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Karate Combat “Inception” on Thursday featured six fights in an outdoor pit, as the upstart martial arts promotion made its United States debut in Miami; and it reminded fans of what karate brings to the table in combat sports.
While the rules have been described as “hybrid” and “unique,” they appear to work quite well for the organization in terms of entertainment value. Changes were made to the rules after Karate Combat’s first event in Budapest, Hungary, in February. Originally, no hooking punches were allowed, but it proved difficult for combatants to not let such punches fly when opportunities presented themselves.
Fly they did at “Inception.” Four of the six fights on the card never reached the judges and resulted in finishes due to strikes. Dionicio Gustavo knocked out Alexandre Bouderbane in 42 seconds. Fans who were quick to dismiss the skills on display should note that MMA veteran Josh Quayhagen competed at the event and found himself on the receiving end of a 56-second knockout courtesy of Abdalla Ibrahim. Even so, those associated with Karate Combat indicated they hope to see more mixed martial artists cross over in the future. It seems to be an ideal setup for those with karate backgrounds.
In other action, Spyridon Margaritopoulos stopped Mohamed Salem Mohamed in 61 seconds; Elhadji Ndour took a unanimous decision from Andras Virag; Jerome Brown put away Pedro Roig 2:44 into the first round; and Adham Sabri captured a unanimous verdict from Lahad Cisse.
The fights themselves were supported by ambitious production values. Rolls-Royces were used to bring the fighters to the pit, pushing the narrative of the promotion using unique and exotic locations. Not all of it was for show. Technology is being used to measure heart rates, with a band aid-like apparatus embedded within gloves. That vital sign is displayed between rounds.
Feedback will likely impact further changes as Karate Combat begins to prepare for its third event. Former Ultimate Fighting Championship middleweight titleholder Luke Rockhold was in attendance, but those in the crowd were there on an invite-only basis. Considering the costs involved with its presentation, Karate Combat could perhaps benefit from a live gate once word of mouth raises its profile.
With that said, it comes down to the fighters, the fights and the people who enjoy watching them. After two events, Karate Combat is a promotion with definite potential.
Edward Carbajal serves as the lead MMA analyst for Frontproof Media and holds a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and a brown belt in Ishin Ryu Karate. He has covered combat sports since 2014 and has been a fan of MMA since UFC 1. You can follow him on Twitter @Carbazel or at his website TheBlogBoardJungle.com.