor Mechkov and Brad Riddell to hard-fought decisions. He holds a first round TKO over Mikaera 'Shotgun' Povey and has shown steady and constant improvement in every fight. Considering older brother Jamie was taken out by Israel Adesanya in the cruiserweight tournament in August, a potential match-up between the younger Eades and Blood Diamond could be an intriguing fight. With his brother likely in his corner, Eades is a tough out for anyone in the tournament.
Jake 'The Snake' Crane is the tallest fighter in the King in the Ring 72III at 185cm. Training out of Helensville Thai Boxing, the same gym as Mikaera Povey, Crane also has a bone to pick with Chris Eades. He brings considerable experience to the tournament as well as a winning record of 33-5-1, although with just 5 knockouts thus far, he'll likely have to win the crown the hard way.
Pool B - Carlos Hicks (House of Pain), Harley Love (City Lee Gar), Brook Sutton (Diamond Star Muay Thai), Brook Haami (MTI Wellington)
Pool B features three out-of-towners, with fighters coming from as far as Wellington and Dunedin. Pool B also contains the tournaments sole undefeated fighter and, depending on the draw, a potential rematch of an absolute barn-burner from earlier this year.
Carlos 'Flying Fijian' Hicks is a student of Knees of Fury promoter and former world champion Ethan 'The Iceman' Shepp, whose young gym House of Pain is going from strength to strength. He secured a second round knockout win over 'Lethal' Harley Love last month after they duked it out at Knees of Fury 48 in Hamilton. It was far from a cakewalk for Hicks though, as he was dropped for an eight count at the end of the first round. If that's anything to go by, a potential quarter-final fight between the two doesn't bode well for their chances of escaping undamaged. Look for Hicks' slick combination punching and considerable toughness and mental fortitude.
'Lethal' Harley Love is Pool B's sole Auckland fighter, representing the legendary City Lee Gar gym. Love has an excellent kicking game but, like all Lee Gar fighters, is equally as well-versed in all aspects of stand-up fighting. With teammates such as Brad Riddell, Slava Alexeichik and Richie Hardcore, Love certainly has the tools to get the job done. A rematch with Hicks could very well go his way, and this time it'll be on home soil.
Brook 'On the Button' Sutton, representing Diamond Star Muay Thai, will travel all the way from Dunedin to put his undefeated record on the line at the King in the Ring 72III. With seven wins and no losses, he will certainly be confident in his chances heading in to the tournament. He's relatively inexperienced however, and that could work against him should he come up against the likes of Edwin Samy or Blood Diamond.
Brook 'VC' Haami, fighting out of MTI Wellington, is in a similar situation. With just eight fights to his name, he has considerably less experience than some of his opponents. However, if TY Williams can take out the crown with just six fights, there's no reason fellow Wellingtonian Haami can't do the same. Haami also has two knockouts on record, and comes out of the prestigious MTI gym, so he's far from out of his depth at the King in the Ring.
The reserve fight features ETK's Josh 'The Method Man' Marsters up against Helensville Thai Boxing representative Mike 'The Farmer' Fotheringham.
Sam ‘Tha Shank’ Hill (SMAC Gym) vs Nathan ‘Nasty Boy’ Robson (Bulldog Gym, AUS)
Joey ‘The Filipino Kid’ Baylon (ETK) vs Terry ‘Turbo’ Kounsavat (Bulldog Gym, AUS)
Pati ‘The Arsenal’ Afoa (ETK) vs Simon ‘Mayhem’ Maait (Bulldog Gym, AUS)
Paulo ‘The Barbarian’ Lakai (ETK) vs Dan ‘The Pain’ Roberts (Bulldog Gym, AUS)
Get your tickets to King in the Ring 72III here.
As always, King in the Ring 72III will be supporting Paw Justice.